Drivers of polluting vehicles in Greater London will face a charge from next August under plans announced on Friday that will more than double the area covered by the city’s ultra low emission zone.
Sadiq Khan, London mayor, said the measure was aimed at improving air quality in the capital, tackling climate change and easing congestion. The city’s current ultra low emission zone (Ulez) covers all areas within the north and south circular roads that boundary central London.
The expansion will extend the Ulez zone to the outer boundary of Greater London from August 29 next year. The area is already covered by the London low emission zone, which charges the most polluting trucks and buses.
The announcement follows a consultation process after the plans were initially put forward in March.
The Ulez scheme applies a £12.50 daily charge to vehicles that fall short of standards designed to limit emissions of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, including harmful nitrous oxides.
The system is intended to encourage drivers either to exchange their existing, non-compliant vehicles for cleaner ones or to switch to public transport.
A monitoring report by the City of London published in July said that roadside pollution levels in central London were 44 per cent lower than if the Ulez had not been introduced. In inner London, outside the congestion charging zone, they were an estimated 20 per cent lower.
The Ulez charge applies to petrol cars with an engine earlier than Euro 4 — generally those built before 2006 — and diesel cars with an engine earlier than Euro 6, typically from before 2015. The fee also targets motorbikes with engines earlier than Euro 3 — mostly pre-2007 — and certain types of buses, coaches and trucks.
Khan said the decision to expand the Ulez area had not been simple and that it would have been easier to “kick the can down the road”.
“As mayor, I’m not willing to turn a blind eye because it’s clear the cost of inaction — to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and the health of Londoners — would be a far too high a price to pay,” he said.
As part of the expansion, the Greater London Authority will provide £110mn in funding for a scrappage scheme, which offers grants to owners of non-compliant vehicles to upgrade to new cars or to purchase bicycles or membership of a car club.
Under the scheme, people who dispose of non-compliant cars will be offered two free annual bus and tram passes in addition to a grant.
Transport for London, the body responsible for the capital’s transport network, will substantially expand the availability of bus services in outer London, an area that is currently more dependent than the inner boroughs on private motor vehicles.
The Ulez scheme was initially introduced in April 2019 covering the congestion-charging zone in central London. It was extended to the north and south circular roads in October 2021.
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