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More motorists to pay as London’s ULEZ zone set to grow next year

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Mayor Sadiq Khan of London today announced a plan to significantly widen the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to combat air pollution, climate change and traffic. A wider area and more drivers will fall under the daily £12.50 fee.

Under a program introduced in April 2019, drivers currently are charged £12.50 a day if they enter a zone within London’s North and South-Circular roads. The mayor’s office said ULEZ had already cut roadside pollution levels by 44 per cent in central London and 20 per cent in what’s considered inner London.

But the zone will be increased substantially: drivers in vehicles that exceed standards for emissions will be charged £12.50 a day to enter the Greater London Authority boundary 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day, beginning on 29 August 2023.

Mayor Khan said: “The latest evidence shows that air pollution is making us sick from cradle to the grave.  Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with kids in our city growing up with stunted lungs.

Pollution levels fall

“The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London. But there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the health of young Londoners and leading to thousands of early deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths in the outer London boroughs. Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will mean five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives. ”

He added that the expansion was not an easy decision for him. “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”, he said.

Scrappage scheme to help the poor and disabled

The expansion is to be accompanied by a £110m scrappage scheme for those on lower incomes, the disabled, charities,  small businesses and sole traders who can apply to receive a grant to scrap or retrofit certain vans and minibuses. Car owners accepted into the program can opt to receive a smaller grant accompanied by up to two free annual bus and tram passes, the mayor said.

Alex Williams, chief customer and strategy officer for Transport for London, said:  “As part of helping people to make the green transition, the Mayor has announced unparalleled support for people to scrap their older, more polluting vehicles. These groups include those that are essential to capital’s recovery, some of the most vulnerable in society and those that look after them. Following the consultation and taking on board the feedback from disabled people, we are extending the grace period for certain vehicles and widening the criteria for those who qualify. This could potentially benefit more than 280,000 people.”

Dissenting voices

The announcement drew complaints from the mayor’s political opponents.

Paul Scully, Conservative minister for London, was quoted as saying that “most Londoners can see how this is going to affect the lowest paid and businesses” during the cost-of-living crisis.

Susan Hall, Conservative leader on the London Assembly, was quoted as calling for the expansion to be canceled altogether, saying that about 60% of Londoners were against it.