London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone will be expanded across the entire capital from next August, a move the mayor said would bring cleaner air to an additional 5 million residents.
Drivers of older and polluting cars will have to pay £12.50 per day to use their car across Greater London from 29 August 2023.
An improved £110m scrapping scheme will be introduced to help vulnerable people and small businesses, and there will be more buses on the outskirts.
The mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the start date after a summer consultation on the scheme. It was welcomed by green groups, clean air activists and some businesses, though conservatives disputed the charge and said most people in outer boroughs did not want it.
Khan said the toxic air in the capital, and the climate emergency, had made it a public health necessity, and that the revenue collected would go to public transport.
Khan announced the decision at Bonus Pastor School in Lewisham, an area with seriously poor air quality, and said: “The latest evidence shows air pollution is making us sick from cradle to grave. Londoners develop life-changing diseases such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.” Especially dangerous for children.
He said the district, which was expanded from the city core into neighborhoods within the North and South Ring Roads last October, was “transformative”, cutting harmful pollution levels by nearly half in central London. “Expanding Ulez across London will mean an additional 5 million people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives,” he said.
Khan said the high cost of living was a key consideration and the £110m scrapping scheme would help people who need it most to get rid of or retrofit non-compliant vehicles.
Alex Williams, chief customer and strategy officer at Transport for London, said the scheme would offer “unparalleled support”, extending grace for some types of vehicles and groups, including disabled people, and providing more free bus passes.
He said it would be “complemented with significant improvements to the outer London bus network, making public transport a more attractive alternative to the car”.
While London struggles financially, the TfL and the mayor say the Ulez expansion is designed to get the most polluting vehicles off the road rather than raise revenue, with compliance now at 94%.
About 15% of the vehicles driving in London’s outer boroughs will currently be responsible for tolls – 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans enter the area every day, TfL estimates.
However, you expect tens of thousands of drivers to switch to compatible vehicles or other modes before the region is extended. Most petrol cars registered after 2006 or diesel cars from 2016 are exempt.
It’s a “step in the right direction,” said Rosamund Addo-Kesi-Debra, a clean-air campaigner whose daughter Ella died of a respiratory illness caused in part by pollution. She said: “When we had the inquiry we got the experts in Ella’s case to make some recommendations and they all agreed that the Ulez expansion was something that needed to be done to clean up the air in London. Clean air should be a human right.”
Munya Barua, executive vice president at BusinessLDN, welcomed the move but said the mayor and TfL should be the next step to accelerate plans for a smarter pricing scheme for roads. “With congestion costing the economy more than £5 billion a year and a 27% reduction in car miles required to meet our net zero targets, this must be a priority.”
Conservatives in the Greater London Assembly condemned the move and warned it could still be stopped with a legal challenge. About 60% of those involved in the consultation opposed enlargement.
Nick Rogers, the GLA’s Conservative transport spokesman, said: “Now is not the time to snag the £12.50 daily cost of living on Londoners. Residents have made their views clear to the mayor: they don’t want Owleys expansion.”