Clear air

London’s clean air plans explained

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Since his election last year, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has made tackling air pollution in the capital a priority of his administration. This has led to the announcement of a number of policies that will affect fleets motorists. To help you keep up, we have sorted through the jumble of dates and acronyms to answer the key questions about these policies.

Why is action being taken?

London’s air pollution is a significant public health problem. Many parts of the capital breach legal limits for the concentration of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air, as well as World Health Organisation guidelines for the amount of hazardous particulate matter. These particles can damage the lungs, cause cancer or respiratory problems, and aggravate asthma. Researchers at King’s College London have estimated that around 9,400 deaths per year in the capital are caused by air pollution.

What’s being proposed?

As diesel vehicles are the largest single source of NO2 emissions in London, action to combat air pollution has focused on improving their emission standards and reducing their numbers. To this end, Sadiq Khan is levying a new ‘T-Charge’ on older vehicles from October this year, before turning the capital into an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). The most polluting cars and vans will have to pay £12.50 a day to drive within the ULEZ, while buses, coaches and HGVs that do not meet the emission standards will face a £100-a-day fee.

Isn’t London already a Low Emission Zone?

Yes, it is. The current Low Emission Zone was introduced in 2008, and covers most of Greater London. However, it only affects older vans and lorries – not cars. The ULEZ will be ‘ultra’ in two ways: it will affect cars, and its emission standards for vans and lorries will be tougher.

When will the Ultra Low Emission Zone begin?

Khan’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, planned for the ULEZ to come into force in September 2020. However, Khan campaigned on bringing that date forward, and is currently consulting on plans to introduce it in April 2019.

What area will the Ultra Low Emission Zone cover?

Initially, the ULEZ will cover the same area as the existing Congestion Charge zone: from King’s Cross in the north to Vauxhall Bridge in the south, and from Buckingham Palace in the west to Tower Bridge in the east. However, Mayor Khan wants to extend the ULEZ to cover all heavy vehicles in Greater London in 2020, and to cover cars and vans between the North and South Circular roads in 2021.

Which vehicles will be affected?

In order to avoid paying the ULEZ daily fee, petrol cars and vans will have to meet the Euro 4 emission standard, while diesels will have to meet Euro 6. All lorries, buses and coaches will have to be Euro VI compliant. Effectively, this means that petrol cars and vans registered before 2006 and diesel ones registered before 2015 will have to pay the fee, as will heavy vehicles registered before 2014.

What’s the ‘T-Charge’?

Following his election as Mayor, Sadiq Khan announced a new Emissions Surcharge, or ‘T-Charge’, that will apply from 23rd October 2017. This will be a £10-a-day fee that all vehicles that do not meet Euro 4/IV emission standards (mainly those registered before 2006) will have to pay to drive within the Congestion Charge zone, until the ULEZ comes into force.

Will we see similar policies outside London?

Yes, although we don’t yet know the specifics. A number of areas – including Greater Manchester, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol and Nottingham – are developing plans for Clear Air Zones. These may see charges on diesel vehicles, as well as other policies to encourage greener motoring, such as installing electric chargepoints and improving public transport. In its Air Quality Plan the Government has published a full list of local authorities that will be legally required to implement such measures.




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