The Ultra Low Emission Zone Has Expanded - Here's What You Need To Know

Laura Reynolds
By Laura Reynolds Last edited 30 months ago

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The Ultra Low Emission Zone Has Expanded - Here's What You Need To Know
A view over both carriageways of the A13 in east London
Photo: Matt Brown

What is the ULEZ?

ULEZ stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone, a TfL scheme which aims to reduce the number of polluting cars on the road, improving London's air quality and lowering pollution levels. It works by charging the drivers of older, more polluting vehicles for using London's roads — encouraging Londoners to switch to cleaner vehicles or use public transport instead where possible.

When does the ULEZ area change?

As of Monday 25 October 2021, the ULEZ area expanding.

Where is the ULEZ, and which London boroughs are included in the ULEZ?

A map of London boroughs, with the Congestion Charge area coloured orange, and the new ULEZ area coloured yellow.
The new ULEZ, from 25 October 2021. Image: TfL. Click to enlarge

As of Monday 25 October 2021 onwards, the ULEZ area's new boundaries are the North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads. This means that as well as covering the City of London and Westminster, it also covers the central boroughs of Camden, Islington, Haringey, Hackney, Kensington & Chelsea, Hammersmith & Fulham, and Tower Hamlets in their entirety.

The boroughs of Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, Richmond, Hounslow, Ealing, Brent, Barnet, Enfield, Waltham Forest, Redbridge, Newham and Greenwich are partly covered by the ULEZ.

The outer boroughs of Bromley, Croydon, Merton, Sutton, Kingston Upon Thames, Hillingdon, Harrow, Barking and Dagenham and Havering, Bexley escape the ULEZ entirely.

Note that although the new ULEZ area goes up to the North and South Circular roads, it doesn't include them — so you can drive on the A406 and A205 roads themselves without being charged.

The Congestion Charge area did not change on 25 October.

Is my house in the ULEZ?

A close-up map of an area of Palmers Green which sits on the new ULEZ boundary - streets within the ULEZ are dark blue, and those outside it are light blue. A red line divides them.
TfL's interactive boundary map gives a detailed look at which streets fall within the ULEZ. Image: TfL

If you live in (or are visiting) one of the partly-ULEZed boroughs mentioned above, you can check whether your part of the borough is within the ULEZ or not.

TfL's interactive boundary map shows the ULEZ boundary in local detail. Click on the number on the area of the boundary you're interested in, and it'll open up a more detailed map of the area, telling you exactly which roads are and aren't covered by ULEZ.  TfL also has a postcode checker, which tells you the charging zones which apply at a particular London address.

Who has to pay ULEZ charges?

If you're driving a vehicle that doesn't meet certain emissions standards, you'll need to pay every day that you drive that vehicle within the ULEZ.

The ULEZ standards vary depending on vehicle type and age — details can be found on the TfL website, and you can also put your vehicle registration in to check whether your vehicle will be charged for entering the ULEZ zone.

Who is exempt from ULEZ charges?

There are cases when drivers don't have to pay the ULEZ charge, even if their vehicle doesn't meet ULEZ standards — these include London-registered taxis, vehicles for disabled people, and... showman's vehicles. Full details of exemptions are on the TfL website, but these are liable to change in the future — the current rules should be in place until October 2025.

The simplest way to avoid having to pay is to drive a car that meets the low-emission requirements and is therefore exempt from paying ULEZ charges, or to avoid using the car and take public transport instead, which is what the scheme aims to achieve. Of course, stumping up for a brand new, squeaky clean vehicle isn't financially simple for many people, and public transport isn't always an option.

How much is the ULEZ charge?

Blue road signs warning drivers that the ULEZ and Congestion Charge Zones start in 1/2 mile
Photo: David Hawgood / CC BY-SA 2.0

For most vehicles (cars, motorcycles, vans up to 3.5 tonnes) you're looking at £12.50 a day, every day that you drive within the ULEZ. For larger and heavy vehicles, you're probably already paying the LEZ charge, which is a stricter (and more expensive) charge — if so, you won't be paying the ULEZ on top.

When do ULEZ charges apply?

ULEZ is a 24/7 operation. The only exception is Christmas Day — much like the Congestion Charge, ULEZ charges don't apply on 25 December.

However, unlike the ULEZ, the Congestion Charge still only applies 7am-10pm.

How and when to pay the ULEZ charge

The back of an iconic London black cab, with the registration plate 'LONDON'
Photo: Matt Brown

Charging days run from midnight to midnight for ULEZ purposes, and charges are applied using CCTV cameras which read vehicle number plates.

You need to pay ULEZ charges by midnight on the third day following your journey, otherwise you'll receive a Penalty Charge Notice. There are various ways to pay, including online, via the TfL Pay to Drive app, or over the phone. If you're likely to driving in the ULEZ zone regularly, it might be worth setting up AutoPay — it automatically bills you once a month for all charges you've incurred that month, though note that there is an additional £10 annual registration charge for using this service.

Do London residents have to pay ULEZ charges?

Yes, unfortunately, even if you live on a street that was only deemed within the ULEZ from October 2021, you're liable to pay the charge if your vehicle doesn't meet the low emission requirements.

The exceptions to this are if you managed to register for the residents' Congestion Charge discount while applications were open (alas, they closed in July 2020 and no new applications are currently being accepted), or if you are eligible for one of the other exemptions mentioned above.

In TfL's own words:

From 25 October 2021, when the ULEZ expands to the North and South Circular Roads, residents must pay the full daily ULEZ charge to drive a vehicle in the zone if it does not meet the ULEZ standards

Is ULEZ instead of the Congestion Charge?

A map of the main streets in Central London, showing the Congestion Charge area in blue
The TfL Congestion Charge Zone. Image: TfL

No, TfL's Congestion Charge still exists, alongside the ULEZ. The Congestion Charge applies to all vehicles driving within the Congestion Zone (shown on the map above). If your vehicle is also liable to ULEZ charges and you drive within the Congestion Zone, you'll have to pay both charges. If you just drive within the outer areas of the new ULEZ, but don't enter the inner Congestion Zone, you'll only pay the ULEZ.

And if you're vehicle is squeaky clean but you're driving into central London, there's no ULEZ charge for you, but you'll still pay the Congestion Charge.

The ULEZ charge is £12.50 per day, and the Congestion Charge is £15 a day.

Find out more about the ULEZ on the TfL website.

Last Updated 25 October 2021