Ultra Low Emission Zone
Symbol on road signs informing drivers of the Ultra Low Emission Zone
LocationGreater London
Launched8 April 2019 (2019-04-08)
ManagerTransport for London
CurrencyPound sterling
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Websitetfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone Edit this at Wikidata
Boundary of the ULEZ
  From 29 August 2023
  Congestion zone

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is an area in London, England, where an emissions standard based charge is applied to non-compliant vehicles. Plans were announced by London Mayor Boris Johnson in March 2015 for the zone to come into operation in September 2020. Sadiq Khan, the subsequent mayor, introduced the zone early in 8 April 2019. The zone initially covered Central London, the same area as the existing London congestion charge.

In October 2021, the zone was extended by Khan to cover the area within the North Circular and South Circular roads. The zone has been shown to reduce the number of non-compliant cars on the road. It has been shown to reduce roadside emissions, although its effectiveness has been disputed. In 2022, the zone raised £224m. On 29 August 2023, the zone is due to be extended to cover all of Greater London.


Sign warning drivers that they are about to enter the Ultra Low Emission Zone and Congestion Charging Zone (2019-2021)

Initial central zone

Plans for an ultra–low emission zone were under consideration since 2014 under London Mayor Boris Johnson.[1] In 2015 Johnson announced that the zone covering the same areas as the Central London congestion charge would come into operation in September 2020. Sadiq Khan, Johnson's successor, introduced an emissions surcharge, called the Toxicity Charge or "T-Charge", for non compliant vehicles from 2017.[2][3] The Toxicity Charge was replaced by the Ultra Low Emission Zone on 8 April 2019, which was introduced ahead of schedule.

2021 inner expansion

The zone was expanded to cover the Inner London area inside the North Circular and South Circular roads on 25 October 2021 so that it covers an area containing 3.8 million people.[4][5] Around a million vehicles a day drive in the expanded zone, but Transport for London (TfL) estimated that 87% already complied with the emissions rules, meaning nearly 140,000 vehicles would have to be replaced or pay the charge, including 100,000 cars, 35,000 vans and 3,000 lorries.[6][7]

A month into the expansion, TfL said that the proportion of compliant vehicles had risen from 87% to 92%, and the number of non compliant vehicles had fallen by over a third (from 127,000 to 80,000 on weekdays). They also said that 94% of cars complied compared to 78% of vans.[8] Six months after the expansion, TfL estimated that NOx in Inner London was 20% lower than it would have been without the expansion and found that 95% of cars and 83% of vans now met the standard.[9]

2023 outer expansion

A poster in Orpington, southeast London, expressing opposition to the expansion of the ULEZ to cover Outer London

ULEZ is due to be expanded on 29 August 2023 to cover all 32 London boroughs, bringing an additional 5 million people into the zone.[10] The new outer boundary will coincide with the London low emission zone. It will cover most of Greater London, with minor deviations to allow diversionary routes and facilities to turn around without entering the zone.[11]

TfL estimates 20,000 to 40,000 vehicles will be taken off the road due to the expansion. Khan said "This is also a matter of social justice – with air pollution hitting the poorest communities the hardest. Nearly half of Londoners don’t own a car, but they are disproportionally feeling the damaging consequences polluting vehicles are causing."[12]



The £12.50 charge applies 24 hours a day every day of the year except Christmas Day (25 December).[13] The criteria for charging is based on European emission standards:

Buses, coaches and lorries must meet or exceed the Euro VI standard or pay £100 a day as part of the separate London low emission zone. Drivers entering central London who have paid for ULEZ are still subject to the London congestion charge.

The money raised from the ULEZ is invested in the transport network and other measures to reduce air pollution in London.[14] In 2022 the zone raised £224m in charges and fines. The income from ULEZ declined from month to month in 2022 as more vehicles entering the zone became compliant with emissions standards.[15]


Vehicles in the "disabled" tax class are exempt from the charge, as are London-licensed taxis, private hire vehicles which are wheelchair accessible and historic vehicles (over 40 years old). There are also exemptions for agricultural vehicles, military vehicles, certain types of mobile cranes and non-road going vehicles which are allowed to drive on the highway (e.g. excavators).[16] Residents of the zone did not pay the charge until October 2021 as long as they were registered for the residents' Congestion Charge discount and met the T-Charge standards.

Scrappage scheme

There was a scrappage scheme to help those on income support or disability benefit to get rid of their old vehicle. This was used to scrap at least 12,000 vehicles. The original scheme offered up to £7,000 compensation for a car or van which had been operating in the congestion zone, plus up to £2,500 if this was replaced by an electric vehicle.[17]

When ULEZ was expanded beyond the congestion charge zone, the compensation was reduced to £2,000 for cars with a limit for the number of vans and initially £15,000 for heavy vehicles. The Mayor said on 14 October 2021 that there was less than £2 million left in the £61m fund.[18] This paid out over £61m by 2022.

