Londoners are getting ready for the implementation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) expansion across all boroughs in the city. The expansion will take effect on Tuesday, following legal battles and opposition from motorists that have resulted in the vandalism of cameras installed to monitor the zone. The Ulez scheme was initially introduced in 2019 with the aim of improving air quality in London. London Mayor Sadiq Khan has been a strong advocate for expanding the scheme, which previously covered only the area within the north and south circulars.
According to Transport for London (TfL), approximately 90% of cars driven in outer London on a typical day meet the Ulez standards, and will not be subject to the charge. However, figures from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency indicate that around 691,559 licensed cars in London are likely to be non-compliant. This figure does not encompass other vehicles such as vans, lorries, or cars that enter London from neighboring counties.
Petrol cars registered after 2005 are generally compliant and exempt from the charge. Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are also exempt. The charge for non-compliant vehicles will be £12.50 per day, applicable throughout the year except for Christmas day. Fines for non-payment will be £160, but reduced to £60 for prompt payment.
Sadiq Khan has stated that around 4,000 premature deaths in London each year are caused by air pollution. Despite this, his plan to charge drivers as part of the clean air initiative has faced significant opposition, particularly in outer London boroughs. The mayor has announced a grant of up to £2,000 for Londoners with polluting cars to switch to greener models, and small businesses can also receive £21,000 to retire up to three vans.
In a High Court challenge, the mayor successfully defended the Ulez expansion against five councils that claimed insufficient consultation had taken place and that drivers were being unfairly penalized. The installation of cameras to monitor the Ulez has resulted in over 300 cases of vandalism or theft since April. The Metropolitan Police received 339 reports of damaged camera cables, stolen cameras, or obscured cameras during this period.
The mayor has expressed frustration over the lack of government funding for the scrappage program, unlike in other English cities. He questioned why the government had not provided support for London’s clean air initiatives and accused them of weaponizing air pollution and climate change. A government spokesperson responded by stating that transport and air quality are devolved to London and therefore the responsibility of the mayor. The government has provided TfL with £6 billion since 2020 to support public transport and almost £102 million specifically for air pollution projects.