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London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is getting 18 times bigger to reduce air pollution

The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, where drivers of polluting vehicles have to pay extra costs, has been significantly expanded from today.

The new ‘inner London’ zone is 18 times the size of the current central London zone and is designed to tackle air pollution in some of London’s most densely populated areas.

The £12.50 daily charge is in addition to the £15 congestion charge, which is designed to reduce general traffic in central London and usually covers diesel cars over six years old and petrol cars over 15 years old.

About 87 percent of vehicles currently driving in the zone already meet ULEZ standards and will therefore be exempt from the new charge, compared to 39 percent in February 2017 when expansion plans were first announced.

ULEZ has now expanded from central London, covering the same area as the Congestion Charge, too – but not including – the North Circular and South Circular Roads. The scheme applies 24 hours a day, every day of the year, except Christmas Day.

About 3.8 million people live in the new zone, which is 380 square kilometers and covers a quarter of London. It is the largest zone of its kind in Europe.

In addition to air pollution, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said the indictment would also help tackle the climate emergency and put London on the path to being a zero-carbon city by 2030.

The poorest Londoners and Londoners from ethnic minorities tend to be the most affected by poor air quality.

Six months after ULEZ was first introduced in April 2019, roadside nitrogen dioxide (NO2) pollution was found to have decreased by 36 percent compared to February 2017.

Khan has provided £61 million in funding for grants to small businesses, charities that operate minibusses, and low-income and disabled Londoners to help them scrap their older, more polluting vehicles.

“This is a milestone for our city,” Khan said. “I have pledged to be the greenest Mayor of London ever and I am incredibly proud that the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone today will clean up London’s toxic air pollution and help address the global climate emergency by reducing emissions.

“In central London, ULEZ has already helped cut toxic roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution by nearly half and resulted in reductions five times greater than the national average. But the pollution isn’t just a problem in central London. Therefore, the expansion of the ULEZ today will benefit Londoners across the city and is a crucial step in London’s green recovery from this pandemic.

“This is also about social justice. We know that pollution hits the poorest Londoners – least likely to own a car – hardest, which is why I am doing everything I can to improve air quality and protect the health of all Londoners. I will not stand by as pollution causes 4,000 Londoners to die prematurely each year and our children grow up with stunted lungs. The expanded ULEZ is an essential step to help fight London’s illegal air and reduce emissions that harm our planet.”

Some London-based small businesses have expressed concerns about the impact of the costs. Michael Lloyd, general manager of LTC Scaffolding, told the PA news agency that his company has invested £300,000 to upgrade part of its fleet to meet the higher standards, but still expects to earn around £2,500 a week for its non-compliant vehicles.

“Most small businesses” can’t afford those costs, he said, adding that while it was “a good idea” in practice, it should have been delayed by at least six months to give some extra time to businesses that have yet to recover from the Covid -19 pandemic.