Ulez to cover whole of London in 2023, with hundreds of thousands of drivers facing £12.50-a-day fee

Cars on road in London
The ultra-low emission zone will cover the capital from August 29 2023 Credit: PA

Hundreds of thousands more drivers face a daily fee of £12.50 for using London’s roads later this year after mayor Sadiq Khan announced he will expand a pollution charge zone to boost air quality.

Mr Khan said extending the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) to cover the whole of the capital from 29 August 2023 is “one of the toughest decisions I’ve taken”.

The scheme, which operates at all times except Christmas Day, is currently limited to the area within the North and South Circular roads.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that on an average day about 160,000 cars and 42,000 vans that use London’s roads would be liable for the £12.50 Ulez fee.

But transport officials believe that by the end of next year the expansion of the scheme will have encouraged tens of thousands of those drivers to switch to vehicles that comply with the minimum emissions standards or use other modes of getting around such as walking, cycling or public transport.

Sadiq Khan said expanding the Ulez is ‘one of the toughest decisions I’ve taken’ Credit: Victoria Jones/PA

Is my car Ulez compliant?

Whether or not a vehicle is liable for the charge depends on how much nitrogen dioxide it emits.

For diesel cars and vans to avoid the charge they must generally have been registered from 2016, while most petrol models registered from 2006 are exempt.

Drivers can check the status of their vehicle by entering its registration number on TfL’s website.

'Cleaner air and healthier lives'

Mr Khan said air pollution is making Londoners “sick from cradle to the grave”, with illnesses such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma.

He described the Ulez as “transformational” and claimed extending it will mean “five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives”.

Ella Kissi-Debrah, 9, died in 2013 as a result of air pollution from living near the South Circular Credit: Family handout/PA

Mr Khan added: “Expanding the Ulez London-wide has not been an easy decision. The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road.

“But in the end, public health comes before political expediency.”

The mayor insisted that the rising cost of living was a “key consideration” in his decision on whether to implement the proposal, which was featured in a public consultation between May and July.

This led to him introducing measures such as a £110 million scrappage scheme to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled people, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles.

There will also be a major expansion of bus services in outer London.

Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, who is the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy on climate ambition and solutions, claimed Mr Khan’s leadership is “helping to clean London’s air and set an example for cities around the world”.

But RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said the announcement will be “a hammer-blow for desperate drivers and businesses already struggling with crippling fuel costs”.

Michael Lloyd of the Federation of Small Businesses said a “heavy-handed” Ulez expansion will “leave many small firms in a precarious position”.

He added that a recent survey of affected small businesses suggested 18% planned to shut down if the extension went ahead, and 25% intended to pass the extra cost on to customers.

Explainer: What is the ultra-low emission zone?

London’s ultra-low emission zone for older vehicles will be expanded from August next year.

When and why was the Ulez created?

It was launched in April 2019 to clean up London’s air.

How bad is air quality in the capital?

An estimated 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution.

How does Ulez help?

It disincentivises drivers from using the most polluting vehicles by charging them a daily fee for entering the zone.

How much is the fee?

The charge for vehicles which do not comply with minimum emissions standards is £12.50 for cars, smaller vans, motorbikes and other lighter vehicles.

The fee for non-compliant larger vehicles such as lorries, buses and coaches is £100 under the low emission zone scheme.

How do I avoid the fee when driving in the zone?

Ensure your vehicle meets the minimum emissions standard.

For petrol cars that means those generally first registered after 2005.

Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are exempt from the charge.

When does the Ulez operate?

All day, every day, except Christmas Day.

How soon after a journey do I need to pay?

You have until midnight on the third day following the journey.

What happens if I am liable to the charge but do not pay?

Failing to pay can result in a penalty charge notice of £160, reduced to £80 for early payment.

What area is currently covered by the Ulez?

The zone initially covered the same area of central London as the congestion charge.

Since 25 October last year it has included everywhere within the North and South Circular roads.

How significant is the August 2023 expansion?

The zone will be 18 times larger, covering all London boroughs.

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