London: A road-charging scheme targeting more polluting cars in London could be expanded to cover the entire metropolitan area of the British capital, the city’s mayor said Friday.
The London Assembly introduced an ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) in April 2019, forcing owners of more polluting vehicles to pay 12.50 pounds ($17.20) a day to drive in the city centre.
This zone was expanded last year to encompass a far bigger area - between northern and southern orbital roads - which is home to nearly four million residents.
Sadiq Khan said on Friday he had asked Transport for London to consult on further expanding the ULEZ scheme London-wide in 2023 “to make London a greener, healthier and less congested city”.
The population of Greater London is around nine million people.
“The triple challenges of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion mean we need to further reduce emissions from vehicles in London,” said Khan.
“We simply don’t have time to waste. There is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners and leading to thousands of deaths every year, with the greatest number of deaths attributable to air pollution in outer London boroughs.
“In weighing up the different options, the rising cost of living was a key consideration for me... I’m not willing to ask people to pay more unless I’m absolutely convinced it’s justified to save lives,” he added.
Khan’s office claimed the expansion would reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions by 285 to 330 tonnes, carbon dioxide emissions by 135,000-150,000 tonnes and the number of the “most polluting cars on London’s roads” by 20,000 to 40,000 a day.
Air pollution caused around 1,000 annual hospital admissions for asthma and serious lung conditions in London between 2014 and 2016, according to a 2019 report.
A coroner ruled in 2020 that air pollution made a “material contribution” to the death of a nine-year-old London girl in 2013 - the first time in Britain that air pollution was officially listed as a cause of death.
Some opposed the previous ULEZ expansion, arguing it is a “tax” on poorer drivers least able to afford to replace their polluting vehicles and would hit small businesses.
The charge is applicable to cars, motorcycles, smaller vans and minibuses and is based on their declared emissions rather than age.
Petrol cars first registered after 2005, and diesel cars after September 2015, typically meet the ULEZ standards and are exempt.
Those who drive a vehicle in the city centre at the busiest times also have to pay a congestion charge of #15, a measure first introduced in 2003.