Hundreds of thousands more drivers face a daily fee of £12.50 for using London’s roads after mayor Sadiq Khan announced he will expand the ultra-low emission zone to boost air quality.
Mr Khan said extending Ulez to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 next year is ‘one of the toughest decisions’ he’s had to take but that it will give five million Londoners cleaner air to breathe.
The scheme, which operates at all times except Christmas Day, is currently limited to the area within the North and South Circular roads.
Transport for London (TfL) estimates that on an average day about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans would be liable to pay the £12.50 Ulez fee once the area is expanded. It will cost those who drive in the area every day £4,500-a-year if their vehicle does not meet the requirements.
But transport officials believe that by the end of next year the expansion of the scheme will have encouraged tens of thousands of those drivers to switch to vehicles that comply with the minimum emissions standards or use other modes of getting around such as walking, cycling or public transport.
Whether or not a vehicle is liable for the charge depends on how much nitrogen dioxide it emits.
For diesel cars and vans to avoid the charge they must generally have been registered from 2016, while most petrol models registered from 2006 are exempt.
Drivers can check the status of their vehicle by entering its registration number on TfL’s website.
Mr Khan said air pollution is making Londoners ‘sick from cradle to the grave’, with illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.
He described the Ulez as ‘transformational’ and claimed extending it will mean ‘five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives’.
The mayor insisted that the rising cost of living was a ‘key consideration’ in his decision on whether to implement the proposal, which was featured in a public consultation between May and July.
This led to him to introduce measures such as a £110million scrappage scheme to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled people, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles.
There will also be a major expansion of bus services in outer London.
London mayor Sadiq Khan (pictured last week) said extending Ulez to cover the whole of the capital from August 29 next year is ‘one of the toughest decisions’ he’s taken
Mr Khan added: ‘Expanding the Ulez London-wide has not been an easy decision.
‘The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road.
‘But in the end, public health comes before political expediency.’
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on climate ambition and solutions, claimed Mr Khan’s leadership is ‘helping to clean London’s air and set an example for cities around the world’.
But some motorists have expressed outrage at the prospect of their commute into London costing them thousands more every year.
One outraged commuter said: ‘@SadiqKhan So you’re telling me next year I cannot drive 5 mins down the road to work because I have to pay ULEZ charge for my car ??? With the cost of everything going up, are you paying for my new car??’
Another said: ‘Cost of living crisis, and the ULEZ zone is stretching far out to Greater London. Thousands of people are struggling to turn the heating on, and now they’ll need to buy a new car. It’s laughable really.’
And Soph Ranson added: ‘This is nothing but a money-making scheme and will cripple tradespeople when already facing ridiculous inflation and taxes.’
The new Ultra-low emission zone: What is it and how will it affect you?
When and why was the Ulez created?
It was launched in April 2019 to clean up London’s air.
How bad is air quality in the capital?
An estimated 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution.
How does Ulez help?
It disincentivises drivers from using the most polluting vehicles by charging them a daily fee for entering the zone.
How much is the fee?
The charge for vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards is £12.50 for cars, smaller vans, motorbikes and other lighter vehicles.
The fee for non-compliant larger vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches is £100 under the low emission zone scheme.
How do I avoid the fee when driving in the zone?
Ensure your vehicle meets the minimum emissions standard.
For petrol cars that means those generally first registered after 2006.
Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are exempt from the charge.
When does the Ulez operate?
All day, every day, except Christmas Day.
How soon after a journey do I need to pay?
You have until midnight on the third day following the journey.
What happens if I am liable to the charge but do not pay?
Failing to pay can result in a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 for early payment.
What area is currently covered by the Ulez?
The zone initially covered the same area of central London as the congestion charge.
Since October 25 last year it has included everywhere within the North and South Circular roads.
How significant is the August 2023 expansion?
The zone will be 18 times larger, covering all London boroughs.
But RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the announcement will be ‘a hammer-blow for desperate drivers and businesses already struggling with crippling fuel costs’
The chief executive of the National Franchised Dealer Association, which represents car and commercial retailers across the UK, also argued against the expansion during ‘one of Britain’s worst cost-of-living crises.’
Sue Robinson said: ‘The Ultra-Low Emissions Zone expansion will undoubtedly have a disproportionate and adverse effect on London’s most deprived communities and motorists.
‘This £12.50 daily charge will hit businesses, key workers and less affluent families the hardest and the additional cost to some of London’s poorest communities will push some families over the brink and force a reduction in their access to private mobility.
‘We do not believe that this has been fully considered by Transport for London and looks more and more to be a money generating scheme for TfL.’
Meanwhile Michael Lloyd of the Federation of Small Businesses said a ‘heavy-handed’ Ulez expansion will ‘leave many small firms in a precarious position’.
He added that a recent survey of affected small businesses suggested 18 per cent planned to shut down if the extension went ahead, and 25 per cent intended to pass the extra cost on to customers.
Conservative MPs also raised oppositions to the proposal back in May, arguing that the extension would be unfair on locals in the outer suburbs, which often feature higher proportions of Tory voters and where access to public transport is not as good as in the inner zones.
The staggering cost of driving in London has been laid bare in recent days, as it was revealed that parking firms are on track to issue demands for up to £1billion fines in the capital this year.
Meanwhile, London councils have issued 1.1 million fines – worth up to £100million – to motorists who drove through low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) over the past three years.
The multi-million pound schemes, which were put in place by the government to encourage a long-term move towards more cycling and walking, have been branded as council ‘cash cows’.
Labour mayor Mr Khan has been a particularly vocal proponent of them, issuing guidance to the capital’s 32 town halls on how to create them.
But the widely hated schemes have been accused of making little impact on pollution and simply moving congestion and CO2 emissions to other areas.
New government data has revealed that car use in London boroughs where controversial low-traffic neighbourhoods were installed during the pandemic rose more quickly compared to areas where the schemes were not adopted.
The ten inner London boroughs that adopted the car-free zones saw total vehicle miles rise by an average of 41 million (11.4 per cent) in 2021 as road traffic in the capital rebounded to similar levels seen before the first lockdown.
Meanwhile, Westminster and Kensington and Chelsea, the two inner boroughs that chose not to introduce LTNs in 2020, saw total vehicle miles rise by an average of just 29 million (8.9 per cent), according to the Times.
The ten inner London boroughs that adopted the car-free zones saw total vehicle miles rise by an average of 41 million (11.4per cent) in 2021 as road traffic in the capital rebounded to similar levels seen before the first lockdown. Pictured: A cyclist rides through an LTN in Southwark
Motorists in London were clobbered with more than £33million in fines over the last year for breaching new road rules as part of low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs)
Mr Khan’s ‘war on motorists’ also saw him introduce a controversial scheme in 2020 in which roads were closed and others were narrowed to create new cycle lanes.
But the ‘Streetspace’ scheme was found to be ‘seriously flawed’ by a High Court judge last year, who said it ‘took advantage of the pandemic’ to push through ‘radical’ and permanent changes to London’s roads.
A big proponent of ditching cars in favour of walking and cycling, Mr Khan joined tens of thousands of people on a bike ride from London to Brighton to raise money for research into heart and circulatory diseases in the summer.
Money raised by the ride went to the British Heart Foundation (BHF) to help researchers understand how to better prevent, diagnose, and cure heart and circulatory diseases.
After arriving at the coast, Mr Khan – who has been Mayor of London since 2016 – said: ‘I was delighted to join 14,000 other cyclists taking on the 54-mile route which took us from my south London home turf, to Brighton’s historic seafront where a fantastic crowd gave us riders a much-needed boost for the final push.’