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 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”.

One in four drivers FAIL to pay London ULEZ charge

ULEZ fines

London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) came into effect in April of this year. Since then, around 130,000 drivers have been fined £80 for not paying the £12.50 daily charge.

The charge is payable only for vehicles that do not qualify for exemption. One in four drivers of non-compliant cars hasn’t been paying up.

In total, the ULEZ has earned Transport for London (TfL) £26 million in penalties so far. The minimum fine is £80, doubling to £160 if not paid within seven days.

ULEZ fines

As a result of the high volume of fines being administered, TfL and London mayor Sadiq Khan have faced criticism. Has enough been done to make drivers aware of the charge? Especially as the zone is due to expand from 25 October 2021, to be bordered by the North and South Circular roads.

“It is worrying there have been 130,000 fines in three months,” said Nicholas Lyes, head of roads policy at the RAC.”There is more that needs to be done by the mayor to raise awareness of what the ULEZ means to drivers and businesses before he expands the area it covers.”

ULEZ fines

Transport for London says its publicising of the ULEZ has been adequate. It began a campaign to spread awareness more than a year before the zone came into effect in April 2019.

“The Ultra Low Emission Zone has been introduced to significantly reduce pollution in the capital,” said Helen Chapman, director of licensing, regulation and charging at TFL.

“Transport for London has been running an extensive communications campaign since spring 2018 to make drivers aware of it.”

London ULEZ: The ultimate guide

ULEZ London

London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) is now live. So when does it run? Will it expand? How much does it cost? Who is and what vehicles are exempt? How can I dodge it?

To answer all these questions and more, here’s our one-stop guide to London’s latest step towards cleaner urban air.

What is the ULEZ?

Like the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ), the Ultra Low Emissions Zone covers an area of London that drivers to have to pay to travel within.

Entering the ULEZ costs £12.50 and, unlike the Congestion Charge (which costs £11.50), the fee applies no matter what time you travel: 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The ULEZ will expand in years to come, too.

London ULEZ – which vehicles are affected?

ULEZ London

Only petrol cars meeting Euro 4 emissions standard, and diesel cars meeting Euro 6 emissions standard, are exempt from paying the ULEZ charge of £12.50 per day (on top of the £11.50 London Congestion Charge – see below).

It also applies to vans, minibuses, coaches, lorries and other heavy vehicles. For motorbikes, it’s Euro 3 or above that is exempt, which will cause issues for many riders of older bikes.

Euro 4 became mandatory for all new cars in 2005. Euro 6 was introduced for all cars and light vans from September 2015 (January 2014 for larger vehicles). Euro 3 came into effect for bikes in 2007.

Quick guide: vehicles liable for ULEZ charges

  • Petrol cars and vans: pre-2006
  • Diesel cars and vans: pre-2015
  • Motorbikes: pre-2007

Some drivers can take comfort from the fact that many older petrol-powered cars will be exempt. Diesel, as ever these days, is having a tough time of it: much newer diesel cars are obliged to pay the ULEZ.

Is a ULEV (ultra-low emission vehicle) necessarily exempt?

Confusingly, an ultra-low emission vehicle is not necessarily exempt from the ultra-low emission zone. We can’t think of any vehicles that fall into the former category that aren’t exempt, but this is the case if we’re to believe a statement on Transport for London’s website.

‘A ULEV is defined as a vehicle that emits less than 75g of carbon dioxide (CO2) per kilometre travelled and is capable of at least 10 miles of zero-emission driving.

A ULEV vehicle is not the same thing as a vehicle that meets the requirements of the Mayor of London ultra low emission zone (ULEZ).

You can check whether your vehicle is compliant by entering your registration on the TfL website.

London ULEZ – where and when

Ultra Low Emissions Zone ULEZ London 2019

The ULEZ covers the same area as the current CCZ. It’s a relatively small patch in central London below Camden, cutting through Westminster, to the left of Tower Hamlets and above Southwark. It covers 8.1 square miles and makes up just 1.3 percent of Greater London.

However, the ULEZ will get bigger in October 2021, when the North and South Circular roads will serve as the new boundaries. While the Congestion Charge stops just before Camden, for example, the ULEZ post-October 2021 will cut off part-way into Barnet.

On the Transport for London (TfL) website, it also states that: “If you are driving any petrol or diesel vehicle within this enlarged area, you will need to meet new tighter emissions standards or pay a daily charge”.

How do I check if I need to pay the ULEZ charge?

We have a guide on how to check if you need to pay the ULEZ charge. You can also see below whether your area is affected.

