When does the ULEZ (ultra-low emissions zone) start in London?

From Monday 8 April new clean-the-air charges will apply

It’s not far away. The latest of the mayor’s measures to try to clean up the air in London – the ULEZ (ultra-low emissions zone) – starts soon.

Yes, the latest regulations to improve air quality are just around the corner and the measures won’t end there. Initially, it will apply to the area currently covered by congestion charges but on 25 October 2021 – about two-and-a-half years down the line – the zone is set to expand to the area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.

The other day I spoke to someone considering buying a diesel car. He said the ULEZ didn’t worry him as he rarely drives into central London. When I told him of the extension of the area covered in 2021 he paused for thought.

We, at London Inspire, have no particular axe to grind about diesel cars, but the fact is that they are currently being demonised in the media – unfairly, many in the car and van trade will tell you.

Not so long ago, the then PM Gordon Brown told us all to go out and buy diesels; now they are about as popular as a fart in a spacesuit (stolen from Billy Connolly).

We will leave our readers to make up their own minds. But, what is inescapable, is that drivers – especially those who live within the area bounded by the North and South Circulars need to give serious thought when considering their next cars, especially if buying a used car.

Of course, this is what the mayor wants. He wants drivers to think twice (or thrice) about the cars they drive. Were he given a magic wand and a very deep pot of scrappage money he would have us all running around in electric cars tomorrow.

It isn’t going to happen. At least not for quite a while. Electric vehicles (EVs) are coming, but just how quickly is dependent on several factors.

Among them is the price of an EV. Until they can be produced in sufficient numbers the cost of them is likely to remain high when compared with an ICE (internal combustion engine) car. Also, it will take quite a while before there are enough charging points (preferably fast ones) to sustain a large number of EVs.

Petrol stations are everywhere, but we can’t say the same about charging points. Yet!

And there is another consideration. Research shows that interest in car ownership is in decline. The number of young people seeking to pass their car test is dropping. Grab-a-cab companies like Uber are making it more convenient to get around without owning a depreciating asset.

And those who like a drink outside home – also in overall decline, by the way – are being put off driving. Probably no bad thing.

Some background to the ULEZ. As said earlier, it will apply within the current congestion zone. There is already a toxicity charge (T-charge) which will be replaced and the ULEZ will affect many more vehicles.

Clean air measures (a LEZ no “U”) already exist in Greater London but they mainly affects trucks. The ULEZ will affect all vehicles (with the exception of black cabs). That includes motorbikes.

The ULEZ will run around the clock and the daily charge will be between £100 and £200.

Those that will avoid the charge are:

  • petrol cars, vans and minibuses that meet the Euro 4 standard
  • diesels that meet the Euro 6 standard
  • motorbikes/mopeds that meet the Euro 3 standard

If you want to know more about the ULEZ visit the Transport for London website.

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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