Sadiq Khan Begins Consultation Today on Ultra Low Emission Zone Expansion
Today, 20 May 2022, Sadiq Khan is commencing consultation on his plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of London. This drastic expansion could see approximately 3.5 million people and 135,000 more cars affected by the £12.50 a day charge. According to the Mayor's Officer, 2019 saw roughly 4,000 premature deaths that were attributed to the poor air quality in London. Consequently, the Mayor's Office described the situation as a "toxic air crisis".
What is the Ultra Low Emission Zone?
ULEZ was introduced by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, as a progression on the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) that was in London. The ULEZ saw stricter rules on vehicle emissions and what vehicles would be liable for the charges. Vehicles that were previously exempt from LEZ charges may not have been exempt from ULEZ. Initially coming into effect on 8 August 2019, the zone covered by the ULEZ was the same zone as the Congestion Charge. Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
You can read more about the ULEZ, its charges and the types of vehicles affected via our website, where we have included lots of information.
Ultimately, the aim of the ULEZ was reduce vehicle emissions and improve air quality in Central London. Although sceptics were quick to argue that this was merely a money making scheme by the Mayor, only targeting the pockets of working class people who may not be able to afford a newer car.
"War on motorists"
Sadiq Khan has been blasted by motorist in recent years, accused of waging a "war on motorists". This follows his apparent bombardment of schemes that target motorists with the aim of improving air quality in London.
Over the last few years, many new schemes have been introduced, including:
- Congestion Charge changes: the operating hours of the congestion charge were widened and the price was increased.
- New cycle lanes introduced; in some cases these cycle lanes replaced a lane of traffic leading to longer journey times, congestion and idling engines.
- Low Traffic Neighbourhoods: LTNs started to appear any many London boroughs. Plant pot style boxes were placed at entrancing to certain streets prohibiting cars/motorbikes from driving down. Fixed Penalty Notices were issued by cameras to vehicles driving down these roads.
LTNs received some support in London, however they were widely criticised; from local residents, to emergency services and local councillors, LTNs become hugely unpopular relatively quickly. Local residents complained that journeys were taking longer due to increased congestion on the main roads. Idling engines were worsening the air quality on main roads, impacting those living there. Then Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, Cressida Dick, stated that LTNs were making it "harder" for officers to reach calls as quickly as before. It was a similar story from the London Fire Brigade and London Ambulance Service who were reporting being unable to reach addresses at all; some LTNs had physical barriers.
Current ULEZ Area and Planned Expansion
On 25 October 2021, ULEZ was expanded from the Congestion Charge zone to cover up to the boundaries of the North and South Circular.
The consultation commencing today could result in the Mayor expanding the ULEZ even further to cover ALL of Greater London and every London borough; if successful, the Mayor plans to introduce the expansion on 29 August 2023. According to the Mayor's Office, boroughs such as Havering, Barnet, Bromley and Croydon had the most deaths linked to air quality, which he argues demonstrates that the emissions problem is not exclusive to Central London.
The October 2021 expansion saw TfL spend £130m on 750 new Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras. These cameras are how the ULEZ is enforced, detecting vehicles and determining their age. If they do not meet the standard and the daily charge is not paid by the driver, then a Fixed Penalty Notice is issued.
Cost of Living Crisis
In the midst of a cost of living crisis, critics have been quick to point out that the expansion will only worsen the situation of Londoners already struggling in the current climate. There is an argument that those in older cars may not be able to afford newer, less polluting cars, therefore the daily charges is hitting the working class hard. Mr Khan has combatted this by stating that the expansion would be partnered with the "biggest scrappage scheme feasible to help Londoners on low incomes, disabled Londoners and businesses." Although this scheme has also come under criticism in the past for being underfunded and hard to access.
The Covid pandemic saw TfL struggle financially due to the lack of public transport use. With the expansion meaning that TfL could potentially earn an extra £1.7m a DAY, many have been quick to argue this is merely a revenue making scheme. Despite this, the TfL website states "any money received from the ULEZ will be reinvested into improving the transport network, including cycleways, buses and tubes, and helping to improve London's air quality."
The ULEZ expansion will be confirmed or ruled out in the near future after consultation is completed.