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What Has Changed To London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone?

29 Oct 2021

On 25 October 2021, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expanded from central London up to the North Circular and South Circular roads. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced the expansion of the area covered by the ULEZ is 18 times the size of the central London zone and now covers 3.8 million people. 

 
The previous ULEZ was launched in April 2019 and was previously restricted to central London and the original congestion charge zone. From 25th October, the ULEZ now covers everywhere inside the North and South circular roads (though not the roads themselves). Measuring 380km2, it covers one-quarter of London and is the largest zone of its kind in Europe. 
 
Transport for London estimates that 80% of cars won’t incur a charge, but there should still be an impact on the amount of pollution. Sadiq Khan has said ‘With the expanded scheme we will reduce the amount of carbon being emitted by more than 100 tonnes’. The ULEZ is a part of the city’s ambitions to tackle the climate emergency and put London on the path to being a net-zero carbon city by 2030. 
 
The ULEZ is central to the Mayor of London’s plans to improve Londoners’ health across the city. The plans are in place with the aim to clean up the city’s toxic air, which leads to the early deaths of thousands of people every year. It will bring the health benefits of cleaner air to millions more Londoners, both inside and outside of the newly expanded zone. 
 
Most vehicles driving in the ULEZ must meet tight emission standards or pay the daily charge. Examples of cars that meet the ULEZ emission standards are: 

 
The Covid-19 pandemic led to the ULEZ charges being temporarily paused at the Government's request, but its reintroduction is a requirement for the recent TfL bailout. The bailout urges TfL to bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels of these ULEZ charges. 
 

Who is affected?

Early indications show that 87% of vehicles travelling in the zone already meet the ULEZ standards. And if you walk, cycle or take public transport you won’t need to make any changes. If you drive in, or own a vehicle and live within the zone, it is likely that you will be affected so check out one of the free online vehicle checkers to see if you’re affected. If you are not sure if your home, or a destination, is within the zone you can check using TfL’s postcode checker.
 
The original area covered by the congestion charge is not changing. If you drive into central London, you may have to pay the congestion charge regardless of whether you meet the ULEZ standards. Journeys that are entirely within the zone will still count. That means even if you don’t cross the boundary between the journey’s start and end you’ll still have to pay if your vehicle is not compliant. Residents or commuters who drive cars, motorbikes and some vans that don’t meet the new emission standards must pay the daily ULEZ charge to drive in the zone.
 
Since March 2021, the emission standards for ULEZ are mostly the same. If your vehicle is affected, you’ll have to pay an extra £12.50. If you’re using a larger vehicle such as a lorry over 3.5 tonnes, it’ll cost an extra £100 per day. Like the congestion charge, there is an option to pay online, and even in advance if you know your travel schedule. Heavier vehicles including vans, lorries, coaches, buses will need to meet the LEZ standards instead of the ULEZ. 
 
Some drivers and vehicles qualify for a temporary discount or full exemption from the ULEZ charge. It is important to remember that this is in addition to the London Congestion Charge, so if you’re going through during the Congestion Charge’s operating time, too, you’ll have to pay both tolls. The TFL website states that ‘residents who are registered for the residents' Congestion Charge discount will get a 100% ULEZ discount until 24 October 2021'. Instead, ‘residents will continue to pay the T-Charge at a discounted rate of 90%, during this ULEZ resident sunset period.’
 

Industry responses

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “This is a landmark day for our city. I pledged to be the greenest Mayor that London’s ever had and I am incredibly proud that expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone today will clean up London’s toxic air pollution and help to tackle the global climate emergency by reducing emissions. In central London, the ULEZ has already helped to cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and led to reductions that are five times greater than the national average. But the pollution isn’t just a central London problem, which is why expanding the ULEZ today will benefit Londoners across the whole of the city and is a crucial step in London’s green recovery from this pandemic.”
 
From businesses to residents, there are many different thoughts about the ULEZ changes. The ULEZ will have significant impacts on businesses, especially those that require larger vehicles. Whilst there is an abundance of ULEZ compliant alternatives for smaller vans and private vehicles, these alternatives become increasingly limited and expensive as vehicle size increases. Industries that rely on heavy goods vehicles may have low-profit margins and significant overheads. It is not difficult to envisage these industries relocating out of the ULEZ. Ultimately, this does not decrease the air quality impacts of their operation, it merely moves them across the country.
 
Nick Bowes, Chief Executive at Centre for London, said: “The expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone is the most ambitious scheme of its kind in the world. As COP26 gets underway, all eyes will be on London to watch how successful the ULEZ will be at cleaning up the capital’s air. However, the ULEZ has its limitations. It’s an analogue scheme in a digital age, relying on technology from 2003. Many petrol and diesel vehicles are still exempt from the scheme, and extending the reach of a flat charge may incentivise Londoners to drive more to get value from their daily payments. And less well-off Londoners who rely on their cars for work and lack the means to switch to a cleaner vehicle will be particularly penalised.”
 
Whether you live in London or your business is located in the zones affected by these changes, you will need to consider these additional charges. With the government's plan to ban petrol and diesel engines on new cars by 2030, electric vehicles are going to be the answer. If you have any questions about electric vehicles, check out one of our handy blogs. Alternatively, you can contact our team