You can check whether your area is affected by entering your postcode on the TfL website.

Those who live within the ULEZ catchment area, who are registered for the Congestion Charge discount, will not have to pay in full until the 24th of October 2021. This gives them the chance to get into an exempt vehicle.

However, they will have to continue to pay the T-Charge (toxicity charge) at a discounted 90 percent rate. 

Wait, what – Toxicitiy Charge? What’s that? Don’t worry, we have a guide to the London T-Charge too…

London ULEZ – how much is it?

The ULEZ charge is £12.50, payable by anyone in a vehicle that isn’t compliant, whatever time of day they enter. It’s £100 per day to enter for non-compliant vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

A key point to note: the charge doesn’t buy you 24 hours in the ULEZ. The clock restarts at midnight, so if you drive into the zone at 11pm and leave at 3am the next day, you’ll be expected to pay £25 – or £200 if you’re in a non-compliant vehicle over 3.5 tonnes.

What’s more, if you’re in the area when the Congestion Charge is applicable, the ULEZ charge is paid IN ADDITION to the C-Charge. The ULEZ charge does, however, completely replace the current Emissions Surcharge (T-Charge).

As you’d expect, if the fee isn’t paid, a Penalty Charge Notice will be sent out to the registered keeper of the vehicle.

How can I avoid the London ULEZ?

Ultra Low Emissions Zone ULEZ London 2019

A new update to Waze will allow London residents using the app to enter whether their vehicle is exempt or not. If it isn’t, the app will automatically guide you around the ULEZ/C-charge zone so you don’t have to pay.

For now, so long as you don’t drive into the Congestion Zone area, you’ll avoid ULEZ. In subsequent years, it won’t be quite so straightforward to avoid it…

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

The London ULEZ is coming

Britain’s first 24-hour ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone) is now operating in central London on, and motorists are being urged to check to see if they need to pay it before driving into the capital. 

Most cars need to meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards or pay a daily charge to travel within the ULEZ. Usefully, Transport for London has created an online checker to see if you need to pay the London ULEZ.

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

Unlike the Congestion Charge, the ULEZ is enforced 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It is thought this fact alone may catch out some motorists. 

The ULEZ covers the same areas as the Congestion Charge, but in 2021 it will be expanded to the inner London area bounded by the North and South Circular roads.

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 will be 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.

Yes, the age difference is that stark: ULEZ is likely to hit diesel car owners harder than petrol car owners. 

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

‘Out of pocket’

London Congestion Charge

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.

“Our online check is completely free and allows motorists to check the emissions standard of their vehicle and potentially avoid a fine.”

Some Euro 6 diesel cars are FAILING roadside emissions tests

Modern ULEZ-compliant car emissions are too high

A Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) report suggests a high risk of modern cars failing emissions tests at the side of the road in ultra-low emissions zones (ULEZ), potentially meaning that they shouldn’t be granted ‘free’ access.

The issue has been highlighted by Allow Independent Road-testing (AIR), an organisation whose AIR index ratings corroborate real-world DVSA test results.

AIR says some fully-homologated 2017 ‘Euro 6’ vehicles are emitting up to 20 TIMES the nitrogen oxide (NOx limit) observed in official tests.

Given that Euro 6 is generally the diesel car standard for permissible emissions in ULEZ, this presents a problem for regulators.

Cars that are emitting too much

Modern ULEZ-compliant car emissions are too high

Cars that score an ‘E’ in AIR’s A-to-E scale, which indicates high levels of NOx, include the Nissan Qashqai, which emits 17 times the legislative limit.

The Renault Kadjar isn’t far behind, emitting 13 times the limit. Cars like the Vauxhall Astra get a ‘C’ rating. Similarly sooty are diesel versions of the BMW 1 Series, Hyundai Tucson, Jaguar F-Pace and Volvo XC60.

Contrast that with the Mercedes-Benz E 220d, which achieves less than half the 80mg/km NOx output for an A-rating.

Modern ULEZ-compliant car emissions are too high

Some of these manufacturers are working on fixes but, as we reported recently, Nissan is reluctant to act, even with capacity to do so.

“Cities who, in good faith, are using or plan to use Euro 6 as the threshold for access policies will not deliver the air quality improvements expected and will not solve their breach of urban air quality in the time required,” said Nick Molden, co-founder of the AIR Index.

Modern ULEZ-compliant car emissions are too high

“The DVSA’s latest test results confirm the importance of independent testing to provide confidence and transparency about actual emissions during on-road driving.

