London Expands Ultra Low Emission Zone

The new zone is expected to reduce carbon emissions in outer London by 27,000 tonnes
Staff Reporter | UK | Facilities Management

London has expanded the ultra low emission zone (Ulez) city-wide to cut air pollution across the UK capital. Mayor Sadiq Khan said expanding Ulez was a difficult, but necessary decision to save lives, protect the health of children and tackle the climate crisis. The new zone now covers every London borough and will bring cleaner air to five million more people and is also expected to reduce carbon emissions in outer London by a further 27,000 tonnes.

The Ulez is the centrepiece of a range of measures the mayor is implementing to tackle London’s toxic air, including putting more zero-emission buses on the roads and expanding London’s electric vehicle charging network. A major public awareness campaign has been underway for eight months to ensure drivers and businesses are ready for the Ulez expansion, with Transport for London’s (TfL) online vehicle checker being used more than 13 million times during this period.

Ulez is a highly targeted scheme that helps to take the most polluting vehicles off London’s roads. Ninety per cent of cars seen driving in outer London on an average day is already compliant and the drivers will not have to pay the charge. Having listened to the concerns of Londoners, the mayor and TfL have expanded the scrappage scheme so that those affected can access thousands of pounds of support in addition to the scrappage value of their old polluting vehicle.

All Londoners with non-compliant cars can get £2,000 for scrapping a car or £1,000 for scrapping a motorcycle. Small businesses and charities can receive increased grant payments of between £6,000 and £11,500. Eligible charities, businesses and sole traders can apply for up to three vans or minibuses to be scrapped or retrofitted in total. The payment for wheelchair accessible vehicles has increased from £5,000 to £10,000, with grants of £6,000 available to retrofit a van to Ulez standards.

A number of mitigations have also been made for different groups, including exemptions for disabled people and wheelchair accessible vehicles until October 2027 – and new six-month grace periods also recognise that small businesses and charities are doing the right thing and adapting to the Ulez but may face a delay with receiving their new vehicle or retrofit appointment. “This is a landmark day for our city which will lead to a greener, healthier London for everyone,” said Khan. “The decision to expand the Ulez London-wide was a difficult one, but necessary to save lives, protect children’s lungs and help prevent asthma, dementia and other health issues.

“All the evidence shows that it’s clean air zones like Ulez that are a gamechanger in a city like London when it comes to cutting toxic air quickly and meaningfully to protect people’s health. It’s thanks to the Ulez that we are now set to get London’s air to within legal limits in the next couple of years, 184 years earlier than previously projected.”

“As the mayor, I’ve continued to listen to the concerns of Londoners, which is why we have massively expanded the scrappage scheme. This means all Londoners with non Ulez-compliant cars can now get financial support to switch to greener, less polluting alternatives.”

Scrappage scheme and support

Since opening the scrappage scheme up to all Londoners, there has been a significant spike in the number of people applying for support, with a 111 per cent increase in traffic to the scrappage website since August 21, 2023. There have been more than 15,000 applications since August 21, and nearly £6m of new funds committed to Londoners.

The Ulez has reportedly cut harmful nitrogen dioxide by nearly half in central London and by a fifth in inner London, helping to reduce the number of air pollution-related asthma admissions for children by a third, and saving 800,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions since 2019 (the equivalent of 1.1 million flights from London to New York).

TfL’s Auto Pay service now has one million users signed up to the scheme. For those registered there is no need to remember to pay charges when driving in London, including when the Ulez expands on August 29, as the payment is taken automatically from their account so they won’t be issued with a penalty charge notice. “I’m determined to continue being a doer, not a delayer when it comes to reducing air pollution and taking bold climate action. The easiest thing for me to do would have been to kick the can down the road, but we simply don’t have time to waste. I am not prepared to stand idly by when we have the ability to save lives and help tackle the climate crisis,” summed up Khan.

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