The mayor of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was today expanded to cover an area 18 times larger than the previous zone, in a move which will penalise around 135,000 drivers.
The restrictions apply to owners of older petrol and diesel cars with engines that fail to meet the latest emissions standards, known as Euro 6. From 12.01 this morning, these drivers became subject to a £12.50 fee on top of the £15 congestion charge.
Here’s everything you need to know about the ULEZ scheme:
Subscribe to The Week
Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.
The vehicles targeted
The ULEZ is enforced based on the declared emissions of a vehicle rather than its age, according to Transport for London. The charges apply to all drivers with a pre-Euro 6 diesel car, which were generally built before September 2015, or a pre-Euro 4 petrol car, which generally date back to 2005 or earlier.
Motorbikes that do not meet Euro 3 standards (pre-2007 vehicles) will also be targeted, as will commercial vehicles. London-licensed taxis are exempt from charges, but subject to a 15-year age limit. All newly licensed taxis must be zero emission capable (ZEC) vehicles.
Motorists who make up the “disabled” or “disabled passenger vehicles” tax class are exempt from ULEZ charges until 26 October 2025, as long as their vehicle doesn't change tax class. However, blue badge holders who have not registered within that tax class are subject to ULEZ charges.
Lorries, vans and specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, as well as buses, minibuses and coaches over five tonnes, are exempt from the daily charge.
You can find out whether your vehicle is elible for ULEZ charges using this tool on the Transport for London website.
The ULEZ map
Until today, the ULEZ only covered parts of central London, but it is now in place for all areas within the North and South Circular roads (although it does not cover the North Circular (A406) and South Circular (A205) roads themselves). Areas covered within the zone now include Willesden, Tottenham, East Ham, Greenwich, Brixton and Fulham.
The zone is in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, except for Christmas Day.
A full map of the extended ULEZ is below:
The charges and penalties
Drivers of older cars, small vans and motorbikes will be charged £27.50 a day to enter the city of London. This comprises the £12.50 ULEZ fee and £15 congestion charge. The congestion charge rises to £17.50 if paid in the following three days after travel.
Failure to pay after that will result in a £160 penalty, cut in half if a driver settles the fine within 14 days.
How to pay the ULEZ charge
Drivers who are subject to the ULEZ charge have several ways to pay.
Those who travel into the zone regularly can register to the Auto Pay system for an annual fee of £10, plus the cost of the daily ULEZ and congestion charges.
Payments can be made via the Transport for London website, through the TfL app or over the phone on 0343 222 2222.
To avoid the penalty fare, payments should be made by midnight on the third day following the journey or up to 90 days in advance.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Monday morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that since ULEZ was initially introduced in 2019, toxic air has been reduced “by almost a half”.
The amount of carbon being emitted by motorists will reduce by more than 100 kilo tonnes by the end of the first year of the ULEZ expansion, he said. “That’s about 60,000 vehicles being taken off the roads.”
Many London drivers have opposed the extension of the scheme, citing the £12.50 daily fee as unaffordable. “For me, this is an issue of social justice,” said Khan. “Who do we think suffers the worst consequences of toxic air? It’s the poorest Londoners, least likely to own a car… six out of ten in the expanded area don’t even own a car.”
Scrappage schemes have been brought in to help compensate those who will be affected as a result of the zone expansion. Khan told the Today programme that the City Hall scrappage scheme has already taken more than 12,000 polluting vehicles off the road.
The mayor added: “12,000 vehicles which were contributing to more than 4,000 premature deaths, children having permanently stunted lungs, adults with a whole host of health issues... saving the NHS money and saving businesses money as fewer people are off sick.”
But some campaigners say the expansion does not go far enough to curb emissions. Mums for Lungs member Ruth Fitzharris, whose son has experienced breathing difficulties as a result of pollution, told the BBC that the scheme could have gone further; for example by including the large parts of south London which are not within ULEZ. “One in ten [children] in London have asthma – so further change is needed,” she said.
Create an account with the same email registered to your subscription to unlock access.