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As concerns for air pollution grow, the London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will expand from 25 October 2021. Where will the new boundaries... Setting Boundaries

Expanded London ULEZ • Key facts

Start date 25 October 2021 

Charges Entry: £12.50 per day (vehicles up to 3.5t GVW), £100 per day (vehicles over 3.5t GVW) Penalty: £160 (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days)

Exemptions Vans have to meet the following emissions standards to be exempt from the expanded London ULEZ charges: Euro 4 (NOx) – petrol vans (up to and including 3.5t GVW); Euro 6 (NOx and PM) – diesel vans (up to and including 3.5t GVW).

Check if your van is eligible for the expanded ULEZ by using TfL’s ULEZ checker at https://tfl.gov.uk/ulez-2021.

Find out more about the expanded London ULEZ at https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone

Introduced on 8 April 2019, the world’s first 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was implemented in London, and it has had a tough effect on emissions and pollution. Transport for London (TfL) reports the amount of vehicles meeting more stringent emissions standards has risen to more than 80%, up from 39% in 2017. Alongside the increased compliance, the ULEZ has contributed to a 44% drop in roadside nitrogen dioxide (NOx) levels within its boundaries. 

How will the London ULEZ boundaries change?

The boundaries are currently shared with the central London Congestion Charge zone. Starting at Marylebone Road and Park Lane in the City of Westminster, running east along the A501 to the City of London, the ULEZ skirts the Oval and Kennington on the A3204 at its most southern boundary. From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ will expand to every borough inside the A406 North Circular Road and the A205 South Circular Road. The Circular Roads are not included in the new boundaries, but it does mean that every journey a van makes into London inside the roads will incur a charge. Estimates point to 35,000 vans being affected by the expanded zone every day.

When will the expanded London ULEZ operate?

The expanded ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with the exception of Christmas Day. Timeframes will be the same as now, with each charging day running from midnight to midnight. Automatic number plate recognition cameras will check vehicles against a database to check exemption status, discount eligibility, and charge payment. Even if fleets make just a short trip using a vehicle that doesn’t meet the ULEZ standards, a daily charge of £12.50 will be incurred. If you travel into ULEZ boundaries across two days, before and after midnight, you will need to pay two daily charges.

Which vehicles will be exempt from charges?

In addition to cars and motorcycles, vans and other ‘specialist’ vehicles (up to and including 3.5-tonnes gross vehicle weight (GVW)) and minibuses (up to and including 5-tonnes GVW) will be required to meet the expanded London ULEZ emissions standards to avoid paying a charge. Diesel vans are required to meet Euro 6 emissions standards for NOx and Particulate Matter (PM) to be exempt, with petrol light commercials required to be rated at Euro 4 levels of NOx and PM. 

In addition to the expanded ULEZ, vans and other specialist heavy vehicles over 3.5-tonnes GVW are also required to meet London-wide Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards, currently rated at Euro VI (NOx and PM). It’s worth noting that vans meeting the expanded ULEZ emissions standards will already fulfill the requirement of the LEZ, and discounts are available for selected vehicles. Check if your van meets the ULEZ criteria at https://tfl.gov.uk/ulez-2021. 

What if I forget to pay?

Drivers have up until midnight three charging days after they travelled to pay the charge. If not paid, a £160 fine (reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days) will be issued for vehicles up to 3.5-tonnes GVW. Heavier vehicles over this weight that do not meet Euro VI standards will incur a penalty of £1,000 (£500 if paid within 14 days). 

Payment will be accepted by mobile phone app, online, or fleets with more than six vehicles can register for Fleet Auto Pay, an automated payment system which will automatically charge accounts by billing monthly for the number of days each vehicle enters the expanded London ULEZ.

“Diminishing proportion”

Commenting on the London ULEZ expansion, Andy Eastlake, chief executive of not-for-profit Zemo Partnership – which aims to encourage the adoption of  low carbon vehicles and fuels – said: “Improving air quality is a key priority for London and other authorities nationwide. All new vans have met the Euro 6 (diesel) emissions standards for the last six or seven years, so there’s a small and diminishing proportion of the overall van fleet in London which doesn’t already meet the requirements.”

Debbie Floyde, chair of the Association of Fleet Professionals’ (AFP) Future Roads Committee, said: “For most AFP members, the vast majority of their vans will already be ULEZ compliant. In the comparatively small number of instances where vehicles don’t meet the ULEZ requirements, there are effectively two solutions – to buy new vans or to swap compliant vans into the zone from elsewhere in the country. 

“The new van strategy is problematic at the moment simply because getting hold of new vehicles is difficult thanks to current manufacturing issues. Ten-month lead times on some light commercial vehicles are not unknown. This means there is some juggling of compliant and non-compliant vehicles into the expanded ULEZ taking place for fleets to continue operating in the area but even here, the numbers involved are, we believe, relatively low.

“However, the picture we see is very much the perspective of fleets that are typically involved in running dozens, hundreds or thousands of vehicles. The picture for owner-operators and local SMEs in the ULEZ, who typically operate vans for longer, may well be very different.” 

The ever-growing number of hybrid and electric zero emission vans will help van operators who want to avoid the expanded London ULEZ charges, but Eastlake states that they aren’t the only option. “There’s a growing range of electric van options which benefit from the Plug-in Van Grant and offer increasing range and flexibility as well as significantly lower running and maintenance costs. However, for some vehicles, retrofit solutions through the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (designed and coordinated by Zemo Partnership and EST) are also available.”

Other Clean Air Zones

Other UK cities are following London’s lead with the introduction of Clean Air Zones (CAZ) that follow the same principle as the ULEZ. Just as with London, non-compliant vehicles will attract a charge.

Four grades – A, B, C and D – exempt various vehicles, but the emissions standards are in line with the London ULEZ. Vans fall into grades C and D. The grade each CAZ has is determined by the local authority implementing it, but they are regulated by a national framework outlined by the UK government in February 2020. 

CAZs in Bath and Birmingham are already operational. Bristol, Newcastle and Portsmouth will follow by the end of 2021, with Liverpool and Manchester in 2022. The UK government’s Decarbonising Transport plan states 16% of domestic greenhouse gas emissions came from light vans in 2019, so CAZs are an important step to reducing air pollution. More guidance is needed at a local level as CAZs are implemented, and in a wider sense, it’s important to stay up to date with regulations to both avoid fines and to plan for the cleaner light commercial future.

England clean air zones dates and charges

Bath 15 March 2021, CAZ C, £9

Birmingham 1 June 2021, CAZ D, £8

Bradford January 2022, proposed CAZ C

Bristol October 2021, proposed CAZ C/D

Gateshead Late 2021, proposed CAZ C

Greater Manchester May 2022, CAZ C, £10

Liverpool 2022, TBA

London (ULEZ expansion) 25 October 2021

Newcastle Late 2021, proposed CAZ C

North Tyneside Late 2021, proposed CAZ C

Oxford (Zero Emission Zone trial) Late 2021

Portsmouth November 2021, CAZ B

Sheffield Proposed CAZ C, £10

Scotland low emission zones

Aberdeen February-May 2022

Dundee February-May 2022

Edinburgh February-May 2022

Glasgow February-May 2022