The rates for the scrappage scheme from 4 August 2023 were announced at the end of July 2023. Receipt of child benefit was added to the criteria for eligibility. £2,000 is offered for scrapping a car and £1,000 for a motorcycle. £5,000 is offered for wheelchair accessible vehicles to scrap or retrofit to make compliant. Part of the scrappage payment can be converted to an annual bus and tram pass. Grant payments of between £5,000 and £9,500 are available for scrappage or retrofit of vans and minibuses used by small businesses, sole traders and charities.[19] The scheme was later widened to all Londoners and small businesses able to scrap up to three vans instead of one, taking effect from 21 August 2023.[20]


Effect on air pollution

A study from Imperial College London found the ULEZ caused smaller reductions in air pollution emissions than had been reported.[21][22] It stated that there has been a longer-term downward trend in London's air pollution levels and argued that the ULEZ on its own is not an effective strategy.[21][23]

NOx emissions from road transport in Greater London (GLA boundary) from 2013 to 2019[24]

Effect on vehicle numbers

The number of non compliant vehicles entering the zone each day dropped from 35,578, in March 2019, to 26,195 in April of the same year, after the charge was introduced.[25] The number further dropped to 23,054 in July 2019.[26] The proportion of vehicles which complied with the standards rose from 61% in March 2019 to 74% in September 2019.[27] It further rose to 85% in December 2020, including 90% for cars, and the number of non-compliant vehicles dropped to around 12,000 (of which 4,000 were exempt from the charges).[28][29]

The total number of vehicles entering Central London each day also dropped from over 102,000 in February 2017 to 89,000 in April 2019.[30]

Effect on politics

The planned expansion of ULEZ into outer London was cited as the reason for the Conservatives' Steve Tuckwell's victory over Labour's Danny Beales in the 2023 Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election, despite substantial swings against the Conservatives in all three by-elections held the same day.[31]


The Ultra Low Emission Zone has been described as one of the most radical anti-pollution policies in the world.[32] A poll in April 2019 by YouGov found that 72% of Londoners supported using emissions charging to tackle both air pollution and congestion.[33] However, the Federation of Small Businesses said that many small firms were "very worried about the future of their businesses" as a result of the "additional cost burden".[34]

Ross Clark, writing in The Spectator, argued in 2022 the expansion disproportionately impacts poorer Londoners, who are more likely to own an older, non-compliant vehicle that will be subject to the daily charge.[35] TfL found that 60% of those who responded to its public consultation into the expansion plans were opposed, as well as 70% of outer London residents and 80% of outer London workers.[36][37][38]

Polling in July 2023 shows a plurality of residents say they support the existence of the ULEZ in London, with residents in Outer London evenly split.[39]

Failed High Court challenge

In May 2023, a coalition of Bexley Council, Bromley Council, Harrow Council and Hillingdon Council in Greater London with neighbouring Surrey County Council received permission from the High Court for a legal challenge to the August 2023 expansion into outer London. The permitted grounds for the claim were "failure to comply with relevant statutory requirements" and "unfair and unlawful consultation". Two further grounds concerned the scrappage scheme, "whether the mayor properly considered the previous "buffer zone" approach as a material consideration" and "irrationality due to uncertainty and inadequate consultation".[40] The hearing began on 4 July and the case was dismissed on 28 July 2023 when the outer expansion was found to be lawful.[41][42][43]

