London road user charging, ULEZ expansion mooted in new report

LowCVP Ultra Low Emission Zone London
CAZs, LEZs and a ULEZ can all be found... but they all require the same standards

Road user charging and an expansion in scope of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) are among proposals in a report published today (18 January) commissioned by the Greater London Authority, which aims to dramatically speed up carbon reduction efforts in the capital.

The proposals aim to move London’s net-zero targets to as early as 2030, 20 years ahead of national targets, and will require some £75bn of investment between now and then in infrastructure.

The report states that net-zero ambitions can only be achieved with “some form of road user charging”. Such a system would potentially replace all other existing charges in London – which currently include the Congestion Charge and ULEZ – and replace them with a scheme where drivers pay per mile, with rates set on things such as how polluting each vehicle is, and the level of congestion in the area.

The Mayor has asked Transport for London (TfL) to investigate how such a scheme could be developed, with acknowledgement that the technology to implement such a scheme is “still years away from being ready”.

Other proposals under consideration include:

  • An extension of ULEZ beyond the north and south circular roads to cover all of Greater London, using the current charge level and emissions standards
  • Modifying ULEZ with a small “clean air charge” for all but the cleanest vehicles
  • A Greater London boundary charge, which would charge a fee to non-London registered vehicles entering Greater London.

Subject to consultation, the report suggests there would be exemptions and discounts for certain users, and “support for charities and small businesses”.

Consultation will now begin with Londoners, local government and businesses, with the options under consideration subject to mitigations and exemptions. The chosen scheme could be in place by May 2024.

“The climate emergency means we only have a small window of opportunity left to reduce carbon emissions to help save the planet, and, despite the world-leading progress we have made over the last few years, there is still far too much toxic air pollution permanently damaging the lungs of young Londoners,” says London Mayor Sadiq Khan. “We have too often seen measures to tackle air pollution and the climate emergency delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.

“I’m determined that we continue to be doers, not delayers – not only to protect Londoners’ health right now, but for the sake of future generations to come.”

Adds Christina Calderato, Director of Transport Strategy and Policy at TfL: “Road based transport has for many years been a major contributor towards poor air quality and carbon emissions and we are determined to reverse this through a wide range of programmes across TfL.

“The world-leading road user charging schemes we’ve delivered throughout the last 20 years have been really effective in addressing congestion and tackling air quality across London, but it is clear that as a city we need to go further. These new approaches will allow us to take further steps towards a net-zero city and we will ensure that Londoners and those who regularly visit London are involved as we progress this work in more detail.”