Greater London ULEZ expansion: What is Sadiq Khan’s new plan to improve air quality and who will have to pay

Sadiq Khan announced on Friday that the ultra-low emission zone would be expanded to cover the whole of Greater London by August next year – one of his biggest decisions he has made as mayor.

The so-called “GL-Ulez” will mean thousands more drivers will have to pay the £12.50-a-day Ulez levy – but should improve air quality for millions and further drive the switch to “greener” forms of transport.

This is what it means for London.

What is happening with the Ulez?

The zone is to expand on Tuesday August 29, 2023 – the day after the August bank holiday weekend. This will take its boundaries from just inside the North and South Circular roads to the edge of Greater London – effectively up to the M25.

This means that drivers of non-compliant vehicles will have to pay to drive in London or to enter London.

Is it just Londoners who have to pay the Ulez?

No – any driver of a vehicle that doesn’t meet the Ulez exhaust emission rules has to pay, regardless of where they live. This includes Londoners who just want to driver around the city, and people – including foreign drivers – who want to enter the city.

How many Londoners will have to pay?

It depends – you only pay when you drive. The charge applies per day, round the clock, 364 days a year (Christmas day is exempt). About 15 per cent of vehicles registered in the “new” area – the outer ring between the North/South Circular and the M25 – are currently non-compliant and would have to pay (or face a £180 fine). This is currently around 200,000 vehicles. But many drivers will look to upgrade their vehicles before next August to avoid having to pay.

Which vehicles have to pay?

Essentially, older petrol and diesel vehicles – including older motorbikes, mopeds, vans, lorries and coaches.

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.

But didn’t thousands say no to the expansion in TfL’s consultation?

Yes – though City Hall has not been keen to highlight the scale of opposition. Up to 60 per cent of respondents are thought to have been opposed. The mayor claimed the consultation was “hijacked” by motoring groups, who gathered opposition from people living outside London. He said his priority was to improve public health by tackling toxic emissions.

What happens with the Ulez income?

Part of it is needed to pay for the running of the system, which is costing about £200m to expand. The rest goes back to TfL to reinvest in public transport, such as bus routes, cycle lanes and road improvements.

Will there be a scrappage scheme to help trade in “old bangers”?

Yes. Mr Khan is making £110m available from City Hall funds. Applications will open on January 30. 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.

Can anybody apply to the scrappage scheme?

No. 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.

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.

Will the GL-Ulez improve air quality?

Critics claim the expansion 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.

Will there be more buses?

Mr Khan is planning the “biggest ever expansion” of the bus network in outer London, which will add an additional one million km (620,000 miles) to 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.

What about disabled drivers?

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.