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London Congestion Charg and ULEZ road sign

Coronavirus: London Congestion Charge and ULEZ are FREE; parking rules RELAXED

London Congestion Charg and ULEZ road sign

The London Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charge have both been suspended during the coronavirus outbreak. 

Parking restrictions and charges have also been relaxed for key workers. 

The moves are to help heed London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s call to avoid public transport where possible. 

From Monday 23 March, all road user charging schemes are suspended, says Transport for London (TfL).

This also includes the London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for HGVs, lorries, vans, buses and coaches. 

The move is “to help critical workers” after London Underground services were severely cut back this week. 

Temporarily suspending the London LEZ “supports the supply chain, the effort to keep supermarkets fully stocked and the city’s continued operation”. 

London Congestion Charging Central Zone road sign

But it is not a green light for all motorists to drive into London, adds TfL. Following government advice, motorists should ‘consider the wider implications when thinking about using their vehicles.

‘Roads must be kept clear for emergency services and critical workers. 

‘Only travel if your journey is necessary.’ 

Parking restrictions ‘relaxed’

TfL is, however, not responsible for car parking charges in London. They are controlled by London’s 32 borough councils and the City of London.

London Councils represents them all and has now called for a ‘common-sense approach to issuing parking and driving fines in order to help critical workers’.

Guidance has been issued to London borough on a ‘pragmatic approach to enforcement of parking and driving offences during the coronavirus pandemic’.

Safety and traffic flow will still be important, but the guidance includes advice such as:

  • Relaxing parking restrictions for vital members of staff around hospitals, clinics and emergency services control centres – e.g. no time limit and no charge
  • Giving parking permits to key workers allowing them to park more flexibly if there are no parking spaces available
  • Taking into account when drivers demonstrate they are key workers – e.g. when deciding whether to issue a penalty charge notice or when a driver is appealing a penalty
  • Making additional parking spaces available to key workers – e.g. business parking

Cllr Julian Bell from London Councils said: “All key workers using cars or other vehicles to get around can be reassured that borough parking teams are on their side.

“We ask that they look to their local council to find out what this means for them.

“London boroughs are united in taking a pragmatic approach to parking enforcement in these challenging times to help our critical workers do their jobs”

All London boroughs are now putting the guidance into practice locally and on a temporary basis.

Only essential journeys

London Congestion Charging road sign

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said: “People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really have to.

“London’s roads should now only be used for essential journeys.

“To help our critical workers get to work and for essential deliveries to take place, I have instructed TfL to temporarily suspend the Congestion Charge, ULEZ and Low Emission Zone from Monday.”

Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Keeping our supply chains resilient will be key in ensuring businesses can continue to function during the crisis.

“It’s the right thing that firms have the confidence to call in other contractors to move their goods into the capital at short notice and not worry about LEZ and ULEZ charges.”

Calling for the suspension earlier this week, Conservative London Mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey claimed the suspension would cost around £21m a month in revenue for TfL. 

He told Talk Radio this was “peanuts” compared to the overall impact of COVID-19 on the NHS. 

London ULEZ exemption expires BEFORE expansion. Who has to pay?

ULEZ expansion 2021

It’s nearly a year since the London ULEZ came into effect. Now the countdown begins to the zone’s expansion, from central London out to the North and South Circular road perimeters. What will this mean for those living within the larger zone?

On April 8 2019, the area formerly (and still) the Congestion Charge zone, took on a second 24-hour and year-round (excluding Christmas Day) ULEZ charge for vehicles that do not meet certain emissions standards.

ULEZ: Do London residents have to pay?

Can diesel engines CLEAN urban air?

There are some exemptions from having to pay the ULEZ charge, which is £12.50 per day, elapsing at midnight every night. At the moment, included in those exemptions are residents of the ULEZ zone. This is, apparently, in order to give them a chance to buy a compliant vehicle. 

Those registered for the residents’ Congestion Charge discount are granted a time-limited grace period where they are discounted 100 percent of the ULEZ charge. However, this period of exemption expires on 24 October 2021. 

October expansion: Residents could be caught out

ULEZ expansion 2021

That just so happens to be the day before the zone expands. As the residents’ exemption elapses, the ULEZ will expand outward from the central Congestion Charge zone, to the North and South Circular road. So what about people living within that perimeter?

If they drive a non-compliant vehicle on October 25, they will be liable to pay the charge. Yes, even if they’re driving to leave the zone. This is, at least, what we were told when we called Transport for London’s ULEZ information line.

We expect more information about the expansion, and indeed more data on what effect the central zone has had, to come out around the one-year anniversary of the ULEZ in April. More so even, come October, when the one-year countdown begins until the expansion in October 2021.

