London’s ultra-low emission zone will be extended to the entire capital starting next August, a move the mayor said would bring cleaner air to 5 million more residents.
Drivers of older, polluting cars to pay £12.50 a day to use their vehicle across Greater London from 29 August 2023.
An improved £110m scrappage scheme will be introduced to help vulnerable people and small businesses and there will be more buses in the suburbs.
the mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced the start date after a summer consultation on the scheme. It has been welcomed by green groups, clean air campaigners and some businesses, although the Conservatives have opposed the charge, saying most people in outer boroughs do not want it.
Khan said the capital’s toxic air and the climate emergency made it a public health imperative and the proceeds would go towards public transport.
Announcing the decision at the Bonus Pastor school in Lewisham, an area with dangerously poor air quality, Khan said: “The latest evidence shows that air pollution is making us sick from cradle to grave. Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it is especially dangerous for children.”
He said the zone, which was extended from the heart of the city to districts within the North and South Circular Roads last October, had been “transformational”, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost half in central London. “Expanding Ulez London will mean 5 million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives,” he said.
Khan said the rising cost of living was a key consideration and the £110m scrappage scheme would help people who needed it most to scrap or retrofit non-compliant vehicles.
Alex Williams, Transport for London’s chief customer and strategy officer said the scheme would offer “unparalleled support”, extend the repayment period for some types of vehicles and groups, including disabled people, and offer more free bus passes.
He said it would be “complemented by significant improvements to the outer London bus network, making public transport a more attractive alternative to the car”.
While London has struggled economically, TfL and the mayor says the Ulez extension is designed to get the most polluting vehicles off the road rather than raise revenue, with compliance now at 94%.
Around 15% of vehicles traveling in outer London boroughs will currently be liable for the charge – 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans entering the zone daily, according to TfL estimates.
However, it expects tens of thousands of drivers to switch to compatible vehicles or other modes before the zone expands. Most petrol cars registered after 2006 or diesel cars from 2016 are exempt.
Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, a pure air campaigner whose daughter Ella died of respiratory diseases partly caused by pollution, said it was a “step in the right direction”. She said: “When we had the inquiry we got the experts on Ella’s case to make some recommendations and everyone agreed that the Ulez extension was something that needed to be done to clean up the air in London. Clean air should be a human right .”
Muniya Barua, deputy chief executive at BusinessLDN, welcomed the move but said the mayor and TfL’s next step should be to speed up plans for a smarter road pricing scheme. “With congestion costing the economy over £5 billion a year and a 27% reduction in car miles required to reach our net zero target, this must be a priority.”
Conservatives in the Greater London Assembly condemned the move and warned it could still be stopped by a legal challenge, with around 60% of respondents to the hearing opposing the extension.
Nick Rogers, GLA Conservative transport spokesman, said: “Now is not the time to hammer Londoners with a £12.50 daily living cost. Residents have made their views very clear to the Mayor: they do not want the Ulez extension.”