For the past few months a consultation has been running to make the centre of London an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). This is part of our City’s plan to improve air quality, which consistently breaks EU regulations and results in significant EU fines.

It is estimated that over 4,300 people die prematurely each year in London due to breathing difficulties caused by high levels of CO2 and other airbourne pollutants. Those are the official figures, an independent study found that this figure could be as high as 7,500 deaths per year in the Capital.

The Mayor of London has put forward proposals that would require all motor vehicles that drive inside the ULEZ to meet new exhaust emissions standards. The proposal aims to limit the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) emissions. Taking effect from the 7th September 2020 the ULEZ would apply 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and cover the same area as the current congestion charge zone.

Under the new proposals vehicles that don’t meet the emissions standards (which are the 2006-standard Euro-4 for petrol vehicles and the latest Euro-6 for diesel vehicles) would have to pay a daily charge on top of the daily congestion charge.

All taxis and private hire vehicles would be required to be zero emissions capable to gain a license from the 1st January 2018. However, it is worth noting that despite the deadline it is possible for a private hire fleet to achieve this now. For example, eConnect cars has demonstrated a successful model over the past year, six years ahead of deadline.

eConnect cars supports the ULEZ initiative but we do not believe that it is going far enough

London Bad Air QualityAbove: Brown haze, air pollution in London

Urgent action is required in order for London to meet EU air quality standards and an initiative such as this is a proven way to initiate change.

Toxic exhaust fumes are one of the biggest contributors to deaths associated with breathing difficulties. Any reduction in emissions should be welcomed.

However, the proposals do not go far enough to address the urgency of the situation. Londoners will have to wait 5 years before the plans would come into force and a number of years beyond 2020 before the full benefits to air quality would be realised.

Included in the proposals are a whole range of variations and exemptions, which will cause a number of complications and problems. One major example will effect public transport. All buses travelling through the ULEZ will have to meet Euro 6 petrol standards and be either hybrid double deckers or single decker and zero emissions. The new Routemaster buses however will be exempt from any charges or restrictions.

There are similar loop-holes for some cars and older HGVs which were fully set out in an open letter to the Mayor of London by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT):

We are very much in agreement with the SMMT that an ULEZ gives London the opportunity to be a World leader in ultra low emissions, mobility and growth.

Under current proposal we believe that London will not actually achieve compliance with NO2 limits

In the proposal documents (Transport for London’s ULEZ Supplementary Information) levels of NO2 are projected to be above the EU regulations after 2020.

This document admits that concentrations of NO2 will “continue to exceed the limit in central and inner London” and that “compliance with EU standards is estimated to only be achieved after 2030”.

2010 Air QualityAbove: Recorded Annual Mean levels of NO2 in London during 2010. The EU Regulations limit is 40 ug/m3 (bright yellow). Areas in red are of particular concern.

Source: Transport for London, Ultra Low Emission Zone Supplementary information, October 2014

2020 Air QualityAbove: Projected Annual Mean levels of NO2 in London by 2020. Areas in yellow, orange, red and brown would still exceed the EU regulations.

Source: Transport for London, Ultra Low Emission Zone Supplementary information, October 2014

This further backs the assertion that while the Mayor and TfL are acting in London’s best interests by looking to create an ULEZ the proposals do not go far enough. It would still take a number of years, and lots of confusion, before this version of a proposed ULEZ would make a significant change.

Surely this is the opportunity for London to properly follow through and create real change and with much stricter guidelines if we are to see any real impact in air quality.

To see the proposals in full and have you say on the London Ultra Low Emission Zone click here:

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