• Ultra Low Emissions Zone to be London-Wide by 2023

Air Monitoring

Ultra Low Emissions Zone to be London-Wide by 2023

Sep 13 2022

Ever since the end of the first national stay-at-home order in 2020, the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has been wrestling with London’s prospects for meeting its commitment to carbon neutrality. At this point, he had a decade – the deadline was 2030. A challenge, for sure, but not insurmountable. In the short-term, however, there was a pressing cash-flow problem in Transport for London, on account of the fact that ticket sales had fallen significantly and abruptly during the lockdown – journeys on the Tube, in particular, plummeted by 95%! And even though the strictest restrictions on social distancing had been lifted, Londoners weren’t exactly lining up to use the city’s packed and unventilated Underground with the pandemic far from over. Ultimately, the Mayor had to bail TfL out; to the tune of £1.8 billion, no less. But these two problems, one long-term and one short-term, seem to have given Sadiq Khan an idea. 

It was recently revealed that in order for London to meet its duty to British climate targets, the capital will have to see a reduction in car journeys within its city-limits by almost a third (27%). Whilst some of those journeys would instead be made on foot or by bike, it’s likely that a majority would take public transport. Clearly, then, there’s a necessary connection between refilling the coffers of Transport for London and moving towards carbon neutrality. It was this connection made by the Mayor’s office in 2020, when proposals for reducing car journeys began to be floated. 

Initially, there were two proposals, one after the other – both roundly dismissed by Londoners. First, there was the Clean Air Charge, which was, to some extent, a sort of prototype of the new policy, which would have imposed a daily charge of £2 for petrol or diesel vehicles registered in London, a charge that would have affected 2 million households. Next came the Greater London Boundary Charge, a kind of toll of £3.50 per day for vehicles registered outside of London that journey across the Greater London Boundary.  

Finally, there is the proposal that is now due to be executed sometime in 2023. An expansion of the city’s numerous Ultra Low Emissions Zones into one London-wide ULEZ and the scrapping of all currently existing road-user charges, like the Congestion Charge and the various rates of the different ULEZs, in favour of a single system that charges motorists on a mile-by-mile basis. It’s hoped that a single, universal jurisdiction like this will, nevertheless, allow for targeted levies, with different charges for different vehicles and areas. Most interestingly, one criteria of difference for the latter is the convenience of public transport, meaning that it will be more expensive to drive in areas that are easily accessible by bus or train. Of course, this is one of the expected outcomes of the mega-ULEZ: getting Londoners out of motorcars and into train cars.  

Of course, Londoners will still want to drive, but the aim is to incentivise the purchase of more eco-friendly rides – although you will still be charged for entering typically congested areas and, as has been mentioned, locations with convenient public transport routes. Perhaps sponsored by the national government, the Mayor of London will incentivise, with discounts and grants, the selling of older, more polluting cars in favour of newer, greener models (or just to get some extra cash for all of your new journeys on the Underground).  

Before coming into effect in 2023, the proposal will be subjected to impact assessments, consultations and, finally, confirmation by the Mayor.  

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International Environmental Technology 32.6 - Nov/Dec 2022

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