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Mayor of London brings launch of Ultra-Low Emission Zone forward

Mark Moran
10 October 2016
Summary of idea for the future ULEZ (Mayor of London consultation)
Summary of idea for the future ULEZ (Mayor of London consultation)


Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is planning to introduce the Central London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) a year ahead of schedule. Under the proposals, a London-wide Euro VI requirement for lorries could be introduced in 2019. The mayor also wants to extend the ULEZ to the North and South Circular in 2019.

The Mayor has started the formal consultation necessary to introduce the Emissions Surcharge (‘T-charge’)  for older polluting vehicles in October 2017.

The proposals form part of the Mayor’s second air quality consultation led by Transport for London (TfL), which follows the initial round of consultation last summer, which attracted 15,000 responses.

Diesel vehicles are recognised as a major contributor to pollution and associated health impacts in London and the Mayor wants to phase them out from the bus, taxi and other fleets.

The Mayor launched the new consultation while visiting St Saviour’s and St Olave’s Church of England Secondary School in Southwark, situated off the busy, traffic heavy, New Kent Road, an area that would be included in the Mayor’s proposals for ULEZ expansion to the North and South Circular. The school’s head teacher wrote to the Mayor earlier this summer to highlight her concerns about pupils being exposed to high levels of air pollution from traffic.

Sadiq Khan said: “Toxic air in London is a health emergency that requires bold action, including introducing charges for older polluting vehicles and expanding the ULEZ. I am determined to help every Londoner breathe cleaner air. After the massive response to my first consultation I now need the public to let me know their views on my detailed proposals to help clean-up our filthy air.”

Research by City Hall shows that people living in London’s most deprived communities, often by busy roads, are on average exposed to 25% higher levels of harmful NO2 pollution. It is estimated that the equivalent of 9,400 premature deaths occur each year in London due to illnesses caused by long-term exposure to air pollution and 448 schools in London are in areas exceeding legal air quality levels.

The results of the first stage of the Mayor’s clean air consultation can be viewed here

Alex Williams, TfL’s managing director of planning, said: “The Mayor has asked us to set out in detail and seek views on a range of proposals that will have a significant impact in reducing pollution in the capital.  We think these ambitious proposals show London is taking the lead globally in tackling one of the biggest challenges of the 21st century.”

The consultation gives Londoners the opportunity to have their say on the preferred date for the start of an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone – which is up to the North South circular for cars, motorcycles and vans, and in central London for buses, coaches and lorries. Options include as early as 2019 to 2021 or later. Depending on feedback, the Mayor will ask TfL to develop these potential options into detailed statutory proposals for consultation next year.

The proposed ‘T-charge’ would apply to older polluting vehicles driving into the Congestion Charge zone from October 2017. This charge would be in addition to the Congestion Charge and would apply to vehicles that do not meet the Euro 4/IV emissions standard for NOx and PM emissions. Pre-Euro 4 vehicles are generally those registered up to and including 2005. The charge, costing £10 per day for non-compliant vehicles, would operate at the same times as the Congestion Charge (Monday to Friday, 07:00 – 18:00).

Khan has also called on government to put in place a national diesel scrappage scheme to help people replace vehicles affected by the proposals. There was overwhelming support for this in the first round of his consultation. He also wants fiscal incentives, like vehicle excise duty, to be reformed so they support the Mayor’s proposals and encourage people to own and use the cleanest vehicles.

TfL has said it will ensure all double decker buses operating in the ULEZ will be hybrid and all single decker buses will be fully electric or hydrogen.

The consultation closes on 18 December 2016. A further final consultation will take place in early 2017, which will take into account the views from this consultation and propose statutory changes to the ULEZ.

The Mayor’s announcement was welcomed by health charities. Dr Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation, said: “It’s a tragedy that we continue to see pollution limits broken in many parts of the capital, urgent action is needed to clean up London’s air. We are pleased the Mayor has prioritised improving air quality. Air pollution contributes to 9,500 early deaths in London every year. It worsens existing lung conditions, increases the risk of getting lung cancer and impairs child lung development.”

Andrew Proctor, director of advice and support at Asthma UK, said: “We welcome the Mayor’s plans to improve air quality in London. Two-thirds of people with asthma tell us poor air quality makes their asthma worse, which puts them at higher risk of an asthma attack. There is now also strong evidence suggesting that air pollution is linked to the development of asthma. Children and young adults with asthma are more at risk from the effects of pollution because they have faster breathing rates, and their lungs are still developing.”

Harry Quilter-Pinner, IPPR researcher on health, said: “Our research shows that London is breaking both legal and World Health Organisation limits on air pollution and that the biggest cause of this is diesel vehicles. It shows that without a change in policy up to 9,400 people will die prematurely across capital every year, and London will remain above legal limits until 2025 and beyond.”

However, the mayor’s announcement has not been universally praised. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has reacted with disappointment to the revised  plans published by Sadiq Khan. FTA has previously warned that the ULEZ was only ‘do-able’ in the central London area and the 2020 deadline for HGVs stayed the same.

FTA’s head of national and regional policy Christopher Snelling said: “We stated before that the central ULEZ starting in 2019 and expanding in 2020 would cause significant issues – especially in the van sector where there will only be two-and-a-half to three years’ worth of compliant vehicles in the fleet. Typically, operators who rely on second-hand vehicles buy at four years old so it will place significant cost burdens on them.

“Now the Mayor has suggested that the expansion to inner London for vans and Greater London for HGVs could happen in 2019. Bringing this further forward only adds to the cost on small businesses. Those using, or relying on, vans in inner London will now face a situation where there are no second hand vehicles available to purchase.”

The FTA estimates that to comply with these proposals will cost the average small operator with five vans more than £100,000 extra up front – more than 150% of the company’s annual turnover. “This regulation could lock some small businesses out of the London market altogether,” said Snelling. “No-one disputes the need to improve air quality. Once again, what we do object to is the one-sided nature of these measures – all burden and no support. London could improve air quality more quickly and reduce the burden on businesses at the same time by offering a temporary discount to the Congestion Charge for compliant vehicles prior to the ULEZ starting. The government has said it has no interest in a scrappage scheme and we see no prospect of that changing.” 

Diesel vehicles are recognised as a major contributor to pollution and associated health impacts in London and the Mayor wants to phase out these vehicles from the bus, taxi and other fleets.

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