See also


  1. ^ Harvey, Fiona (29 July 2014). "Diesel drivers may face higher costs in pollution battle". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 July 2014.
  2. ^ Mason, Rowena (17 February 2017). "London to introduce £10 vehicle pollution charge, says Sadiq Khan". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  3. ^ de Reytas-Tamura, Kimiko (17 February 2017). "A Push for Diesel Leaves London Gasping Amid Record Pollution". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 February 2017.
  4. ^ Roberts, Gareth (3 November 2017). "London Mayor confirms Ultra-Low Emission Zone will start in 2019". Fleet News. Archived from the original on 25 July 2019. Retrieved 24 July 2019.
  5. ^ Edwards, Tom (5 April 2019). "ULEZ: The politics of London's air pollution". BBC News.
  6. ^ Lydall, Ross (14 May 2021). "Khan presses ahead with Ulez expansion set to hit 140,000 drivers". Evening Standard. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  7. ^ "Ultra-low emission zone comes into force in central London". ITV News. 7 April 2019. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  8. ^ Lydall, Ross (10 December 2021). "Ulez expansion revealed to have cut 'dirty' vehicles by over a third". Evening Standard. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  9. ^ "Millions of Londoners breathing cleaner air thanks to ULEZ expansion". 19 July 2022.
  10. ^ Topham, Gwyn (25 November 2022). "Ulez to be expanded across whole of Greater London from August". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  11. ^ "Map showing Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expansion from 29 August 2023" (PDF). Transport for London. Retrieved 10 June 2023.
  12. ^ Lydall, Ross (8 March 2022). "ULEZ to expand across all of Greater London". Evening Standard. Retrieved 8 April 2023.
  13. ^ "Ultra Low Emission Zone". Transport for London. Retrieved 7 June 2023.
  14. ^ "World's first 24 hour Ultra Low Emission Zone starts in London". Greater London Authority. 8 April 2019.
  15. ^ Evans, Jacob (13 June 2023). "ULEZ: Charges and fines raised nine-figure sum in 2022". BBC News. Retrieved 13 June 2023.
  16. ^ "Discounts and exemptions". Transport for London.
  17. ^ "Scrappage scheme for vans and minibuses". Transport for London. Archived from the original on 1 April 2020.
  18. ^ Lydall, Ross (15 October 2021). "London's ULEZ scrappage scheme running out of cash". Evening Standard. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  19. ^ "Scrappage scheme". Transport for London. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  20. ^ Vickers, Noah (3 August 2023). "Sadiq Khan opens Ulez scrappage scheme to all Londoners in £50m boost". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 August 2023.
  21. ^ a b Ma, Liang; Graham, Daniel J; Stettler, Marc E J (1 December 2021). "Has the ultra low emission zone in London improved air quality?". Environmental Research Letters. 16 (12): 124001. Bibcode:2021ERL....16l4001M. doi:10.1088/1748-9326/ac30c1. ISSN 1748-9326. S2CID 244169411.
  22. ^ "London's Ultra Low Emission Zone resulted in only 'marginal' air quality improvements shortly after it was introduced". Sky News. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  23. ^ Bayley, Sian (23 July 2019). "London pollution: High levels detected by 40% of capital's air quality". Evening Standard.
  24. ^ "Diesel cars pollutes more than trucks & lorries combined". Clean Cities. 2 March 2022. Archived from the original on 22 May 2022.
  25. ^ Taylor, Matthew (16 May 2019). "ULEZ cuts number of worst polluting cars in central London". The Guardian.
  26. ^ "Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone - Four month report" (PDF). Greater London Authority.
  27. ^ "Central London Ultra Low Emission Zone - Six Month Report" (PDF). Greater London Authority.
  28. ^ "New tighter Low Emission Zone standards for HGVS introduced in London". Greater London Authority. March 2021.
  29. ^ "ULEZ Online Fact Sheet" (PDF). Transport for London. Retrieved 25 October 2021.
  30. ^ "First month of Mayor's ULEZ sees 74 per cent of vehicles comply". Greater London Authority. 16 May 2019.
  31. ^ Sullivan, Helen; Badshah, Nadeem; Sullivan (now), Helen; Badshah (earlier), Nadeem (21 July 2023). "Byelection results: Conservatives retain Uxbridge and South Ruislip in close finish over Labour; Lib Dems sweep Somerton and Frome". the Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 July 2023.
  32. ^ Edwards, Tom. "ULEZ: The most radical plan you've never heard of". BBC News Website. BBC. Retrieved 26 March 2019.
  33. ^ Taylor, Matthew; Sedghi, Amy (8 April 2019). "Londoners support charging 'dirty' drivers, says air pollution study". The Guardian – via www.theguardian.com.
  34. ^ "ULEZ: New pollution charge begins in London". BBC News. 8 April 2019.
  35. ^ Clark, Ross (25 November 2022). "Sadiq Khan's Ulez expansion punishes the poorest". The Spectator. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  36. ^ "ULEZ: Ultra Low Emissions Zone to cover all of London". BBC News. 25 November 2022. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  37. ^ Gill, Oliver; Holl-Allen, Genevieve (25 November 2022). "Sadiq Khan plans London toll roads as electric car use rises". The Telegraph. ISSN 0307-1235. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  38. ^ "Improving air quality and Londoners' health, tackling climate change and reducing congestion". Have Your Say Transport for London. Retrieved 9 December 2022.
  39. ^ R&WS Research Team (13 July 2023). "Plurality of Londoners Support Expanding London's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)". Redfield & Wilton Strategies. Retrieved 22 July 2023.
  40. ^ Carey, Adam (30 May 2023). "High Court gives green light to further grounds for challenge in ULEZ expansion judicial review". Local Government Lawyer. Retrieved 18 June 2023.
  41. ^ Lydall, Ross (4 July 2023). "High Court fight to block Ulez expansion into outer London gets under way". Evening Standard. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  42. ^ Slawson, Nicola (28 July 2023). "Sadiq Khan wins high court battle over London Ulez extension". The Guardian. Retrieved 28 July 2023.
  43. ^ Low, Harry (28 July 2023). "Ulez expansion across London lawful, High Court rules". BBC News. Retrieved 28 July 2023.