Getting ready for the ULEZ and what it means for you

Getting ready for the ULEZ and what it means for you

I’ve had lots of inbounds from people who drive older cars in London on what the changes introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan last October will mean for them. Confusion abounds courtesy of unclear timelines and unfriendly terms such as “ULEZ”, “Euro 6 compliant”, “NOx emissions” and others. Hopefully this little write-up can clarify the matter for you…

Most of us remember the launch of the Congestion Charge Zone back in 2003 which meant driving any non-exempt vehicle into Central London Mon-Fri, 7am to 6pm, incurred a £5/day levy. Fast forward to today and not only has the Congestion Charge Zone enlarged geographically, but the fee has risen to £11.50. But the levies didn’t stop there; in Oct 2017 Mayor Khan brought in a new tax called the “T-Charge”, which stands for Toxicity Charge, aimed at older and more polluting cars entering the Congestion Charge Zone that aren’t, at a minimum, Euro 4 compliant. For reference, most vehicles registered before 2006 are not Euro 4 compliant. The T-Charge is £10/day and must be paid in addition to the Congestion Charge. So, if you drive into Central London for a midweek lunch in your 2005 VW Golf Diesel, it will cost you £21.50. Throw in central London parking fees – some of the most expensive in the world (http://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-2524669/London-expensive-city-world-park.html) – and it’s not unreasonable to suggest you’ll be out of pocket by more than the price of your lunch. Announced this past Monday, Hackney and Islington Councils have a brand new scheme in place – the “ULEV Streets Scheme” (“V” for vehicles) whereby only electric cars, the newest hybrids and hydrogen vehicles can travel on select streets – nine total, all near Old Street – during weekday morning and evening rush hours. Otherwise drivers will face a £130 fine!

But it doesn’t stop there as more changes are afoot! Next spring (April 8th 2019, to be precise) the T-Charge will be re-named to ULEZ  for “Ultra-Low Emission Zone” with the fee rising to £12.50 and will be in effect 24/7, 365 days a year. Unsurprisingly, this will still have to be paid in addition to the £11.50/day Congestion Charge. But the big kicker is that the new ULEZ will affect all vehicles that don’t meet the newest and most stringent emissions standard: Euro 6 for diesel and Euro 4 for petrol. For reference, this will affect most vehicles that are registered before 2015. This means any 2014 Range Rover you see will be liable to pay £24/day to enter central London. Oh my…

Remarkably, the bad news for Range Rover drivers and their ilk doesn’t end there! Admittedly it’s a few years down the road, but on Sept 25th 2021 the ULEZ (but not the Congestion Zone) will be enlarged to include all areas between the North and South Circular roads. Yep, this is a huge area and can be simplified to “all-of-London”. Thus far there’s been no mention of a 2021 price rise to the £12.50 ULEZ fee, but would anyone be surprised if there was a hike?

So two key dates to remember are:

April 8th, 2019 – current T-Zone re-named to ULEZ, price increase to £12.50 all hours of the day, 365 days/year, for diesels that aren’t Euro 6 compliant and petrols that aren’t Euro 4 compliant

Sept 25th, 2021 – ULEZ (zone) gets enlarged from current Congestion Charge zone area to all of London (North Circular to South Circular, and everything in between!).

To conclude, in the near term, if you don’t drive into the T-Zone/Congestion Zone nothing is really going to change for you. But in 2021 the area is being extended to include nearly all of London so you may get dinged if you’re driving an older car. A quick and dirty way to check if your particular vehicle will be liable to pay the (new) ULEZ charge is to use this handy Transport for London link and simply enter your number plate: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/vrm-checker-ulez

You’ve got some time, but no reason not to get thinking about replacing your older car now (helloooo Car Sleuth!)…

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