London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will be extended across Greater London by the end of next year under plans set out by Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The town hall said “bold action is needed” to reduce toxic air pollution and reduce congestion in the capital, as well as to tackle the wider climate emergency.
Khan ruled out a proposed £3.50 charge for motorists to enter Greater London, as well as a daily air quality charge, to be applied to all but zero-emission vehicles.
Both alternatives were being explored to boost revenue for Transport for London (TfL), ahead of the government’s latest round of emergency funding.
Instead, the mayor has instructed TfL to consult on extending the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) from the inner boroughs to the whole of London.
The Ulez, in which drivers of all but newer diesel vehicles and some older petrol vehicles are likely to pay £15.50 a day for cars, and more for larger vehicles, was extended to the North and South Circular Routes last October.
City Hall said toxic air caused by traffic is causing stunted lung growth in children and nearly 4,000 premature deaths a year – mostly in outlying areas of London. It found that all of London’s hospitals, medical centers and care homes are in areas that breach World Health Organization guidelines for nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter.
The enlarged Ulez would reduce the number of dirtiest cars on London’s roads by 20,000 to 40,000 a day. Khan said he would help charities, small businesses and vulnerable Londoners adapt through a scrapping scheme.
The mayor said: “The triple challenge of tackling toxic air pollution, the climate emergency and congestion means we need to further reduce vehicle emissions in London. We just don’t have time to waste.
“It’s also a matter of social justice, with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest. Almost half of Londoners do not own a car, but they disproportionately feel the negative consequences of polluting vehicles.
“We have too often seen measures delayed around the world because they are seen as too difficult or politically inconvenient, but I am not prepared to delay actions that we have the capacity to implement here in London.”
While other research put the cost of congestion in London at £5.1billion last year, Khan said the fairest long-term solution would be smart road user pricing – but said TfL was years away from being able to manage such a system.
Road pricing has long been seen as politically toxic, after a huge public backlash against national plans introduced by Labor in 2007, but recently the all-party transport committee and others have backed the principle of replacing the fuel tax when drivers switch to electric cars.