Londoners were braced for the introduction of the Ulez expansion which finally comes into operation on Tuesday after months of legal battles and a backlash from motorists which has seen the vandalism of cameras set-up to monitor the zone.
The expansion of the ultra low emission zone to all London boroughs will kick-in after originally being introduced in 2019 with the mission of cleaning up London’s air.
London Mayor Sadiq khan has championed the expansion of the scheme which until now has covered only the area within the north and south circulars.
Transport for London (TfL) says nine out of 10 cars seen driving in outer London on an average day meet the Ulez standards, so will not be liable for the charge despite he expansion.
But Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency figures obtained by the RAC show 691,559 licensed cars in the whole of London are likely to be non-compliant.
This does not take into account other vehicles such as vans and lorries, or vehicles which enter London from neighbouring counties such as Essex, Hertfordshire, Surrey and Kent.
Petrol cars first registered after 2005 will meanly be complaint and nit subject to the charge.
Most diesel cars registered after September 2015 are also exempt from the charge which will be £12.50 for most non compliant vehicles. The tariff will apply ecery day of the year except Christmas day.
Fines will be £160 but reduced to £60 for prompt payment.
An estimated 4,000 Londoners die prematurely each year from conditions related to air pollution, according to research by Imperial.
However, the mayor’s plan to charge drivers as part of his clean air mission has been met with fierce opposition, particualrly in outer London boroughs.
This despite the mayor announcing that every Londoner with a polluting car will now be eligible for a grant of up to £2,000 to switch to a greener model, while small businesses can get £21,000 to junk up to three vans.
The mayor won a High Court challenge against five councils who wanted the ULEZ expansion to be ruled unlawful.
Bexley, Bromley, Harrow, Hillingdon and Surrey County Council argued that the Ulez expansion plan was not drawn up with sufficient consultation and was unjustly penalising drivers.
Such has been the anger sparked by the cameras that more than 300 installed for London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) were vandalised or stolen between April and mid-August.
Over four months, the Met received 339 reports of camera cables being damaged, or cameras being stolen or obscured.
The actual number of cameras affected is likely to be even higher as one report can represent multiple cameras.
Some 1,900 cameras have been installed in outer London so far.
Meanwhile the mayor has expressed frustration that the scrappage programme has no Government funding, unlike those run in several other English cities.
He said: “It was this Government that gave financial support to cities like Bristol, Birmingham and Portsmouth towards their clean air zones.
“If clean air is right for them then why isn’t clean air right for London?
“Why has the Government given no support to London? I am disappointed at the lack of support from the Government.
“I am disappointed that they seem to be weaponising air pollution and climate change.”
A Government spokeswoman said: “Both transport and air quality are devolved to London, which is why they are the direct responsibility of the Mayor of London.
“In fact, the Government has provided TfL £6 billion since 2020 to keep public transport moving and almost £102 million for projects specifically targeted to help tackle air pollution.”