Ultra Low Emission Zone

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Symbol on road signs informing drivers of the Ultra Low Emission Zone

The Ultra Low Emission Zone is a fee charged to the most polluting vehicles in Central London. Plans were laid out under Boris Johnson and introduced by Sadiq Khan on 8 April 2019. It led to the number of the worst polluting vehicles dropping from 35,600 to 23,000 and a 20% reduction in emissions in Central London.[1][2]

The zone will be expanded to cover the Inner London area within the North and South Circular roads from October 2021.


Sign warning drivers that they are about to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charging Zone

Plans for an ultra–low emissions zone were under consideration since 2014 under Mayor Boris Johnson.[3] In February 2017, Mayor Sadiq Khan announced plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in April 2019 beyond Central London, one year ahead of schedule. Drivers do not pay both the ULEZ and the previous £10 T-charge, but they are still subject to the London Congestion Charge.[4][5] The money raised from the ULEZ is invested in the transport network and improving air quality in London.[6]

Introduction and effect[edit]

The zone was introduced in April 2019 and led to a 20% reduction in emissions by July 2019.[7][2]

Effect on vehicle numbers[edit]

The number of the worst polluting vehicles entering the zone each day dropped from 35,578, in March 2019, to 26,195 in April of the same year, after the charge was introduced.[8] The number further dropped to 23,054 in July 2019.[1] The proportion of vehicles which complied with the standards rose from 61% in March 2019 to 74% in September 2019.[9] It further rose to 85% in December 2020, including 90% for cars.[10]

The total number of vehicles entering Central London each day also dropped from over 102,000 in February 2017 to 89,000 in April 2019.[11]

Effect on air pollution[edit]

From 2016 to 2020, NO2 pollution dropped five times as quickly in Central London as it did in the rest of the UK.[12]


The Ultra Low Emission Zone has been described as one of the most radical anti-pollution policies in the world.[13] A poll in April 2019 by YouGov found that 72% of Londoners supported using emissions charging to tackle both air pollution and congestion.[14] However, the Federation of Small Businesses said that many small firms were "very worried about the future of their businesses" as a result of the "additional cost burden".[7]

Current charging scheme[edit]

The £12.50 charge applies 24 hours a day every day of the year, and is based on European emission standards:

  • Motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards (most vehicles pre-2007)
  • Petrol cars and vans that do not meet Euro 4 standards (most vehicles pre-2006)
  • Diesel cars and vans that do not meet Euro 6 standards (most vehicles pre-2015)
  • Buses, coaches and lorries must meet or exceed the Euro VI standard or pay £100 a day


Residents of the zone will not pay the charge until October 2021 as long as they are registered for the residents' Congestion Charge Discount and meet the T-charge standards. Vehicles in the "disabled" tax class are also exempt from the charge, as are London-licensed taxis, private hire vehicles which are wheelchair accessible and historic vehicles (over 40 years old). There are also exemptions for agricultural vehicles, military vehicles, certain types of mobile cranes and non-road going vehicles which are allowed to drive on the highway (e.g. excavators).[15]

Future expansion[edit]

The zone will be expanded to cover the Inner London area inside the North and South Circular roads from October 2021 so that it would cover an area containing 3.8 million people.[16][17] Once the zone is expanded, an estimated 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries will be affected by the change.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone - Four month report" (PDF).
  2. ^ a b "London pollution: High levels detected by 40% of capital's air quality". Evening Standard. July 23, 2019.
  3. ^ Fiona Harvey. "Diesel drivers may face higher costs in pollution battle". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  4. ^ Mason, Rowena (17 February 2017). "London to introduce £10 vehicle pollution charge, says Sadiq Khan". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  5. ^ Kimiko de Reytas-Tamura (17 February 2017). "A Push for Diesel Leaves London Gasping Amid Record Pollution". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  6. ^ "World's first 24 hour Ultra Low Emission Zone starts in London". London City Hall. April 8, 2019.
  7. ^ a b "ULEZ: New pollution charge begins in London". April 8, 2019 – via www.bbc.com.
  8. ^ Taylor, Matthew (May 16, 2019). "ULEZ cuts number of worst polluting cars in central London" – via www.theguardian.com.
  9. ^ "Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone - Six Month Report" (PDF).
  10. ^ https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/new-tighter-lez-standards-for-hgvs-in-london
  11. ^ "First month of Mayor's ULEZ sees 74 per cent of vehicles comply". London City Hall. May 16, 2019.
  12. ^ "5 times greater reduction in NO2 in London than rest of the country". London City Hall. August 7, 2020.
  13. ^ Edwards, Tom. "ULEZ: The most radical plan you've never heard of". BBC News Website. BBC. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  14. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Sedghi, Amy (April 8, 2019). "Londoners support charging 'dirty' drivers, says air pollution study" – via www.theguardian.com.
  15. ^ Matters, Transport for London | Every Journey. "Discounts and exemptions". Transport for London.
  16. ^ "London Mayor confirms Ultra-Low Emission Zone will start in 2019". www.fleetnews.co.uk.
  17. ^ "ULEZ: The politics of London's air pollution". April 5, 2019 – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  18. ^ "Ultra-low emission zone comes into force in central London". ITV News. April 7, 2019.