Drivers of more polluting cars, including most diesels, will have to pay a new daily fee to drive in central London. 

The charges will come into force in April this year to help tackle dangerously high levels of air pollution in the capital. Some other UK cities look set to follow suit.

Paying to drive in London 

The daily charges to drive in London’s new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will start on 8th April 2019 - 17 months earlier than initially planned - and apply all year round. 

It will initially cover the same area as the existing Congestion Charge. You can use this tool to check which areas are included within the zone by searching by postcode.

Then, in October 2021 the zone will be expanded to include a much bigger London area, right up to the North Circular Road at the top and down to the South Circular.

The charges are: 

  • £12.50 for cars, motorcycles and vans (up to 3.5 tonnes).
  • £100 for heavier vehicles, including lorries (over 3.5 tonnes) and buses and coaches (over 5 tonnes).

This will be in addition to the existing weekday £11.50 Congestion Charge, as well as the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charge for polluting HGVs. The ULEZ replaces the existing T-charge for older, more polluting vehicles in London.

Car owners paying both the ULEZ fee and Congestion Charge, which is in force between 07:00 and 18:00 on weekdays, will have to pay £24 a day.   

Payment will be enforced using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras which are already used for the Congestion Charge. Failure to pay will result in a fine of up to £130 for car drivers. 

Who will be charged?

The charges will be based on emissions rather than the age your vehicle, but broadly:

  • Petrol cars that meet the ULEZ standards are generally those registered with the DVLA after 2005, although cars that meet the standards have been available since 2001
  • Diesel cars that meet the standards are generally those registered with the DVLA after September 2015

This means drivers of diesel cars will be particularly likely to face the charges. Use this tool from Transport for London to check if you’ll need to pay to drive your vehicle in the ULEZ. 

Some drivers won’t need to pay the charge, at least at first. Exemptions include:

  • Londoners who are registered for the residents' Congestion Charge discount won’t have to pay the charge until October 2021 to give them more time to change their vehicle to meet the new standards. They’ll still have to pay the T-Charge, at a discounted rate of 90%.
  • Vehicles registered with a 'disabled' or 'disabled passenger vehicles' tax class will be exempt from the ULEZ charge until October 2025.
  • London-licensed taxis are exempt as they already have a 15-year age limit and since last year all newly-licensed taxis must be capable of producing zero emissions

Cleaning up in London and beyond

The ULEZ is part of plans to improve the health of Londoners, by cutting levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) in the air.

According to London’s Mayor, thousands of Londoners die prematurely each year because of long-term exposure to air pollution. 

Other cities across the UK are also taking action to improve air quality and reduce pollution. These include:

Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh and Glasgow: The Scottish Government has promised low emission zones for each of these cities between 2018 and 2020.

Bath: Is proposing to charge higher emission vehicles to drive in the city centre by the end of 2020, with higher emission cars, taxis and vans to pay £9 per day to drive in the zone.

Birmingham: One of five cities required by the government to introduce a Clean Air Zone by 2020, it has already outlined plans for cars and taxis to pay £8 per day.

Derby: Another of the five councils outside London that have been told to set up Clean Air Zones, but it has not yet provided detailed plans.

Leeds: A Clean Air Zone covering more than half of the city will be introduced from 6th January 2020. Charges will only apply for the worst polluting HGVs, buses, coaches, taxis and private hire vehicles.

Nottingham: Has reportedly ditched plans to introduce a Clean Air Zone after modelling showed it could reduce air pollution to below the legal limit within two years.

Oxford: Is proposing to introduce the world’s first Zero Emission Zone in Oxford city centre. Both diesel and petrol vehicles would be banned from the centre in phases, starting in 2020.

Sheffield: Has proposed charges for the most polluting vehicles using the inner ring road. Buses, coaches and HGVs would pay £50 a day, taxis and minicabs £12.50, and vans and LGVs £10.

Southampton: One of five councils outside London ordered to set up a clean air zone, it is set to submit plans to the government at the end of January.

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