London’s ULEZ shows early success in deterring polluting vehicles

The number of heavily polluting cars and vans driving into central London has fallen sharply since the city introduced its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) on 8 April, a new report has found.

Research into the impact of the ULEZ in its first month of operation found that 74% of vehicles driving into the zone were compliant with the new standards.

The news has been hailed as an early success for the ULEZ which aims to improve London’s notoriously poor air quality.

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, said: ‘Today’s report shows how bold action reaps rewards – just one month after launching the world’s first ULEZ, leading the way for cities around the globe, we have already seen a significant impact on the types of vehicles driving in the centre of our capital and polluting our air.

‘It’s early days, but it’s great to see Londoners and businesses are doing their bit to make a difference, with nearly three-quarters of the vehicles driving into central London each day now meeting the standards required to turn around this public health crisis. It’s vital this compliance is sustained to truly make a difference to our air quality.’

Researchers found around 9,400 fewer older polluting vehicles were driving into the zone on an average day in April compared with March – a reduction of 26%.

In total, there have been around 58% fewer non-compliant vehicles in the zone since the scheme was first announced in February 2017 – likely due to drivers acquiring cleaner vehicles – while there has been an 80% increase of vehicles that are compliant.

In the first month of the scheme around 32,100 non-compliant vehicles were detected in the zone on an average day with over half of them paying the charge of £12.50 or £100, depending on the type of vehicle they were driving.

Around 9% were given a warning for their first contravention of the scheme, while 37% of vehicles were exempt from the charge.

City Hall has hailed the improvements the ULEZ is already having on London’s air quality as NO2 concentrations have fallen by around 20% in the zone since 2017.

Alex Williams, Transport for London’s director of city planning, said: ‘Everyone benefits from clean air, which is why it is great to see that so many people have responded to the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which has resulted in a reduction in the number of polluting vehicles in the capital.

‘The ULEZ will nearly halve road-based NOx emissions in central London, and in addition to our work to green up the bus fleet and encourage the taxi industry to switch to cleaner vehicles, together we will help to tackle this public health crisis.’

City Hall stressed that it is still too early to measure the full impact of the ULEZ on pollution levels.

However, the mayor’s office is set to publish more detailed research into the impact of the scheme over the coming months.