The new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has indicated that London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) could be introduced as early as 2019. This would be a year earlier than previously anticipated, with the roll-out initially focused on inner London, before expanding to both the North and South Circular starting from 2020.

The ULEZ will significantly affect vehicle traffic movement in the nation’s capital, with the aim being to reduce the London’s enormous pollution problems. However, there will be impacts on businesses that operate vehicles within the city limits.

If the ULEZ is introduced in less than three years’ time, it will potentially affect the purchasing requirements of many businesses with vehicles working in London right now.

What is the ULEZ?

The ULEZ is an area within which all buses, cars, coaches, heavy goods vehicles, minibuses, motorcycles and vans must meet specific exhaust emission standards. Alternatively, vehicle owners can pay a daily charge to travel within the ULEZ.

The London ULEZ will be in place in addition to the city’s existing Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards. Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ will be in operation 24/7 including weekends and public holidays.

Where does the ULEZ cover?

London’s ULEZ will operate within the same area that the city’s current Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ) is in force.

Anyone who is unsure of the locations that this covers, though, can simply find out by using Transport for London’s (TfL’s) ULEZ postcode checker.

London ULEZ (ultra low emission zone) and CCZ (congestion charge zone)
Map of the new London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). Image (c) Transport for London.

What are the standards of the ULEZ?

In order to conform to London’s ULEZ standards without facing a charge, motorists must be driving a vehicle which meets the following standards:

  • A diesel engine car, minibus or van which is of Euro-6 ULEZ emissions standard.
  • A petrol engine car, minibus or van which is of Euro-4 emissions standard.
  • A motorcycle, moped or a similar vehicle which is of Euro-3 emissions standard.
  • A HGV, bus or coach which is of Euro-VI ULEZ emissions standard.

Given that Euro-6 emissions standards are only now just coming into force for diesel vans in the UK, this means that plenty of newly-registered commercial vehicles may not be able to enter London in less than three years’ time unless they pay a daily charge.

What are the charges for a vehicle which doesn’t meet the ULEZ standard?

If a vehicle fails to meet the ULEZ standards set out above, motorists will need to pay the following standard daily charge (subject to change before the scheme actually begins) in order to drive the vehicle through the zone:

  • £12.50 per day for a diesel or petrol car, minibus or van.
  • £12.50 per day for a motorcycle, moped or a similar vehicle.
  • £100 per day for a HGV, bus or coach.

Drivers should be aware that there will be no barriers or toll booths as part of the ULEZ scheme. Like the Congestion Charge Zone, cameras will be used throughout the zone to read vehicle number plates and check them against a database made up of information from the DVSA, vehicle manufacturers and both drivers and operators registered with TfL.

If a motorist is found to be driving a vehicle which does not meet the ULEZ standards and has failed to pay the daily charge, the registered owner or operator will be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice as follows (again, subject to change):

  • £130 penalty for a diesel or petrol car, minibus or van, which will be reduced to £65 if payment is made within 14 days of issue.
  • A £130 penalty for a motorcycle, moped or a similar vehicle, which will be reduced to £65 if payment is made within 14 days of issue.
  • A £1,000 penalty for a HGV, bus or coach, which will be reduced to £500 if payment is made within 14 days of issue.

Businesses operating large numbers of vehicles entering the London ULEZ will need to monitor vehicle movements to make sure non-complying vehicles are not sent into the ULEZ, or that charges are paid promptly if non-complying vehicles are used.

The new ULEZ will not replace the existing LEZ, which does not include LCVs or cars, and is aimed at aimed at reducing particulate matter emitted from HGV diesel engines. This area goes beyond that proposed for the ULEZ, and includes all 32 London boroughs as well as the M1 south of the London Gateway Services and the M4 east of Junction 3 (and including the Heathrow Spur).

London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) affects heavy vehicles
The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) has already been in effect for several years. Image (c) Transport for London.

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