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The Ultra-Low Emission Zone - What is it and how will it affect you?

The Mayor of London has introduced an Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London, which comes into place on 8th April 2019 as a drastic approach to reduce air pollution. 

What is it?

A Low Emission Zone (LEZ) already operates in Greater London to reduce highly-polluting vehicles in London. A stricter Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be introduced in central London on 8th April 2019. It will operate in the current congestion charge area, expanding on 25th October 2021 to cover a larger area between the North and South Circular roads. Drivers within the ULEZ must pay a charge if their vehicle does not meet stricter emission standards. 

How will it make a difference to air quality?

Poor air quality is considered to be the biggest environmental risk to public health in the UK - it is thought that around 40,000 deaths per year in the UK can be attributed to air pollution(1).

Reducing nitrogen oxides (NOX) and particulate matter (PM) emitted through vehicle exhausts is a priority for improving air quality in the UK. It is predicted that the number of cars on the roads will decrease by 5% in the ULEZ area(2). By reducing the number of highly-polluting vehicles on the roads and encouraging drivers to switch to newer vehicles, dangerous exhaust emissions are expected to decrease.  Pollution can exacerbate asthma and allergic rhinitis (hay fever), so people living with these and other health conditions are more vulnerable to the effects of poor air quality. Young people are also particularly susceptible to the effects of pollution(3). 

What does it mean for you?

If your vehicle does not meet the tighter exhaust emission standards, you will be subject to a £12.50 daily charge (£100 for lorry/bus drivers) when travelling within the ULEZ. Failure to pay will result in a £160 fine (£1000 for lorry/bus drivers). The ULEZ charge will be additional to the existing congestion charge.

The emission standards are:

  • Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans (generally manufactured before 2005)
  • Euro 6 for diesel cars and vans (generally manufactured before 2015)
  • Euro 3 for motorcycles and mopeds
  • Euro VI for lorries, coaches and buses

In general, drivers of diesel cars manufactured before 2015 and petrol cars manufactured before 2005 are likely to be affected by the ULEZ, but newer vehicles may also be affected. Check whether your vehicle meets the new emissions standards here.

There are some exemptions to the ULEZ charges.

What are other cities doing?

Poor air quality is a UK-wide issue not limited to London. Many cities across the UK have promised to take action on improving air quality for their residents’ health and wellbeing. Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton are required to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020 with strategies in place to improve air quality. Councils across the UK are focussing their attention on areas of poor air quality, primarily in urban areas and around vulnerable places such as schools and hospitals(3).



(1) Holgate S. T. (2017). 'Every breath we take: the lifelong impact of air pollution' - a call for action. Clinical medicine (London, England), 17(1), 8-12.

(2) Transport for London Ultra Low Emission Zone Report to the Mayor (2015) Available here. [Last accessed 18/03/2019]

(3)Public Health England (PHE) Review of interventions to improve outdoor air quality and public health (2019) Available here. [Last accessed 18/03/2019]

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