Plans to expand the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) to cover the whole of Greater London have been announced by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.
Khan has asked TfL to consult on making the ULEZ London-wide in 2023. The plans aim to address both environmental and public health concerns, as well as making the capital less congested.
City Hall claims that more deaths attributable to air pollution fall in London's outer boroughs, which the ULEZ doesn’t currently cover, rather than inner boroughs. There has also been a slower rate of improvement in air quality in outer London than in central and inner London.
A report last month revealed that car traffic in London needs to be reduced by at least 27% by the end of the decade in order to meet the target of net-zero in London by 2030.
Sadiq Khan, said:
The triple challenges of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion mean we need to further reduce emissions from vehicles in London. We simply don't have time to waste. The climate emergency means we only have a small window of opportunity left to reduce carbon emissions to help save the planet. And despite the world-leading progress we have made over the last few years, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and leading to thousands of deaths every year...
The announcement comes after the ULEZ was expanded in October 2021 to cover everything within the North and South Circular roads. If the new extension goes ahead (which is subject to a public and stakeholder consultation, to a timescale not yet revealed), it would cover all areas within London boroughs.
At the same time, Khan has ruled out plans to introduce a daily Clean Air Charge, which would have applied to all petrol and diesel vehicles in the capital, and the Greater London Boundary Charge, which would have applied to all out-of-town vehicles driving into London.
Longer term, there are plans to introduce smart road user charging, which would remove the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, and charge motorists on a per mile basis instead. However, TfL is many years away from being able to implement such as plan, so the ULEZ extension is being suggested as an interim solution.
While these plans are to be encouraged from an environmental and public health point of view, the timing could be better; the announcement came in the same week that many Londoners were forced into cars, taxis and other private vehicles as the tube network shut down due to strike action.
What would a ULEZ expansion mean?
If the ULEZ expansion went London-wide, it would mean anyone driving anywhere within a London borough — including residents — in a vehicle which doesn't meet ULEZ standards would have to pay the charge, every day that they use their car. At present, the charge is £12.50 per day (and there has been no mention of any plans to increase this). There are exceptions, such as disabled people's vehicles, and less-polluting vehicles which meet a certain standard. More info on all that here.