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03 August 23

How will Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZ) impact on the transport sector?

In recent days ULEZ has become something of a news item with the success or failure of a by-election being blamed on the plans for the expansion into Greater London. Last week 5 Conservative controlled councils challenged the Labour Mayor of London along with the leader of the Labour Party Sir Keir Starmer, who urged Sadiq Khan to ‘reflect on the expansion’. The Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak has claimed that the zone will be an added ‘tax’ on hard working people. So, what is all the ‘fuss’ about?

The plan for London is to extend the existing ULEZ that at this moment had initially encompassed the congestion zone before being expanded to include the areas up to the North and South circular roads in October 2021. Having already been announced in 2019 arguably giving road users over 2 years to prepare.

Part of the current argument is the lack of notice that has been given this time. Just 9 months have been allowed to enable people to change their vehicles and where applicable take advantage of the supportive vehicle scrappage scheme.

The scheme makes a charge of £100 per day for trucks and heavy vehicles including buses and coaches or £12.50 per day for any non-compliant cars, vans or motorbikes to be able to travel in the expanded greater London area from August 29th 2023.

Lorries, vans, or specialist heavy vehicles (all over 3.5 tonnes) and buses, minibuses and coaches (all over 5 tonnes) that do not need to pay the ULEZ charge, will need to get a permit.

Other parts of the country also have clean-air zones. In Bristol, the council submitted its plans to charge polluting vehicles in February 2021, and the policy came into effect 21 months later, in November 2022.

So, it is true to say that the latest ULEZ expansion is happening more quickly than previously and in comparison, to similar schemes in other cities in the UK.

According to Transport for London (TFL) data, road transport accounts for 44% of nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, 31% of PM2.5 (particulate matter) emissions and 28% of CO2 emissions in London.

It states, “The proposed London-wide ULEZ is expected to reduce road transport Nox emissions by 5.4% (362 tonnes) in London. There is expected to be a 1.5% (7.8 tonnes) reduction in PM2.5 emissions from road transport in London”.

That is more than the reduction of 240 tonnes of Nox when the ULEZ was introduced in central London. Data from City Hall, reviewed by Imperial College London, shows: “Road transport Nox emissions for all vehicles are expected to reduce by 5.5% (214 tonnes) in the non-Greater London area in 2023 compared to a scenario where there was no Ulez expansion London-wide”.

“The equivalent figure for road transport PM2.5 is a 1.4% (3.5 tonnes) reduction. For PM10, there is a 0.9% (4 tonnes) reduction. For carbon the reduction is 1.6%”.

Last week, the courts dismissed the legal challenges to prevent the expansion from going ahead and so the plans are still in place.

Low Emission Zone Permits are free

Any vehicle that does meet the emissions standards still needs a permit (free of charge) and failure to apply for the necessary permit will result in a penalty notice depending on the size and type of vehicle. Breakdown or recovery vehicles are treated as light goods and so would incur a fine of £500 reduced to £250 if paid for early within 14 days whereas heavier vehicles could be fined £1,000 reduced to £500 if paid on time.

ULEZ Zones - London Street

Other Low emission or clean air zone areas

London is not unique in pursuing these plans, there are several other areas already operating clean air zones including Birmingham, Bristol, Bath, Glasgow, Newcastle, Oxford, Bath, Bradford, Portsmouth and Sheffield. Perhaps most famously Manchester, which should have started by now, has erected the signage but is currently on hold for consultation. Similarly, schemes for Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Newcastle are all planned.

Our research suggests that they are all independent schemes operating differing amounts and vehicle criteria, potentially adding to complexity and issues for the fleet managers and drivers to manage in their daily lives are their vehicles travel throughout the UK and no doubt Europe.

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