The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has today announced that he will expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) London-wide to tackle the triple threats of air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion, and to ensure five million more Londoners can breathe cleaner air.
The expansion will come into effect on Tuesday 29 August 2023 and will operate across all London boroughs up to the existing Low Emission Zone boundary.
Toxic air pollution is a matter of life and death – with around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely each year, children growing up with stunted lungs and a higher risk of dementia in older people. More than 500,000 Londoners live with asthma and are more vulnerable to the impacts of toxic air, with more than half of these people living in outer London boroughs.
The ULEZ has already been hugely successful in central and inner London, helping to reduce roadside pollution levels by 44 per cent in central London and 20 per cent in inner London. The Mayor believes that all Londoners have the right to breathe clean air.
Sadiq is doing all he can to support Londoners through the cost-of-living crisis, which is why the expansion will be accompanied by a brand new £110m scrappage scheme to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, charities and small businesses and sole traders. The Mayor listened to feedback from these communities during the consultation process, including from disabled people and the organisations that represent them to create a scheme to best support them. Successful scrappage applicants will receive a grant to scrap or – for the first time – retrofit their vehicle for certain vans and minibuses. Successful car owners can opt to receive a smaller grant accompanied by up to two free annual bus and tram passes, which would give them a higher financial package.
The Mayor also announced new measures to support disabled people, including extending the existing exemption periods for London’s disabled drivers and community transport minibuses run by not-for-profit organisations to October 2027 and October 2025 respectively, and introducing new exemption periods for disabled drivers and wheelchair accessible vehicles.
This will mean that over a quarter of a million disabled Londoners could be eligible for the new exemption periods, including those who automatically qualify for a Blue Badge. The Mayor is providing further support through scrapping the fee for drivers to sign up to Auto-Pay for the ULEZ and Congestion Charge.
To maximise the potential benefits of expanding the ULEZ and strengthen alternatives to private cars, the Mayor today also announced a plan for improving the bus network in outer London. Two new routes will be introduced in Sutton, with improved service to the new Cancer Hub at the Royal Marsden Hospital. In east London, new zero-emission cross-river services will be introduced, subject to consultation. This includes a new high-frequency, limited stop service between Grove Park and Canary Wharf, and an extension to route 129 (Lewisham – North Greenwich) north across the river to Great Eastern Quay via the Royal Docks.
New services and improvements, that will see over one million further kilometres added to the bus network, are also planned to support growth areas in a number of other outer London location. This is part of the biggest ever expansion of the bus network in outer London. Examples include:
- Improved links between Harold Hill and Upminster in Havering
- New and improved services at Brent Cross in Barnet
- Improved services in Southall
- Bus improvements in the Harrow & Wealdstone area
- New routes to serve the Haringey Heartlands development at Wood Green
- Better bus links in Wanstead, including to and from Whipps Cross Hospital
Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will strike the best balance between maximising the health and environmental benefits for Londoners while minimising the cost to drivers. Toxic air caused by road traffic is still leading to thousands of deaths a year, and the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution are in London’s outer boroughs, which the ULEZ doesn’t currently cover.
Expanding ULEZ London-wide will save 27,000 tonnes of CO2 in outer London, nearly double that which the central London ULEZ achieved in its first year of operation. Amongst other improvements, the expansion is forecast to make further progress to reduce air pollution, by reducing nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions from cars and vans in outer London by 10 and 7 percent respectively, and reducing PM2.5 car exhaust emissions in outer London by nearly 16 per cent, benefitting five million outer London residents.
Toxic air is also an issue of social justice with the poorest Londoners and Londoners from ethnic minority backgrounds least likely to own a car but also worst affected by toxic air. Only five per cent of the lowest income Londoners own a car yet they are around 10 per cent more likely to suffer from toxic air.
The ULEZ is a very targeted scheme to get the most polluting vehicles off the road. Compliance within the current ULEZ area is now at 94 per cent, much higher than the 39 percent when ULEZ was first announced in 2017, and also higher than 85 per cent the month before previous expansion, and compliance in outer London is already around 85 per cent. This means that most drivers in outer London will not be impacted by the expansion London-wide.