“We welcome the government’s publication of this report, which aligns with the results of vehicles rated for the AIR Index, and it highlights again that not all Euro 6 cars control NOx emissions to the same degree.”

Massimo Fedeli, Operations Director and Co-Founder of the AIR Index followed: “Car owners, policy makers and citizens in towns and cities where air quality is breaching European limits will be disappointed by both the poor results of these tests and the reaction of those car makers who refuse to take action to remedy the over-emission of NOx from these vehicles.”

Public to have their say on Heathrow Airport expansion

Heathrow Airport ULEZ planned

Heathrow has launched a 12-week consultation to give people the chance to provide feedback on its plans for future expansion.

The plan includes a new runway, rerouting the M25 through a tunnel, diverting rivers and moving roads. The public consultation is open until 13 September 2019.

People will also be asked to provide feedback on a proposed £15 charge for driving to Heathrow Airport as part of ‘tough new measures’ designed to reduce emissions and cut congestion.

The plans, which include the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), would include a Vehicle Access Charge (VAC) for all cars and taxis entering Heathrow Airport. 

Minimum emissions standards would be introduced for vehicles entering car parks or drop-off areas at all terminals, but the ULEZ will transition into a VAC to coincide with the opening of the new runway from 2026.

Heathrow says the ULEZ will be identical to the London Mayor’s ULEZ and charges will apply 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

ULEZ emissions numbers

It means that petrol cars that fail to meet Euro 4 emissions standards and diesel cars that fail to meet Euro 6 standards will be charged to enter the Heathrow ULEZ. Taxis will be exempt from the ULEZ charge, but will be subject to the VAC when it is introduced.

The airport is powered by renewable electricity and aims to be carbon neutral by 2020, but is under pressure to curb pollution ahead of the opening of the third runway.

Aircraft taking off and landing produced 1.3 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent in 2017, up 4.6 percent on 2015.

Meanwhile, emissions from passengers getting to and from Heathrow fell by 9.8 percent to 514,000 tonnes of CO2 equivalent between 2015 and 2017.

‘A disaster for London’

Heavy traffic on the M25 near Heathrow

Val Shawcross, chair of the Heathrow Airport Transport Forum, told the Financial Times: “If Heathrow expanded without tackling issues like air quality, public transport growth, active transport . . . it would be a disaster for London.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow Expansion is not a choice between the economy and the environment – we must deliver for both. Today’s announcement shows that we will take the tough decisions to ensure that the airport grows responsibly.”

The precise details of the Heathrow ULEZ – including the proposed charges – will be confirmed when the airport submits its final Development Consent Order (DCO) application for expansion after public consultation.

Details of the Heathrow public consultation can be found here

ULEZ: The ‘death knell’ for small London businesses?

London ULEZ small businesses

Pimlico Plumbers CEO, Charlie Mullins, has lamented the introduction of London’s ULEZ ultra low emission zone, claiming it could be the death knell for small businesses based in the capital that can’t afford to upgrade their fleets.

Pimlico is the UK’s largest independent plumbing firm, with a fleet of over 250 vans running in the capital. Of these, 150 currently fall foul of the ULEZ standards.

“If I kept using my vans in central London, where we are based, it would cost me £908,000 annually in penalties – which is absurd,” says Mullins. 

Small businesses should be given time to upgrade

Pimlico Plumbers van

Mullins argues that non-compliant vehicles should be allowed to work through to the end of their useful life without the businesses getting penalised.

“Once older non-compliant vehicles end their useful life, all new ones will be fitted with Euro VI engines in any case. So, I don’t see why we’re rushing into this, when it’s just going to hit the backbone of the UK economy – businesses.

“It’s as if Khan [London Mayor Sadiq Khan] is prepared to fast track the London economy down the drain, in order to claim some non-existent green award.”

The Freight Transport Association has also criticised the lack of support for businesses. It claims the zone’s introduction will cause the fleet replacement cycle to be brought forward prematurely. This will be costly for businesses.

The market for Euro 6 vans is still relatively young. Most are under three years old at the moment, locking out many smaller businesses without the budget to invest.

Pro-business doesn’t mean anti-environment

Mullins does agree that London’s air quality is an issue that needs to be tackled. However, he believes a more pragmatic approach should have been taken.

“Combine Khan’s clean air clamour with a good helping of Brexit uncertainty, and there’s no two ways about it – we’re on the road to a recession, albeit an environmentally friendly one.”

