The low-emission zone in central London, within which motorists are charged £12.50 (€14.56) per day for driving the most polluting vehicles, is set to be extended to cover the whole of London, the city’s left-wing mayor, Sadiq Khan, announced on Friday.
From Aug. 29 next year, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), which currently covers the heart of London will be extended to the Greater London Authority boundary, a move that will increase the costs of hundreds of thousands of commuters and residents who drive non-compliant vehicles.
Khan described the decision to extend the zone as “one of the toughest decisions” he’s taken as mayor, but claimed the move will see 5 million more people benefit from cleaner air.
“The ULEZ so far has been transformational, reducing harmful pollution levels by almost a half in central London,” Khan said.
“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,” he added.
The extension has been agreed despite overwhelming opposition from Londoners. The BBC reported that a public consultation on the extension plans, which Khan insisted was a genuine consultation and would factor into his decision, showed 80 percent of people in the affected area opposed the plan.
London Assembly member Emma Best said the announcement came following “a sham consultation from a sham Mayor.”
The move will mean that an estimated 200,000 motorists of non-compliant vehicles producing higher carbon emissions will be slapped with a daily £12.50 levy for driving their vehicle within the Greater London Authority boundary.
The charge applies all day, every day, with the exception of Christmas Day, and those with non-compliant cars residing in the affected area are not exempt.
At the same time, Transport for London (TfL) has announced the penalty charge for non-payment of the ULEZ fee will increase from £160 (€186) to £180 (€209), a charge that is halved if paid within 14 days.
The London Assembly Conservative group tweeted: “Londoners face paying a £12.50 daily cost of living charge if driving a non compliant vehicle in a London-wide expanded ULEZ zone. Despite a majority of Londoners opposing the scheme.”
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) opposed the move, insisting many of its members in Outer London will be badly hit, while the Alliance of British Drivers claimed the move was clearly designed to fill the coffers of Transport for London.
“His whole basis for extending the ULEZ zone on the basis of public health doesn’t stand up to scientific scrutiny,” said Brian Gregory, the alliance’s policy director.
“TfL has an enormous hole in its budget, and Mayor Khan is looking to fill that hole by any means that he can,” he added.
Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at vehicle service company RAC, said the announcement will be “a hammer blow for desperate drivers and businesses already struggling with crippling fuel costs.”