ULEZ charge: How will London’s new ultra-low emission zone affect you?

New scheme is part of effort to curb toxic air pollution in the capital

Josh Gabbatiss
Science Correspondent
Sunday 07 April 2019 08:10
New ultra-low emission zone in London to be 18 times larger than initially planned, Sadiq Khan announces

The ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) has come into force in London, as part of a strategy to cut the city’s toxic levels of air pollution.

Gases and particulates in the air have been associated with thousands of premature deaths across the country, and the capital is one of the worst affected cities.

While the changes have begun fairly modestly, if all goes according to plan the new zone will cover much of the city by the end of 2021.

Read on to find out how the charge will affect you after it came into force at the beginning of April.

When and where is the Ulez happening?

The first phase started on Monday 8 April, and to begin with it will apply to the same area of central London covered by the congestion charge zone. It applies 24 hours a day, every day.

From 25 October 2021, the boundary will be extended to a far larger area enclosed by the north and south circular roads.

Which vehicles are covered by the scheme?

The Ulez is based on European emissions standards, which limit the levels of harmful gases and particles a vehicle is allowed to produce.

  • Motorbikes must be Euro 3 (2007 onwards)
  • Petrol cars and vans must be Euro 4 (2006 onwards)
  • Diesel cars and vans must be Euro 6 (2015 onwards)
  • Buses, coaches and lorries must be Euro VI

While this is broadly accurate, it is best to check your vehicle on the Transport for London (TfL) site as there will be some discrepancies.

TfL estimates the zone will cover 40,000, 19,000 vans, 2,000 HGVs and 700 coaches a day.

How much will drivers be charged?

Most vehicles that do not meet emissions standards are subject to a £12.50 charge for every day they drive within the Ulez, in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge that operates on weekdays.

If a driver fails to pay within two weeks, they will face a penalty of £160. This will be halved if paid within two weeks.

Lorries will face a much higher daily charge of £100, with a penalty fare of £1,000.

TfL is using number plate recognition cameras to detect when a vehicle has entered the zone.

The mayor has also announced a scrappage scheme to cover small business owners and charities operating high-polluting vans and minibuses in the city centre.

Why is it being implemented?

The goal is to discourage people from driving heavily polluting vehicles in the city, in a bid to bring down levels of air pollution and associated health problems.

Around half the emissions of nitrogen oxides and particulate matter come from transport, and these substances have been linked repeatedly with everything from shorter life expectancy to mental health problems.

One study found inner city children exposed to high levels of pollution in London were growing up with lung capacity 5 per cent smaller than other children.

London has breached legal air pollution targets repeatedly, and authorities have proposed low emission zones as a way to curb levels of these toxins in the atmosphere. TfL has predicted the new measures will cut 5 per cent of overall car traffic in central London.

Who is behind the Ulez?

It was initially announced by former London mayor Boris Johnson in 2014 as the world’s first Ulez, which would be in place from September 2020.

However, since then it has been taken up by his successor Sadiq Khan, who announced plans to bring the charge forward to April 2019 in an attempt to slash emissions from London’s cars.

Are there any exemptions from the Ulez?

Those registered for the residents’ congestion charge discount will get a full discount until 24 October 2021 to give them time to change their vehicle for one that is Ulez compliant.

People with vehicles registered with a “disabled” or “disabled passenger vehicles” tax class will also not have to pay anything until 2025.

London black cabs are also exempt from the charge, despite being some of the highest polluting cars in the city. TfL has said, however, that any new taxis must be zero emissions.

Will there be more low emission zones?

The government has outlined plans to allow other local authorities to introduce comparable zones, and the Scottish government has also looked into the scheme.

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