There are 20 months still left to go and we can’t help but wonder if some details still need to be worked out…

London ULEZ charge: How to check if you need to pay

How to check if you need to pay the ulez

The 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has been in operation in central London since early 2019. 

There are quite stringent emissions standards that cars have to meet in order to comply. Diesel cars from just five years old could be chargeable. Usefully, Transport for London has created an online checker to see if you need to pay the London ULEZ.

There is also the issue of ULEZ expansion, which will see the zone move outward to the North and South Circular roads in October 2021. Soon, the regulations will apply to many more people than those who live or in the established ‘Congestion Charge zone’.

Other cities are watching the performance of the ULEZ closely, and may look to operate their own schemes. The ULEZ concept could spread to city centres across the UK.

ULEZ compliance: what you need to know

The London ULEZ is coming

Drivers who enter the ULEZ in vehicles that do not comply with the emissions standards will be subject to a £12.50 fee – and that’s on top of the £11.50 daily Congestion Charge. This system replaced the T-charge scheme.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

Vehicles affected are those with pre-Euro 6 diesel and pre-Euro 4 petrol engines. Motorcycles built before 2007 will also have to pay the ULEZ charge.

The ULEZ is enforced based on the declared emissions of the vehicle, but diesel cars that meet the standards are generally those registered after September 2015. Similarly, petrol cars registered after 2005 should meet the minimum requirements. The ULEZ is thus likely to hit diesel car owners hardest.

‘Out of pocket’

London Congestion Charge

If in doubt, you can also use an online tool from data firm HPI, which includes a breakdown of the different Euro emissions standards.

Fernando Garcia, consumer director at HPI, said: “Research has already shown that over a third of motorists had not heard of the Euro Emission Standard classification system, while two-thirds of those who had were unsure what category their vehicle fitted in.

“The changes around vehicle emissions could give motorists a real headache and leave them out of pocket.”

Truckers: Oxford zero-emissions zone is ‘absurd’

Oxford zero-emissions zone is absurd

The proposed Oxford zero-emissions zone (ZEZ) is being is described as “absurd” by Richard Burnett, Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive.

He said: “Imposing a scheme where even the cleanest, Euro VI trucks will be hit with charges is absurd.

“The councils have offered no evidence to show how these measures will improve air quality so we can only conclude this is all about showcasing their green credentials instead of making the tough choices to tackle emissions. 

“These are poorly conceived ideas which will leave Oxford’s communities footing the bill with price hikes in the high street if they go ahead.”

Another tax on business

Oxford zero-emissions zone is absurd

The zero-emission zone daily charge in the so-called ‘red zone’ is being described as just another tax on businesses, given that there are, at present. no zero-emission trucks on the market. 

At the moment, firms based within the zone could get exemptions from the charge. However, this is being branded as ‘discriminatory’ by the RHA. It says trucks delivering in the area will almost exclusively be based outside of the area.

The RHA plans to respond during the consultation periods expected over the coming months.

Zero-emission trucks: when are they coming?

Mercedes electric truck

At the moment, Mercedes-Benz and Tesla are working on electric-powered trucks. The E-Actros is still in the test phase, with the Mercedes trucks putting in miles with a selection of companies.

The Tesla Semi – not confirmed to be UK-bound – is still testing in America, and isn’t expected to be on the market for another two years.

Oxford to get UK’s first Zero Emission Zone THIS YEAR

Oxford zero emission zone 2020

Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford City Council have revealed plans to open the country’s first Zero Emission Zone (ZEZ) in the city. Petrol and diesel car drivers will be required to pay to enter the city centre in what’s known as the red zone.

The green zone, covering the wider city centre, and coming later, will work with a stricter version of the London’s ULEZ emission standards. While ULEZ-compliant vehicles go into the London zone for free, in Oxford they’ll pay a discounted rate. Only zero emission cars will travel in the green zone for free.

Red zone residents to get 90 percent discount until 2030Oxford zero emission zone 2020

The red zone will not be a 24-hour installation, rather it will be in effect from 7am until 7pm. Drivers of non-compliant cars will be liable for a £10 charge. It’s suggested that there will be discounts and a delayed roll-out for certain motorists, too. Blue Badge holders, for example, won’t pay in full until 2024. Businesses in the red zone will be exempt until 2024, and be eligible for a discount until 2030. Private residents living in the zone will get a 90 percent discount until December 2030.

Where is the red zone? You could likely walk it inside half an hour. It’s a small patch of roads between Gloucester Green, Westgate and the Sheldonian Theatre.

