- Image by Sandra Ahn Mode on Unsplash

W​hy London's ULEZ Won't Work

Yet another cost to the motorist in the capital - but what is it really for?

2y ago

Back in February 2003, then mayor of London Ken Livingstone introduced the Congestion Charge - which was a cost of £5 for every vehicle entering a defined zone in the city of London.

I remember watching the news that evening, sixteen years ago. They had estimated that Transport for London (TfL) had raised over £250,000 in a single day alone of the zone being active. Me being a young lad at the time thought “Cor! Could buy a Ferrari 360 with that!”. How times change.

Fast forward to 2019 and the charge is now at a whopping £11.50 just to drive through the zone! Obvious exemptions for super eco-friendly cars such as hybrids and electric vehicles are in place, but how much has *actually* changed?

Granted, for a large number of people this is a minor inconvenience at best. Most of us living in the suburbs don’t exactly pop down to for afternoon tea in Kensington every week. And even if we do need to visit for whatever bizarre reason, the underground is often more efficient, and you don’t have to worry about parking space - and cost.

Now however, there is another charge. Dubbed the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), it came into force on the 8th of April 2019, covering the current congestion charge zone. So if you want to drive an older vehicle, you’ll have to shell out £24, in other words, the cost of a cheeky Nando’s and a movie. Roughly. Might have to rethink that Friday evening.

M​ourad Saadi on Unsplash

M​ourad Saadi on Unsplash

It still isn’t much of a problem if you’re not frequenting these areas - but it soon very well will be. Starting October 2021, the ULEZ zone will be expanded to cover the north and south circulars. Whichever way you look at it, that is a ginormous area indeed.

Older vehicles that don’t comply with particular stringent emissions standards will be caught out and be bound by this this charge, and its predicted that over 100,000 vehicles will be affected. So if this zone were to theoretically expand tomorrow, all of a sudden that would be a whopping £1.25M in charges, in one day!

So on to the crux of this piece - this simply will not work. Majority of people who own older, cheaper to buy cars aren’t out to destroy the environment or spit on tulips at the side of the road. Quite the contrary, its no secret that living in London is amongst the most expensive in Europe. Young people are spending longer amounts of time living with parents, because there is no other way. And to make saving for a home worse (as if it wasn’t a walk in the park to begin with), there’s now the worry of another £5000 annual cost, or buy another car.

To me - this is just another stealth tax. And the poorest living in the city will be hit the hardest.

TfL mentioned that in the first decade of the congestion charge zone being active, it generated a revenue of £1.2bn! They also claim that this has been invested in public transport infrastructure.

Yet, so many things remain the same. The old phrase about London buses still rings true. The roads are just as congested, if not more. If you truly need to travel into the city in your car then you will be left with little choice in the matter, just a bigger hole in your wallet.

And now this new thing. Are they gonna pump it into public transport once again? What mention has been made to increase the frequency of services? What actual impact has this had on the quality of air in the capital? Are there any incentives at all to buy a newer, supposedly more efficient car? What of all the supposed thousands of cars that will end up being scrapped, or sold for a sub-par price? Implications for smaller, independent businesses?

This is all notwithstanding the clear contradictions of purchasing a newer vehicle yielding results. I (and many others) have previously mentioned this, and the economics don’t quite add up.

And what of the car enthusiast? Not as if we’d drive our pride and joy into London on a Sunday afternoon to begin with, but this won’t exactly stop supercars and those who have money leaking out of their ears from hooning up and down the capital.

Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash

Sebastian Grochowicz on Unsplash

H​ow will the ULEZ affect you?

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Comments (24)

  • Oh, you've started something now, this is something of a bugbear of mine! As you say it affects the poorest and those who have no choice but to drive in the zone. We all love driving, we wouldn't be here if we didn't but sitting in a traffic jam in London is not fun! Very few do it by choice, it is a case of necessity. If I'm working a day shift in the city then I take a train. Which typically means 30 mins driving around polluting to the air while I look for a parking space near the station. Then it costs me a minimum of £16.40 to take a flea infested train into town followed by a 30 minute walk the other end rather than endure more public transport. The problem is my last train home leaves London at 11.50pm, many of the shifts I work finish later than that. On those days I have no choice but to drive to work in Westminster. Depending on my shift I'll start at 3.30pm or 4.45pm, meaning a £5 - £7 parking charge, plus congestion charge, plus ULEZ charge. To add insult to injury the ULEZ charge runs from 00:01 to 00:00 meaning all day midnight to midnight. So what happens to me on my 16.45 to 00:30 shift? I have to pay for 2 days! Since there are cameras covering the zone entry and exit points I see no reason why the charge shouldn't be based on the actual time spent within the zone. I won't tolerate injustice like that so what have I done? I've sold my 2.2 litre year 2000 Mercedes and bought a 2005 3.5 litre V6 which despite the larger engine and greater fuel consumption is actually exempt the ULEZ purely because it was built after the stricter emissions rules on new cars came in. My Mercedes had lower emissions but because it's pre 2005 it was not exempt! My other option is to drive my 1969 Baja Bug into London which is loud as hell with a straight up stinger exhaust ....but it's classed as a historic vehicle so also exempt!

      2 years ago
  • By far the most pollution occurs where ‘traffic calming’ measures are in place. Moving vehicles cause less smog than traffic jams!

    Who knew?

      2 years ago
  • And finally, how many tonnes of carbon did London Mayor Sadiq Kahn pump into the atmosphere in the New Year firework display? If he really wanted to set an example for the world as an eco friendly city then why not a laser light show with lit up drones?

      2 years ago
  • And here's another point to note. The emissions from ALL the vehicles in London make up 17% of the city's air pollution. Solid fuel stoves in London are responsible for 18% So why isn't there a tax on Solid fuel stoves? Especially when they are not necessary in a city with plenty of green solutions to home heating.

      2 years ago
    • Heck, why not just microwave everything!

        2 years ago
    • Talking about stoves for heating rather than cooking but good point as Agas and the like would fall in to that category too. Plenty of electric heating and cooking options around.

        2 years ago
  • Not affected if you own a Stanley Steam car which can I point out runs on burning COAL and yes I used this exact car in the photo to find out.

      2 years ago
    • Just need to jump on Autotrader for one now!

        2 years ago
    • Classic car trader will have one or you could buy one of these from a specialist website once you have learnt to drive a steam powered vehicle.

        2 years ago