London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to start in April 2019

Buses and lorries in London traffic jam
Buses and lorries in London traffic jam

The Mayor of London has confirmed that the proposed London Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will come into effect from 8 April 2019, 17 months earlier than originally planned.

ULEZ will replace the existing T-Charge and operate in the same area, alongside the congestion charge. However unlike the existing charges, ULEZ will operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

The plan is part of the Mayor’s strategy to improve air quality in London, particularly reducing concentrations of nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, which contribute to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Once ULEZ is implemented, all cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses, buses, coaches, and heavy goods vehicles will need to meet Euro 6 exhaust emission standards or face a daily charge of £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 for lorries, buses and coaches.

Industry Concerns

There are concerns that the early implementation date may cause difficulties for coach operators whose vehicles are not yet Euro 6 compliant. The Coach Tourism Association warned that there would simply not be enough Euro 6 vehicles in service by 2019 for all businesses to be compliant. Manufacturers are currently developing a retro-fit option for Euro 5 and some Euro 4 vehicles, however approval from authorities is not expected until early 2018.

There are also wider concerns that the £100 daily charge could result in fewer coach and group bookings into central London, with attractions, theatres, and hotels being the most heavily affected.

Following a consultation in the Summer in which coach operators expressed concerns over the high costs of becoming complaint within the time frame (businesses would either need to retro-fit their vehicles, which can cost up to £30,000 per coach according the Confederation of Passenger Transport UK, or purchase entirely new fleets), the Government has announced that funding will be available for retro-fitting vehicles although details are yet to be confirmed, and no accredited retro-fit system currently exists.

Further Initiatives

Meanwhile, the Mayor of London has launched a consultation on two further initiatives to improve London’s air:

  1. Tightening the standards of the existing London-wide Low Emission Zone from October 2020 for heavy vehicles (buses, coaches, lorries) so that they must be Euro 6 compliant rather than Euro 4, as is the current standard.
  2. Expanding the ULEZ for light vehicles (cars, vans, and motorcycles) from central London up to but not including the North and South Circular roads in 2021.

As with the central London ULEZ, the first initiative is likely to impact coach operators and therefore tour operators, hoteliers, attractions and theatres within London that rely on coach or group bookings. While UKinbound supports any initiatives to improve the air quality within London, it is important that new measures are introduced in such a way that do not unnecessarily cause a detrimental impact on tourism businesses located within the zones.

UKinbound members whose businesses will be affected by the above two new initiatives can take part in the consultation by completing the online survey here. The consultation will close on 28 February 2018.