Oxford’s Zero Emission Zone – coming in 2020Shutterstock

If fully approved, the current suggestion is for the Oxford ZEZ to operational within a year. An informal consultation on the red zone will run until 31 January 2020.

Feedback is welcome on the level of the charges, the discounts, the operating hours and what the future should hold for the zones. Formal consultations begin in March, and a final decision is expected in the spring.

The green zone, covering the wider city centre, is proposed for 2021 and 2022. Further details on how the green zone will work are to be discussed later in the year.

Oxford zero emission zone 2020

“With our strengthened Zero Emission Zone and the introduction of hundreds of supporting charging points, our medieval city is leading the electric vehicle revolution,” said Councillor Tom Hayes, cabinet member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council.

“Our two councils have taken a fresh look at the big idea of charging commuters to drive polluting vehicles in and out of the city centre. And we’re listening to Oxford’s Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change by speeding up our journey to a city-wide Zero Emission Zone.”

2021 London ULEZ expansion: motorists are already searching for compliant cars

London ULEZ expansion searches for compliant cars

The London ULEZ is due to expand in October 2021, from the conventional congestion charge area, all the way out to the North and South Circular roads.

Knowing the change is coming, many Londoners have already begun shopping for compliant cars, as searches for clean wheels surge.

According to Honcho, an automotive search marketing specialist, Google searches with the term ‘ULEZ’ have rocketed versus 12 months ago. The rise is a whopping 1,023 percent, from 5,310, to 60,110 searches.

Other popular search terms include ‘ULEZ car checker’ and ‘ULEZ exempt cars’.

London ULEZ expansion searches for compliant cars

Geographically, these terms are being searched most in Greater London, with car buyers in the area focusing on EVs and hybrids.

The second and third-placed areas where low emissions-related used car searches occur are Birmingham and Bristol.

The latter may have something to do with the recently-announced diesel ban in Bristol, which rules out all diesel cars between certain hours, no matter what their age. 

In terms of what cars buyers are looking for, the Nissan Leaf leads the way for EVs, in both new and used markets. For hybrids, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Toyota Prius was the most-searched for in both new and used markets.

The original ULEZ, which covers the London Congestion Charge zone, came into force on April 9 2019. For basic compliance, you need to have either a petrol car that’s Euro 4-compliant, or a diesel car that’s Euro-6 compliant.

The former is a vehicle aged from around 2005, the latter is around 2015.

London ULEZ expansion searches for compliant cars

“The expansion of the ULEZ is two years away but it is already focusing the attention of new and used car buyers living in the Greater London area who want to future proof their next purchase,” said Jack Minot from Honcho.

“Our research shows how 12 months ago Google searches using the term “ULEZ” barely registered but it is now a major consideration among prospective buyers.

“Dealers operating in and around the M25 need to factor in this growing trend by highlighting the ULEZ compliance of the new and used vehicles they are marketing online.”

Driving in London at Christmas: how to avoid charges

Christmas congestion charge

We are well into the festive period now, to the point that you’re not even allowed to complain about Christmas music.

For shopping, social occasions and more, many will be driving into London over Christmas. If that means you, here’s what you need to know about charges and when to pay them.

Congestion Charge at ChristmasChristmas congestion charge

Be selective about your visits to London and you won’t need to pay the Congestion Charge. For starters, you never need to pay between 6pm and 7am. Weekends are also free, as are Bank Holidays.

Two of those Bank Holidays are Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. The difference here is that these act as goal posts for a fallow period for the Congestion Charge. Driving into London from 6:01pm on Christmas Eve until 6:59am on January 2 is free of the charge.

It’s worth remembering that outside of this period, weekends fall on 21-22 December, and 4-5 January. So if you’re all tied up between Christmas and New Year, there’s still hope.

Congestion charge – what you’ll pay

If you need to pay, there are still ways you can save. Forward-planning can save you a couple of quid, useful for a winter-warming brew.

Signing up for Congestion Charge Auto Pay will mean you pay £10.50. If you pay in advance, or by midnight on the day of your visit, it’ll set you back £11.50. But if you wait until midnight the next day, the full £14 is payable. Motorbikes, mopeds and bicycles are exempt from the Congestion Charge.

Christmas congestion charge

Not paying the C-Charge when it is due will incur a fine of £160. If you pay within 14 days of the charge being issued, a 50 percent discount will be granted, for a fine of £80.

The ULEZ and Christmas

The Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) covers the same area as the Congestion Charge, until it expands in October 2021.

Unlike the C-Charge however, it doesn’t have off days. If your vehicle isn’t ULEZ exempt, you will need to pay, regardless of when you are in London.

Find out whether you’re liable to pay the ULEZ charge with our guide.

