ULEZ: Sadiq Khan’s flagship clean-air scheme expands to cover the whole of greater London

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Sadiq Khan has described August 29 as a “landmark day”, though added it was a “very tough decision” to expand the ULEZ.

Nine months after Sadiq Khan announced his decision to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), the scheme is today (August 29) extended to cover the whole of greater London.

That means most drivers of non-compliant vehicles in London will now be liable to pay a £12.50 daily charge, a move the mayor says is “the right thing to do” to reduce pollution and clean up London’s air.

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Since announcing the ULEZ would be expanded last November, there has been growing pressure on Mr Khan to abandon the scheme by groups ranging from some politicians to businesses and charities.

Since the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, which the Conservatives are widely seen to have held due to the ULEZ, Mr Khan has even faced pressure from those in his own party, including the Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer. The GMB Union is another of those to have recently weighed-in to the debate.

A High Court challenge launched by five Conservative councils was unsuccesful in blocking the expansion, as the judge found the decision to extend the ULEZ was legally sound. The Tory candidate for next year’s mayoral election, Susan Hall, has however said she will scrap the expanded zone from day one if voted in.

Demonstrators protest against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), outside the Royal Courts of Justice in July. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)Demonstrators protest against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), outside the Royal Courts of Justice in July. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators protest against the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), outside the Royal Courts of Justice in July. (Photo by HENRY NICHOLLS/AFP via Getty Images) | AFP via Getty Images

Despite the opposition, Mr Khan and Transport for London (TfL) have repeatedly insisted the expansion of the zone, from the North and South Circular roads to the whole of the capital, is essential to cleaning up the city’s air, and they have received substantial support of their own.

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London-wide polling has indicated the city’s residents generally back the ULEZ, even if there is a closer split between those who think it should be expanded to those who wish to see it remain within its current boundaries.

City Hall data from earlier this year found all of London’s boroughs exceed the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) guidelines for nitrogen dioxide, and recent research from King’s College reported how people with dementia exposed to higher levels of PM2.5 and nitrogen dioxide were likely to record greater use of community mental health services.

Official data suggests more than nine in ten cars seen driving in outer London on an average day are already compliant. For those who have vehicles which do not meet the ULEZ standards, a scrappage scheme is in-place to support the transition to cleaner, less polluting options.

A map showing the proposed ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/GoogleA map showing the proposed ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/Google
A map showing the proposed ULEZ expansion. Credit: TfL/Google | TfL/Google

The mayor said: “This Tuesday will be a landmark day for our city as the Ultra Low Emission Zone expands to ensure every Londoner breathes cleaner air.

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“We’ve already seen huge progress since I announced the expansion. On the eve of the roll out 9 in 10 cars seen driving in the zone on an average day are already compliant and won’t pay a penny. Financial help is available for every single Londoner and small business whose vehicle is not compliant.

“It was a very tough decision to expand the zone, but with toxic air leading to around 4,000 premature deaths each year and our children growing up with stunted lungs, it is the right thing to do.”

Claire Harding, the interim chief executive at the think-tank Centre for London, said: “Today marks a new chapter: Londoners across the capital have the same protection from toxic air.

“The debates about ULEZ expansion have been acrimonious at times and we know that this will continue.

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“The way the ULEZ has been implemented hasn’t been perfect and low income Londoners needed more financial help earlier on. But the benefits from improved air quality are an important step, especially for children’s health.

“To be a lasting success, the ULEZ expansion needs to be part of a wider effort to help people switch to more sustainable transport. Our research shows that most car trips in outer London are because of a lack of other options – and over half of them are less than two miles long.

“The next mayor and government will need to do more to help people switch to cleaner modes by providing better options for walking, cycling and public transport for every London journey.”

Keith Prince, a London Assembly Member (AM) and City Hall Conservatives transport spokesperson, said: “Instead of listening to Londoners or even those in his own party, Sadiq Khan has refused to scrap his Londonwide ULEZ expansion, which has been put in place today. The expanded ULEZ will have a nominal impact on air quality, but will hit those least able to pay the hardest; including small businesses and charities that cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles.

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“Sadiq Khan’s office has been caught interfering with the scientists tasked with validating his claims and it is outrageous that this scheme has gone ahead. The Conservatives on the London Assembly will not stop fighting against schemes that offer so little improvement, yet cost so much.”

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