The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) today launched a public consultation on proposals to introduce the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in the capital on 7 September 2020, to significantly improve air quality and in turn the health of Londoners.  

The ULEZ consultation, which runs from today until Friday 9 January 2015, is available online at  

The groundbreaking proposals would require all vehicles travelling within the Congestion Charge zone to meet new emission standards and would be in operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week.  Many vehicles would already meet these standards in 2020, however by introducing this requirement next year the Mayor and TfL aim to accelerate the take up of low emission vehicles and stimulate the low emission vehicle market.  The ULEZ will also ensure London's air quality improves more quickly, making the capital a more pleasant place to live and work, and encourage the use of more sustainable forms of transport.   The ULEZ is projected to halve emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM10) from vehicle exhausts. 

This means more than 80% of central London is expected to meet the nitrogen dioxide (NO2) annual legal limits in 2020.  The ULEZ would also lead to a significant reduction in the number of people living in areas of poor air quality (where levels of NO2 exceed legal limits) - by 74% in central London, 51% in inner London and 43% in outer London.    NO2 is a gas which in high concentrations can cause breathing problems and increase asthma symptoms, with research suggesting that children and young people are most adversely affected as high concentrations of the gas restrict lung growth. 

The number of care homes, hospitals and schools exposed to high levels of NO2 would be halved across London.  These positive effects will be especially beneficial to the young, older people and those who have respiratory problems as well as residents of high pollution areas.   

The introduction of a ULEZ will not, as some critics suggest, lead to a reduction in air quality or increased congestion outside of the zone.  The majority of traffic entering the ULEZ will be from outside the zone - so the benefits of cleaner, greener vehicles in the form of reduced emissions will be delivered right across London so benefitting Londoners' health.   

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: `Introducing the world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone is an essential measure to improve London's air quality and reduce NO2 . Safeguarding Londoners' health and well-being is a top priority for my administration. I understand that people need adequate time to switch to greener vehicles and help is at hand for those who will be hardest hit, but let's be clear, we need to make these important changes ASAP to continue to improve Londoners' quality of life and give everyone who lives in or visits the city the cleanest possible air to breathe.`

The ULEZ proposals would require vehicles travelling in central London to meet the following emissions standards, or pay a daily charge:   ·        

  • Cars and small vans - Euro 6 for diesel engines (registered from 1 September 2015 so 5 years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol engines (registered from 1 January 2006 so 14 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles could still drive in the zone but they would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50
  • Large vans and minibuses - Euro 6 for diesel engines (registered from 1 September 2016 so 4 years old or less in 2020) and Euro 4 for petrol engines (registered from 1 January 2007 so 13 years old or less in 2020). Non-compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50
  • Heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches - Euro VI (registered from 1 January 2014 so 6 years old or less in 2020).  Non- compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £100; ·        
  • Motorcycles and similar vehicles - Euro 3 (registered from 1 July 2007 so 13 years old or less in 2020).  Non-compliant vehicles would be required to pay a daily charge of £12.50.  

As part of the ULEZ proposal, TfL is working to reduce emissions from its buses alongside taxis and private hire vehicles and to increase the number of zero emission capable vehicles. 

This will create demonstrator fleets in London, boost industry sales and lead the transition towards this technology.   By 2020, all double deck TfL buses operating in central London will be hybrid and all single deck buses will be zero emission (at point of use).  This will require substantial investment by TfL and will mean nearly all double deck buses operating in inner London will be hybrid and many in outer London too.  

From 2018, it is proposed there will be a new requirement for all taxis and new private hire vehicles presented for licensing in the capital for the first time to be zero emission capable.  Private hire vehicles would also be subject to the ULEZ standards in central London just like other cars and vans (and therefore liable for the charge if they don't meet the emissions standards).  

Taxis will be the second largest contributor to NOx and the largest contributor to PM10 emissions from road transport in central London in 2020. The ULEZ proposes to reduce the London-wide age limit for non zero emission capable taxis from 15 years to 10 years. 

This would substantially reduce emissions from these vehicles across London (by 45% for NOx and 71%  for PM10) and help accelerate the take up of new zero emission capable taxis.   In considering the impact of the reduced taxi age limit, the Mayor and TfL are proposing a specific fund to assist taxi drivers to replace their vehicles.  In addition, TfL has been in regular dialogue with the Office for Low Emission Vehicles to ensure their new £500m funding allocation specifically supports taxi and PHV drivers to purchase zero emission capable vehicles, as well as supporting a fund for on-street rapid charging infrastructure.   In developing the ULEZ proposal, and in line with the Mayor's aspirations, TfL also considered a 'zero emission capable' ULEZ standard for all other vehicles. However it was concluded that it would not be feasible or affordable to set this requirement for all vehicles for 2020. Nevertheless it is expected that such a standard would be appropriate at a later date (eg 2025) and we are seeking views on this in principle.  