Existing help for small businesses

London ULEZ small businesses

Not all small businesses have been ignored. There is a scheme for what the government calls ‘micro-businesses’. These are businesses with fewer than 10 staff. There are three options for qualifying firms:

  • £3,500 in scrappage towards the acquisition of a Euro 6 replacement vehicle
  • £6,000 for scrappage as well as a contribution to the running costs of an electric vehicle
  • £3,500 grant for the scrappage of a non-compliant vehicle for those who regularly enter the ULEZ

Needless to say, these measures apply to a very specific and limited demographic of businesses…

At present, any non-compliant heavier vehicle weighing between 3.5 tonnes, and buses and coaches weight over 5 tonnes, will incur a charge of £100 per day if they pass into the ultra-low emission zone.

ULEZ scrappage schemes: how to save money on a clean car

London ULEZ scrappage

If your vehicle doesn’t meet the new, stricter Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) standards, you’ll need to pay £12.50 to enter central London. You can read about the ULEZ and what it means to you or your business here.

Buying a new car or van that meets the emissions standards is one way to avoid the daily charge. However, this will either involve spending more money up front or signing up for a lengthy finance deal.

Either way, the ULEZ is going to cost you money if your existing vehicle is deemed to be too dirty for London.

ULEZ van scrappage scheme

If you’re the owner of a micro business or a charity, you can apply for the Mayor of London’s scrappage discount, with up to £6,000 available for eligible organisations. The scheme was announced at the end of 2018, with Sadiq Khan allocating £23 million to the van scrappage scheme.

To qualify, a micro business must meet the following criteria:

  • Have ten or fewer employees
  • Have a turnover up to £632,000, OR up to £316,000 balance sheet total in the preceding and current financial year AND
  • Have an active Companies House registration in the UK OR be VAT registered in the UK

Charities must be registered with the Charity Commission as an active charity.

rusty van scrappage

Eligible organisations can scrap up to three older, more polluting vans and charity minibuses, but the vehicle(s) must meet certain criteria, in addition to failing to meet the ULEZ standards. The requirements are:

  • The vehicle must have been owned by the business or charity for more than 12 calendar months before 22 February 2019
  • Insured for business use
  • Have a valid MOT and current VED
  • The vehicle must be scrapped at an approved Authorised Treatment Facility (ATF)

There are three different scrappage funds available, and these are summarised by Transport for London (TfL) as follows:

Option 1: Scrappage for frequent users of the Congestion Charging Zone (CCZ) (£3,500)

The vehicle being scrapped must:

  • Have been driven within the CCZ at least 52 times during the six months before 22 February 2019 – this will be checked against existing transactions in your London Road User Charging account
  • Be a pre-Euro 6 model light van (or charity-owned minibus) that does not meet the ULEZ standards

Option 2: Scrappage and purchase/lease of Euro 6 replacement (£3,500)

The vehicle being scrapped must be:

  • A pre-Euro 6 model light van (or charity-owned minibus) that does not meet the ULEZ standards
  • Replaced (by purchase or lease) with a Euro 6 light van or Euro 6 minibus (for charities only)

The micro business or charity must be registered at a Greater London address.

Option 3: Scrappage and contribution towards running costs (including insurance) of an electric vehicle (£6,000)

The grant payment is made up of £3,500 for scrapping eligible vehicles plus a £2,500 contribution towards running costs (including insurance) of a replacement electric vehicle(s).

The vehicle being scrapped must be:

  • A pre-Euro 6 model light van (or charity-owned minibus) that does not meet the ULEZ standards
  • Replaced (by purchase or lease) with an electric light van or electric minibus (for charities only)

ULEZ scrappage for lower incomes

electric cars in London

In February, the Mayor of London announced a new ‘scrap for cash’ fund to help low-income Londoners get behind the wheel of a ULEZ-compliant vehicle. Although Sadiq Khan hasn’t released details of the scrappage discount, £25 million will be available and the scheme will be launched later this year.

At the time, Khan said: “Our country’s filthy air is a national disgrace that shortens lives, damages our lungs, and severely impacts our NHS. City leaders across the country are united in raising the alarm about the dangers posed by poor air quality.

“I’m announcing plans to help motorists on low incomes, as well as micro businesses, to scrap their older, more polluting vehicles.

“However, Ministers must now show they can match my commitment. If we’re going to tackle the health crisis and social injustice caused by air pollution it is vital and only fair that a national vehicle scrappage scheme is funded and supported by the government.”

To check if your existing vehicle meets the ULEZ standards, visit the Transport for London website.