London ULEZ ‘too little, too late’

Current proposals for an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the centre of London from 2020 onwards are “too little, too late”, according to the London Assembly’s Environment Committee.

Publishing its response to Transport for London and the London Mayor’s consultation on the ULEZ proposals, the Assembly Committee today (February 11) called for the Zone to be introduced sooner than 2020, with the initial non-compliance charge set to increase over the zone’s first years.

London Assembly members have urged the Mayor to expand the size of the proposed ULEZ and bring it in sooner than 2020

London Assembly members have urged the Mayor to expand the size of the proposed ULEZ and bring it in sooner than 2020

Under the ULEZ plans, the Mayor, Boris Johnson, TfL estimate that emissons of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter PM10 ill halve from 2020, with vehicles having to meet specific emission standards or to pay a daily charge to drive in the zone, which will have the same boundaries as the existing Congestion Charge Zone and operate 24 hours a day all week.

However, the Environment Committee argues that the zone should be expanded beyond the current Congestion Charge Zone boundary “as soon as possible”, after discussions with boroughs over the costs, benefits and practicalities of a wider ULEZ have taken place.

In addition, the Committee said the ULEZ should be kept under review and tightened to boost the uptake of low emission vehicles as better technology becomes more widely available.

Mr Johnson first announced plans in February 2013 for the ULEZ to be introduced from 2020, which will cover the Congestion Charge map and see only zero or low emission vehicles driving in central London during working hours (see airqualitynews.com story).

Chair of the Environment Committee, Lib Dem AM Stephen Knight, said: “The Mayor’s argument that owners need time to adjust their purchasing decisions doesn’t wash because non-compliant vehicles will not become unusable, they will just be subject to charges. TfL has said that nearly three quarters of the traffic in central London will meet the proposed ULEZ standards by 2020 even without the zone. The financial costs to a small number of drivers must therefore be weighed against the worrying number of Londoners affected by respiratory problems and thousands of early deaths linked to the capital’s air quality.”

The Committee also said that the Mayor, boroughs and the government should examine how the whole of London could achieve full compliance with air pollution limits by 2020.

ULEZ support

It is not the first time that London Assembly members have called for a larger ULEZ to be implemented sooner than 2020. The Assembly passed a motion making similar calls last July (see airqualitynews.com story), which have been supported by several campaign groups and London boroughs.

However, the Mayor believes London motorists, businesses and car manufacturers should be given ample warning of the limits being proposed, and has previously insisted that regardless, the current ULEZ plans are some of the most “radical” air quality measures in the world.

And, speaking to airqualitynews.com today (February 11), chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), Mike Hawes, said the motor industry was also supportive of the Mayor’s proposed timeframe of introducing the ULEZ from 2020, rather than any earlier.

Mr Hawes said the motor industry and consumers needed to be given enough time to prepare for changes: “We would agree that 2020 is probably reasonable. If you are going to encourage the take up of cleaner vehicles you have got to give people the time to invest.”

Nevertheless, SMMT previously called on the Mayor to bring in a more “ambitious” ULEZ package, that would see petrol vehicles being required to meet Euro 6 emission standards, in line with the Euro 6 requirements put forward currently for diesel vehicles (see airqyalitynews.com story).

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John Scott

On the same theme, why are the GLA and County transport authorities (Surrey, Kent, Essex, Herts and Bucks) who have administratrative areas inside the M25 not conducting research into the benifits that would accrue simply by extending the London LEZ up to, but not including, the M25?