As the news of London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s expansion of the contentious ULEZ broke this week, it left many up in arms: from local people to campaigners on both sides of the debate, scientists to politicians.
So, what exactly is the deal with expanding ULEZ and what is the prevalent public opinion on the matter?
Read on to find out once and for all in our handy ULEZ guide.
What is ULEZ?
ULEZ is nothing new – it builds on historic work from multiple Mayors of London, all concerned with air quality in the capital and its effect on local people.
It is not a new debate, then, but rather one that has grown as the emissions zone increases.
To help clean London’s polluted air, the LEZ (Low Emissions Zone) was first established in 2008 by the then Mayor of London Ken Livingstone, initially applying to only diesel-engine lorries, coaches, and buses.
In 2014, then-Mayor Boris Johnson announced plans for an Ultra Low Emissions Zone, or ULEZ, later brought in by his successor Sadiq Khan in April 2019. This ULEZ included cars, motorcycles, and vans and was also geographically expanded to include the area between the North and South Circular roads – ring roads that go on to encapsulate central London.
On 25th of November 2022, current Mayor Sadiq Khan announced ULEZ would expand again, and that as of the 29th of August 2023 would include all 23 London boroughs, including parts of the M1 and M4 motorways.
If you drive a vehicle that is not deemed ULEZ compliant and is not exempt, you will have to pay a £12.50 charge daily to drive within the zone. This applies to:
- Vans and specialist vehicles up to and including 3.5 tonnes
- Minibuses up to and including 5 tonnes
To be compliant, vehicles must meet the required Euro standard for the vehicle and emission type, which, for newer vehicles, may be listed in section D.2 of the vehicle’s log book.
The ULEZ standards are:
- Euro 3 for motorcycles, mopeds, motorised tricycles, and quadricycles (L category)
- Euro 4 (NOx) for petrol cars, vans, minibuses, and other specialist vehicles
- Euro 6 (NOx and PM) for diesel cars, vans, minibuses, and other specialist vehicles
But what does this mean in real terms?
Essentially, you should be fine if your:
- Car is an ’05 reg or later, or your light van is from 2006 or beyond, as it should meet Euro 4 standards.
- Motorbike is an ’07 reg or newer, as it should meet Euro 3 standards.
- Heavy-duty engines for goods vehicles and buses are newer than 2014, September 2015 for diesel cars and light vans, or September 2016 for larger vans up to and including 3.5 tonnes gross vehicle weight.
However, if you are unsure, you can quickly check your vehicle with the TfL online licence plate checking scheme.
Now we know what it is – what is the general consensus on ULEZ?
‘Planet and health are more important than cars…’ London residents support ULEZ
Supporters of ULEZ have come in all shapes, sizes, and disciplines – not just the eco-warriors that might be expected.
From Londoners themselves to those particularly affected, like Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella (aged 9) was the first person to have air pollution recorded as their cause of death in 2013 – it seems that there is genuine support for ULEZ as a means to improve air quality.
An opinion shared by the Chief Medical Officer, who noted in his 2022 annual report that air pollution is ‘associated with impacts on lung development in children, heart disease, stroke, cancer, exacerbation of asthma, and increased mortality, among other health effects.’
In their June study from earlier this year, Redfield & Wilton Strategies found that 58% of Londoners surveyed either strongly supported or supported ULEZ compared to 24% who either opposed or strongly opposed it – with more than half (52%) believing it has improved air quality.
‘ULEZ expansion is the wrong scheme…’ says leader of Harrow Council
To say the news hasn’t been taken well by all is perhaps an understatement.
One anti-ULEZ camp is unhappy about the expansion of ULEZ because it splits many of their local roads in half meaning that their normal day-to-day activities will now cost them an extra £12.50 a day.
This affects Londoners from residents to shopkeepers, who will now be charged to visit relatives, drop their kids off, or even complete tasks associated with the day-to-day running of their businesses, like parking outside their shop to unload goods or travelling to the addresses of residents to drop off parcels, takeaways, and fast-food.
Other Londoners are concerned about the increase in related costs – either from paying the non-compliance fee daily or the additional cost of replacing their cars with a compliant model while trying to manage in a cost-of-living crisis.
This is a fear shared by five Conservative-led councils – the London boroughs of Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, and Hillingdon, plus Surrey County Councils – who launched an unsuccessful High Court challenge against the plans.
These councils were moved to challenge the expansion, stating that statutory requirements were not followed, the proposed scrappage scheme was not consulted on, and expected compliance rates in outer London were similarly not considered – perhaps accounting for the almost 750 damaged or stolen ULEZ cameras from the 1,762 installed in outer London.
Will ULEZ help the sale of EVs?
The simplest answer seems to be to switch to electric vehicles wherever possible.
This is certainly an opinion shared by the Chief Medical Officer in his 2022 report, where it was listed as a specific recommendation:
The electrification of light vehicles and public transport is important for reducing air pollution from vehicle tailpipes – momentum must be maintained and accelerated wherever possible.
Rechargeable with renewable energy and increasingly convenient thanks to the rise in domestic and public charge points, EVs are undoubtedly the way forward – but only for people who can afford them.
Luckily, Mayor Khan also has a plan to help people with purchasing ULEZ-approved cleaner, greener modes of transport – the TfL Scrappage Scheme.
Under the scrappage scheme eligibility, any London residents, small and micro businesses, charities, or sole traders from within the 32 boroughs or the City of London itself will receive a payment for scrapping or adapting a vehicle that does not meet ULEZ standards.
Payments range from £1,000 to £10,000 and beyond and vary based on individual circumstances – see the TfL website for further information.
This, alongside other beneficial changes like cheaper EVs, an ever-increasing public EV charger network, the sale of second-hand charge points and charging cables, and numerous companies offering payment plans for domestic charger installation all means that a real change can be made in the capital city.
A change that could make a real long-term difference to the health and wellbeing of residents.
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