More than one million drivers may have to pay the London ULEZ charge when the scheme expands this August, according to new research.
Figures from the DVLA show that there are currently almost 700,000 non-compliant cars in the Greater London area, along with more than 150,000 other vehicles such as vans and motorbikes. On top of that, more than 150,000 people commute every day into the capital from other counties using non-compliant cars.
London’s ultra low emissions zone is due to expand in August to cover the whole Greater London area. It means anyone driving a car or light van that doesn’t meet certain emission standards will have to pay a £12.50 daily charge or face a fine of up to £160.
According to the new data obtained by the RAC, as of late February 2023, there were 691,559 licensed cars in Greater London that were either petrol cars first registered prior to January 2006 or diesel cars registered prior to September 2015 – the key dates for meeting ULEZ standards.
The RAC’s Nicholas Lyes warned that the changes threaten to have a major financial impact on the owners of these vehicles who will either have to replace their car with a compliant vehicle at relatively short notice or pay the daily charge.
The London Mayor’s office launched a scrappage scheme in January designed to help those most in need to change their vehicle by Lyes said that the current offer was like “using a plughole to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool”.
The £110m scheme offered up to £2,000 towards the purchase of a ULEZ-compliant car to drivers on low-income or disability benefits. It also offers up to £5,000 for some charities and small businesses to replace non-compliant vans.
However, Lyes said that Mayor Sadiq Khan’s office and central government needed to do more to support drivers and businesses, including those based outside of London but who travel in.
He said: “Cleaning up London’s air should undoubtedly be a priority, but the sheer number of vehicles that don’t meet ULEZ emissions standards in Greater London suggests there will be a massive financial impact on motorists and businesses through having to fork out £12.50 every day they drive in the zone.
“We desperately need more co-ordination between the Mayor and the government to help small businesses, tradespeople, NHS staff and carers who have no choice but to drive into the expanded ULEZ for work purposes from outside Greater London. Consideration should also be given to those who work at night when public transport is greatly reduced in the outer boroughs.
“Changing to a compliant vehicle at such short notice simply won’t be something many will be able to afford, especially during a cost-of-living crisis and at a time when second-hand car prices are so high.
“We need more creativity from London’s Mayor and his team to help people out as the current scrappage scheme is akin to using a plughole to drain an Olympic-sized swimming pool – it’s simply not big enough for the scale of the job.”
Alongside the 691,559 cars, the DVLA data showed 159,506 other non-compliant vehicles in Greater London as of February. Separate figures from Transport for London suggest another 160,000 non-compliant cars drive into the city every day from neighbouring counties including Kent, Hertfordshire and Essex. These drivers are not eligible for the scrappage scheme but will have to pay the charge.
The ULEZ expansion has been hugely controversial, with several councils trying to block TfL from installing new signs and enforcement cameras in their areas. Its supporters say the move is vital to improving London’s air quality but opponents argue that the measures punish the less well-off by hitting those who can’t afford to upgrade their car with extra charges.