The Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was set up in London to keep air pollution levels under control. The toxicity of air caused serious health issues and premature deaths. To keep this in check, an initiative was taken where Central London was declared an Ultra-low emission zone from 8th April 2019.
ULEZ decided to extent the Low emission zone from Central up to Northern and Southern circular roads of London implementing from 25th October 2021. However, vehicles running on Northern and Southern circular canals are exempted. The new charge zone is almost 18 times larger than the previous one. This implies that the drivers of old cars and vehicles non-complying to the ULEZ NO2 emission standard will be liable for charges for driving in the ULEZ zone. The scheme will target thousands of cars that are responsible for higher NO2 emissions in the air. The Ultra-Low Emission zone has successfully lowered the main pollutant Nitrogen dioxide to almost 50% in central London attributing to cleaner vehicles from 2019 to 2021.
For the mayor of London Sadiq Khan, the control of the quality of air has become a matter of social justice. He declared that ULEZ aims to remove 600,000 vehicles off the road, resulting in lowering the amount of carbon emission by 100 tonnes. The mayor states that the common people are the main sufferers of toxic air levels. The noxious levels of NO2 cause chronic illnesses such as inflammation of airways, wheezing, increased hospital visits and admissions. Increased asthma attacks also became a major concern that drew political attention.The new zone under the scheme covers roughly 4 million people. They expect a huge impact on the overall health levels of the citizens.
The sole purpose of ULEZ is to improve air quality. Hence, the diesel card meeting Euro 4 standards and petrol cars meeting Euro 6 standards will not be fined. Generally, diesel cars made before 2015, and petrol cars manufactured before 2005 will be scrapped.There is also a facility of partial charging, where few vehicles may not have to pay the full fine.Drivers can check if their vehicles are eligible for fines or not on their government website online vehicle checker.
Whether or not your vehicle will be charged depends upon the amount of NO2 it releases in the air. £12.50 will be charged daily except Christmas day to receive a permit.Recent surveys have shown that out of 2005 motorists who use those zones regularly, only 43% are aware of the expansion. So, to spread the information, leaflets have been distributed to the residents of the area. People driving on the boundaries have been sent letters in order to acquaint them with the changes made.
Drivers have been offered various modes of payment which includes monthly as well as daily schemes. They can use the ‘Pay to drive in London app’, Transport for London’s (TFL) website or can be put under an automatic monthly billing system. Failing to pay the chargeFailing to pay the charge, polluters will be penalized £160 and £80 if the payment is made within a fortnight.
About 100,000 vehicles are affected by this scheme. So what can Londoners who cannot afford new vehicles do? They can apply to Transport for London (TFL) for a reimbursement of £2000 in exchange for scraps of their vehicle and use the money to buy a cleaner one. Non-complying motorcycles and mopeds may also get a grant of £1000.Not only individuals but many small business companies, charities and firms can also apply for this grant.Sadly, lorries, vans, minibuses are declared non-eligible for compensation due to lack of funds and unexpectedly high demand.
As many firms and stand-alone businesses have suffered setbacks from the pandemic, they are unprepared for this upgrade.Many have expressed concerns and have requested to postpone the scheme. Small enterprises now have two choices. Either they can invest in the up-gradation of their vehicles to meet the ULEZ standards or have to pay thousands of Euros weekly for their non-complying vehicles. Nonetheless, they are not able to bear the expenses.
ULEZ has an environmentalist perspective. It has a broader and higher vision, aiming to achieve the majority of transport in London via walking, cycling and public transport by the year 2040. When ULEZ first came into action in 2017, it witnessed a drop in NO2 levels by 44%. The number of cleaner cars also increased from 39% to 80%, ensuring a cleaner and safer environment. Whereas most citizens like Jemima Hartshorn from ‘Mums for Lungs’ has expressed that more people will have cleaner air to breathe, many campaigners and businesses are upset.The Federation of Small Businesses has even appealed for a delay in enforcement of the plan.Environmental activists are not satisfied with the expansion range and believe that the Southern Zone should also be included.
Though the government says that it is a ‘non-profit' program, a profit of about £1.9m per day is estimated from the scheme. However, huge launching costs are approximating £90m to £139m.The majority of the profit will be used for environmental conservation purposes, improving the air quality and public transport facilities.
The emission-based pollution control system is a viable option that will not be outdated soon. Inspired by London, many other cities in the UK are also planning on constructing emission-free zones.The scheme is supposed to be updated from 2025, wherein battery-operated vehicles must meet the standard emission protocol to drive in the Congestion Zone.