For a few months now there have been rumours of plans to expand the UK capital city Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), and it has now been confirmed by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that the ULEZ is soon to be extended to cover the whole of London. The mayor insisted over five million additional Londoners will benefit from cleaner air because of the change.
This latest announcement follows a Transport for London (TfL) public consultation which reported 80% of people in the proposed expansion area were opposed to these plans.
Mr Khan said, “The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London. But there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the health of young Londoners and leading to thousands of early deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths in the outer London boroughs.”
Conservatives’ Nick Rogers, a transport spokesman for the conservatives said: “Now is not the time to hammer Londoners with a £12.50 daily cost-of-living charge. Residents have made their views very clear to the mayor: they do not want the ULEZ expansion. The mayor must listen to them, scrap these plans and use the £250 million saved on real measures that tackle air pollution.”
A lot of the criticism has been attributed to the extra cost’s drivers will have to pay during the current cost-of-living crisis, and Mr Khan said this had been a ‘key consideration’ but ‘in the end, public health comes before political expediency’.
Vehicles started to be charged for entering London’s ULEZ zone back in 2019, charges only applied to those entering the north and south-circular orbital roads heading towards the city, until now, there were no plans to charge drivers across the rest of the capital.
Currently, vehicles that do not comply to the ULEZ rule have to pay £12.50 a day to enter to the Greater London Authority boundary which will soon include the expanded area from 29th August 2023. Disabled drivers being given a grace period until 2027. The charge only covers motorists for a single day, meaning, if you cross the boundary in the evening and leave the following morning, you need to pay for 2 separate days.
The ULEZ has been hugely successful in helping to reduce roadside pollution levels by 44 per cent in central London and 20 per cent in inner London. Data from the mayor’s office shows that there are around 200,000 non-compliant cars driven regularly in the city, they expect this number to fall following the expansion.
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Even though the technology is not yet available, in the years to come Mr Khan wants London to adopt a ‘Singapore-style’ smart road system that uses automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to replace this whole scheme along with the city’s congestion charge.
Nicholas Lyes from the RAC said: “While we accept that action is needed to reduce toxic emissions from vehicles, the cost-of-living crisis is hurting drivers in the pocket and there is a risk that further enlarging the zone will be hugely costly for those with older vehicles who can least afford to change them for something newer. RAC research suggests drivers are holding on to their vehicles for longer, so there is a real risk that more people with non-compliant vehicles will be forced to pay a charge they can ill afford to. We would encourage the mayor to take a pragmatic approach and redouble his efforts to support lower-income families and businesses with non-compliant vehicles with a targeted scrappage scheme ahead of any expansion plans.”
What may be viewed as better news by car dealers and showrooms is the new £110m scrappage scheme provided to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, charities, small businesses, and sole traders. Successful scrappage applicants will receive a grant to scrap or retrofit their vehicle for certain vans and minibuses by professionals working in the motor trade industry like motor mechanics.
Though there are no insurance policies in place, successful scrappage scheme applicants can opt to receive a smaller grant accompanied by free annual bus and tram passes.