The evaluation survey of the Mayor’s Car and Motorcycle Scrappage Scheme shows it reduced vehicle ownership, with survey respondents also reporting a decrease in car travel and an increase in walking, cycling and public transport use. The report on the Mayor’s Scrappage Scheme shows that in addition to those who used the funds to purchase a ULEZ compliant vehicle, others used the money for greener transport options such as public transport, bikes and e-bikes and car clubs.
In order to support those who would like to use the money from the scrappage scheme for cleaner transport options, in addition to supporting those who want to put the funds towards public transport, bikes and e-bikes and car clubs, the Mayor’s new scrappage scheme will also include the option to get up to two annual bus and tram passes, and TfL is working with businesses to agree a range of offers on sustainable transport.
The announcement follows a public consultation which ran between May and July 2022, in which 59 per cent of respondents agreed that more needed to be done to tackle toxic air. A representative YouGov poll commissioned by City Hall also revealed nearly twice as many Londoners believe the Mayor’s proposed expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone should go ahead than oppose it.
Sadiq announced plans for the expansion at Bonus Pastor School in Lewisham, an area with dangerously poor air quality, and spoke to students and stakeholders from across London about the dangers of toxic air and the importance of tackling it urgently.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, “The latest evidence shows that air pollution is making us sick from cradle to the grave. Londoners are developing life-changing illnesses, such as cancer, lung disease, dementia and asthma. And it’s especially dangerous for children due to the long-lasting impact on their health and life chances, with kids in our city growing up with stunted lungs.
“The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London. But there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the health of young Londoners and leading to thousands of early deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths in the outer London boroughs. Expanding the ULEZ London-wide will mean five million more people will be able to breathe cleaner air and live healthier lives.
“The rising cost of living has been a key consideration for me. That’s why I’m announcing that we will be introducing our biggest scrappage scheme yet – £110m – to support Londoners on lower incomes, disabled Londoners, small businesses and charities to scrap or retrofit their non-compliant vehicles. All the money raised by ULEZ will be pumped back into funding local public transport and I’m pleased to announce today that we are planning the biggest ever expansion of the bus network in outer London.
“Expanding the ULEZ London-wide has not been an easy decision. The easy thing for me would have been to kick the can down the road. But in the end, public health comes before political expediency. We have too often seen measures delayed around the world to tackle air pollution and the climate crisis because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient. But there’s no time to waste when people’s lives are on the line and we are facing a climate crisis.
“As mayor, I’m not willing to turn a blind eye because it’s clear the cost of inaction – to our economy, to livelihoods, to the environment and the health of Londoners – would be a far too high a price to pay. Expanding ULEZ is the right choice for our city and something that I know will help us to continue building a better, greener, fairer and healthier London for everyone.”
Alex Williams, TfL’s Chief Customer and Strategy Officer added, ”Expanding the ULEZ is vital for public health in this city. We know that there are more deaths that are attributed to toxic air in the city’s outer boroughs and that bringing in these world leading standards over a larger area will see millions more breathing cleaner air. Our experience of these schemes shows that they work, with significant reductions in pollution since the first zone was introduced in 2019.
“As part of helping people to make the green transition, the Mayor has announced unparalleled support for people to scrap their older, more polluting vehicles. These groups include those that are essential to capital’s recovery, some of the most vulnerable in society and those that look after them. Following the consultation and taking on board the feedback from disabled people, we are extending the grace period for certain vehicles and widening the criteria for those who qualify. This could potentially benefit more than 280,000 people.
“The recent report that evaluated the Mayor’s previous scrappage scheme showed around a third of people choose not to purchase a new vehicle at all and 22 per cent no longer have access to a vehicle in their household. With this new package we will also be helping people to make more sustainable journeys with free annual bus and tram passes. This will be complemented by significant improvements to the outer London bus network, making public transport a more attractive alternative to the car.”
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