Michèle Dix, Managing Director of Planning at TfL, said: "Improving London's air quality is of paramount importance as it affects the health and well-being of every Londoner.  That's why we are doing everything in our power to address emissions from road transport, with the introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone at the core of our work to improve the capital's air.  We would urge everyone who lives, works or travels in London to give us their views on the ULEZ proposal."   After the consultation closes, TfL will analyse the results of the consultation and make a recommendation to the Mayor. The Mayor will then make a decision on whether to confirm the scheme order, with or without modifications.  As the licensing authority for London's taxi and private hire vehicles, TfL will decide whether to make changes to the licensing requirement for these vehicles.   Subject to confirmation of the ULEZ Scheme Order by the Mayor in spring 2015, this would effectively provide a five year notice period prior to the ULEZ coming into operation in 2020 and eight years notice for residents of the zone.

  • The World Health Organisation (WHO) has identified a number of pollutants as a major public health concern.  The two pollutants of principal concern in London are particulate matter (PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2). London is now compliant with PM limit values owing to the Low Emission Zone, taxi and private hire vehicle age limits, bus retrofit schemes and the natural turnover of vehicles. However, London is not forecast to meet the legal limits for NO2 until after 2030 - alongside Birmingham and Leeds - unless targeted action is taken.
  • Since the Mayor was elected, the number of people living in areas exceeding NO2 limits has halved but there is a clear need to take further action. The Greater London Authority (GLA) and TfL estimate that a reduction in road transport emissions of around 70 per cent is needed for central London to meet EU legal limits for NO2 in 2020, with the ULEZ delivering around two-thirds of this. In addition to road transport, buildings and construction activity contribute significantly to London's air pollution. Further reductions from these sources would also help bring compliance forward. ·        
  • The ULEZ proposals are projected to achieve a reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from road transport in central London of up to 51% broken down as: TfL buses (74%), taxis (45%), HGVs (48%), non-TfL buses and coaches (50%), cars (42%), vans (38%) and motorcycles (15%). It would also achieve a 64% reduction in PM10 and a 15%t reduction in CO2 from road transport in central London.
  • NO2 is a gas, which at high enough concentrations can cause inflammation of the airways and long-term exposure can affect lung function and respiratory systems. It can also increase asthma symptoms. NOx is primarily made up of two pollutants, nitric oxide (NO) and NO2 and refers to total vehicle emissions (both those directly emitted and those formed by chemical reactions). Vehicle emissions standards refer to total NOx emissions but EU air quality limit values refer to ambient concentrations and are set for NO2 as this is the harmful component of the emissions.
  • The ULEZ standards would be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which are already used for the Congestion Charge. If the daily charge has not been paid then a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) would be issued. It is proposed that for cars, vans and motorcycles this would be set at £130 (reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days) and for HGVs, coaches and buses it would be set at £1,000 (reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days) - so in line with the Congestion Charge and Low Emission Zone respectively.
  • It is proposed that residents of the ULEZ will be granted a three year sunset period (until 6 September 2023) before any daily charge applies. This is to acknowledge that they are unable to avoid the zone and so may require more time (up to eight years) to change their vehicle to meet the ULEZ standards.

The proposals for a ULEZ are one of a raft of measures introduced by the Mayor and TfL to improve air quality in the capital, including:

  • TfL published its Transport Emissions Road Map on 10 September 2014. It looks at how to reduce emissions from transport in London and reports on what TfL has already done and what it may do in the future. It provides a range of possible new measures that the Mayor, TfL, London boroughs, the Government, EU and other parties should consider to help meet the challenge of reducing air pollutants and CO2 emissions in London;
  • Tightening the Low Emission Zone standards for HGVs, buses and coaches and introducing new standards for large vans and minibuses - around 150,000 vehicles needed to take action to meet these standards when they came into effect in January 2012;
  • Reducing emissions by retrofitting more than 1,000 of the oldest buses with special equipment to reduce their NOx emissions by up to 88% - with plans to increase this number to 1,800;
  • Retiring the remaining 900 oldest Euro III buses in TfL's fleet and replacing them with super-clean Euro VI buses at a cost of £18m;
  • Accelerating the roll out of hybrid buses, with 1,700 to be on the road by 2016, including 600 of the iconic New Routemaster buses - equivalent to around 20%  of TfL's bus fleet;
  • Retiring around 6,000 of the oldest, most polluting taxis by introducing London's first taxi age limits:
  • Introducing new measures to reduce emissions and clean up construction sites, including plans for tough new emissions standards for construction equipment in 2015 and 2020;
  • Investing almost £1 billion to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage less polluting forms of transport.
  • In February, research by the Medical Research Council suggested the health benefits gained from using the city's Cycle Hire scheme outweigh the potential negative impacts from injuries and exposure to air pollution;
  • Using the planning system to require all new development to be "air quality neutral";
  • Retrofitting hundreds of thousands of homes and public buildings with energy efficiency measures which reduce their emissions, with 400,000 already complete.