Londoners are being invited to give their views on proposals to charge the most polluting vehicles for driving in central London by introducing an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
The zone would come into effect in September 2020 and would require vehicles entering it to comply with new emission standards for nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) or pay a daily fine.
Transport for London predicts the ULEZ, which will cover the same area as the congestion charge, will halve PM10 and NOx emissions and drastically improve the quality of London’s air.
It denies claims by some critics that the zone will displace polluting vehicles from central London to other parts of the city, insisting that most traffic in the zone area enters from other parts of London which will therefore benefit from a greater uptake of cleaner vehicles.
An online consultation on the ULEZ opens today and will run until Friday 9 January 2015.
Once the consultation closes TfL will consider the responses and recommend to the Mayor whether the scheme should be implemented. The Mayor will make the final decision in 2015.
Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: “Introducing the world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone is an essential measure to improve London’s air quality and reduce NO2 . Safeguarding Londoners’ health and well-being is a top priority for my administration.
“I understand that people need adequate time to switch to greener vehicles and help is at hand for those who will be hardest hit, but let’s be clear, we need to make these important changes ASAP to continue to improve Londoners’ quality of life and give everyone who lives in or visits the city the cleanest possible air to breathe.”
Last year a London Assembly report called on the Mayor and TfL to introduce the scheme earlier than the proposed 2020 date to help reduce the 4,000 premature deaths each year attributed to to air pollution.
In February of this year Conservative London Assembly Member Andrew Boff warned drivers risked being fined twice if the ULEZ and congestion charge operated at the same time and covered the same area and called on the Mayor to scrap the congestion charge if the ULEZ is introduced.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Green party AM Jenny Jones said: “The Mayor’s current proposal to clean up the air on a tiny fraction of the main roads with the worse pollution, is of no use to the people living along the majority of London’s polluted roads, nor to the school children going to schools near those roads. The Mayor’s proposal achieves too little, its coverage is too limited and it all happens far too late.
“As serious air pollution is not confined to the boundaries of the congestion charge area, Ultra Low Emission Zone really should be much larger. Plus boroughs outside the zone should be given an opportunity to opt-in at the earliest possible opportunity.”
Jenny Bates, Friends of the Earth’s London Campaigner said: “An Ultra Low Emission Zone is just the sort of initiative we need to stop around 4,000 Londoners dying prematurely every year due to air pollution – but this weak version does not go far enough.
“The Mayor should ban, not just charge, the dirtiest vehicles and the zone should be introduced sooner and extended to cover a bigger area.
“To protect Londoners’ health the Mayor should also bring in a London-wide congestion charge, invest more to encourage walking and cycling and public transport use – and scrap road-building plans for East London that would worsen traffic and pollution.”