Greater London Ulez expansion given go-ahead by Sadiq Khan

Greater London Ulez expansion given go-ahead by Sadiq Khan

The ultra-low emission zone (Ulez) will be expanded across all of Greater London next summer, Sadiq Khan announced on Friday.

The mayor’s decision – which he described as one of the most difficult of his political career – comes in the face of mass opposition and means 15 per cent of vehicles registered in the new outer London zone, about 200,000 at present, will be liable for the £12.50-a-day levy.

But an estimated five million Londoners will breathe cleaner air, according to City Hall, due to the likely impact of a city-wide zone further accelerating the switch to cleaner vehicles in the suburbs.

More than 96 per cent of cars in the existing zone, which extends to the inner boundaries of the North and South Circular Roads, comply with the exhaust emission rules and do not have to pay the 24/7 charge.

Mr Khan said he had decided to expand the zone across all 33 boroughs – from August 29 next year as planned – to tackle the “triple challenges” of air pollution, climate change and congestion.

“Just like four million Londoners are already breathing cleaner air because of the Ulez and its [October 2021] expansion to the North and South Circular, I want another five million Londoners to also benefit from cleaner air,” he told the Evening Standard.

Mr Khan admitted the consultation saw a backlash against the expansion. About 60 per cent of respondents are thought to have been opposed.

“More people were against the expansion than were for it,” he said. “But I have been quite clear: this was a consultation not a referendum.”

But there will be greater mitigating elements than under the previous expansion – a £110m scrappage scheme, additional buses in the suburbs and a “grace period” until October 2027 before Londoners with disabilities are liable for the charge.

Asked whether he had considered delaying because of the cost of living crisis, Mr Khan said: “This was a tough decision – it’s probably one of the toughest decisions I have made since being a politician, and that includes 11 years as a parliamentarian and six years as a mayor.

“I factored in a number of things: the cost of inaction v the cost of action. Political expediency often trumps public health. In this case it hasn’t.

“Frankly speaking, because of the cost of living crisis, had I not been able to put forward a massive scrappage scheme of the size I have, I may have delayed this.”

But Nick Rogers, GLA Conservatives transport spokesperson, said: “The official report from TfL shows an overwhelming majority - about 60 per cent - of respondents are opposed to Sadiq Khan’s damaging plans to expand the Ulez.

“This increases to 68 per cent when you exclude organised campaigns, and a staggering 80 per cent of people who work in outer London are against. Now is not the time to hammer Londoners with a £12.50 daily cost-of-living charge.”

The scrappage scheme will be targeted at low-income Londoners, people with disabilities, charities and small businesses. Families will be able to trade in their non-compliant vehicle for a lower pay-out and up to two annual bus or tram passes.

Scrappage payments will include £1,000 for a motorbike, £2,000 for a car and £5,000 for a van. Grants to retro-fit vehicles with cleaner engines will also be available.

Potentially around 25,000 people will be able to secure pay-outs – but many more may miss out, due to the likely scale of demand.

All London residents can apply – including motorists who missed out on the 2021 scrappage scheme and are currently having to pay the Ulez. The scrappage scheme will open for applications on January 30.

Drivers of non-compliant vehicles who fail to pay the Ulez face an increased fine of £180.

Mr Khan said the scrappage scheme was being funded entirely by City Hall, due to a lack of Government support, and would lead to “tough choices” next March when other spending would have to be sacrificed from his budget.

Critics claim the expansion of the zone – effectively to the M25 motorway – will deliver fewer air quality benefits than the 2021 expansion and cause greater harm to residents and businesses in outer London, where car ownership is higher due to fewer public transport alternatives.

City Hall says the Ulez expansion will save 27,000 tonnes of CO2 in outer London, reduce nitrogen oxide emissions from cars and vans in outer London by 10 and seven percent respectively, and PM2.5 car exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16 per cent.

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah, whose daughter Ella was the first person in the world to have air pollution recorded as a cause of death on her death certificate, said: “Clean air should be a human right. The expanded Ulez across London is a big step in the right direction.”

Michael Bloomberg, UN special envoy on climate and a former mayor of New York, said London was setting an example for cities around the world. “The faster cities make progress, the more lives we can save, and the better our chances of avoiding the worst effects of climate change,” he said.

The “biggest ever expansion” of the bus network in outer London will add an additional one million km (620,000 miles) of services.

Areas to benefit include Brent Cross, Southall, Harrow & Wealdstone and Wanstead, including to and from Whipps Cross Hospital. There will also be improved links between Harold Hill and Upminster and new routes serving the Haringey Heartlands development in Wood Green.

Petrol cars and vans that have a “Euro 4” engine – widely available since 2006 – or newer do not have to pay the Ulez.

Diesel cars and vans have to have a Euro 6 engine – widely available since 2016 – to be exempt from the Ulez.

Motorbikes and mopeds are required to have a Euro 3 engine – available since 2007 - or newer to be exempt.

Vehicles registered to people with disabilities are already exempt from paying the Ulez until October 2025. Mr Khan has decided to extend this for a further two years, effectively benefiting 280,000 people.