London low emission zone racks up 224,000 penalty charges

ULEZ penalty charges

Since coming into effect in April 2019, London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has seen more than 2.1 million drivers pay the daily charge.

However, around 224,000 entries into the zone have gone unpaid, incurring penalty charge notices.

A Freedom of Information request to Transport for London by Motorway.co.uk uncovered the figures.

ULEZ penalty charges

A total of 223,952 penalties were sent out between May 11 and August 31. And nearly 32,000 drivers have received more than one fine for lack of ULEZ payment. One driver has racked up a scarcely believable 81 penalties, amounting to £13,000. 

Overall, TfL has made £10.6 million in fines, and £30.7 million in paid ULEZ charges. If that course is maintained, the ULEZ combined could earn TfL more than £120 million in its first year.

ULEZ penalty charges

The idea behind the ULEZ, apparently, is to incentivise the uptake of low- or zero-emission vehicles eligible for exemption. 

It already seems that drivers are taking measures to either avoid driving in the zone, or are swapping to eligible vehicles. May was the peak month in terms of people paying the charge, with 496,707 daily fees paid. By August, that was down to 347,340. Penalty Charge Notices peaked at 74,630 in June, dropping to 40,928 in August.

London ULEZ: the costs

ULEZ penalty charges

Entry into the ULEZ for a vehicle not eligible for free access is £12.50 per day (starting from midnight) for car, motorcycle and van drivers. If not paid, they face a £160 fine, which is reduced to £80 if paid within two weeks.

HGV and coach drivers face a higher charge of £100, and a fine of £1,000 if they don’t pay. That’s reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days.

London scrappage scheme extended to low-income motorists

London scrappage scheme

Low-income and disabled motorists can now take advantage of the London Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) scrappage scheme. They will be eligible for an allowance of £2,000 for a car or £1,000 for a motorbike.

The £23 million scheme was originally introduced alongside the ULEZ in April 2019. It was aimed at small businesses and charities, to get ahead of the ULEZ charge. The expansion of the scheme adds a further £25 million to this fund – and comes two years prior to the planned 2021 expansion of the ULEZ, which will stretch to the capital’s North and South Circular roads.

The scheme is, of course, limited to London: 32 boroughs of the capital as well as the City of London are included. Participants need to have owned their current car for 12 months or more. In addition, that period has to be from or before October 23 2019.

As announced yesterday, people who take London Mayor Sadiq Khan up on his expanded scrappage scheme could find their new eco-friendly car with a green number plate in the not-too-distant future. 

Londoners should ditch cars altogether, says Green Party

London scrappage scheme

While pleased with London’s continued encouragement of drivers into more environmentally friendly vehicles, the Green Party reckons more lateral thinking is needed. 

“Too many Londoners feel forced into car use and ownership,” said Green Party London Assembly member Caroline Russell.

“The Mayor must invest, throughout London, to make walking, cycling and public transport easy choices for everyone.”

Pollution charges boost London air quality by a third

London air quality up by a third

Central London’s air quality has improved by a third over the past two years. The findings come in the wake of the £10 Toxicity Charge, plus the £12.50 daily Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge that superseded it in April 2019. They have bolstered calls for other cities to take on clean air charging zones.

Nitrogen oxide, emitted primarily by diesel engines, is down significantly. Levels have dropped from 85 to 57 micrograms per cubic metre at the roadside in central London. However, carbon dioxide levels are only down around four percent.

London air quality up by a third

In September 2019 there were 13,500 fewer ‘polluting cars’ driven in central London compared with March. For reference, vehicles that incur a ULEZ charge include pre-Euro 6 (before 2015) diesels, and pre-Euro 4 (before 2005) petrol cars.

“The early evidence suggests the ULEZ is not only encouraging people to use cleaner private cars, but also to use more sustainable alternatives such as walking, cycling and public transport,” said Alex Williams, director of city planning at Transport for London.

There’s still a way to go

ULEZ pricing poorest off the road

Improving the air quality may be, but London’s NOx levels are still illegal. The current level is 17 micrograms above the legal limit of 40 micrograms per cubic metre.

Nonetheless, the reduction is considered proof of the clean air zone concept. “Critically, we know dirty air isn’t just a problem in London,” said Penny Woods, chief executive of the British Lung Foundation.

London air quality up by a third

“Most UK cities have illegal and unsafe levels of pollution, which seriously affects the health and quality of life of millions with a lung disease and puts children at risk of developing a lung condition.

“That’s why similar clean air zones must be urgently rolled out across the country to protect everyone’s lungs.

“[The ULEZ is] a fantastic example of the difference clean air zones, that charge the most-polluting vehicles, can make”.