Ultra low-emission zone for London by 2020

14th February 2013

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"Almost all" vehicles driving in central London could be zero or low-carbon by 2020, says mayor, while confirming that heavy-goods vehicles will be excluded from the next phase of the low-emission zone

Boris Johnson has asked Transport for London (TfL) to investigate introducing a new ultra low-emission zone (LEZ) that would see only low or zero-emission vehicles allowed in the centre of the city during working hours.

The scheme, which Johnson wants to see in place from 2020, would be the first of its kind in a large city and would build on the existing LEZ which has been in place since 2008 and charges the most polluting heavy vehicles £200 to enter Greater London.

According to Johnson, a combination of hybrid London buses, zero-emission taxis, electric cars and low-emission transport for freight, will mean that by 2020 an ultra LEZ will be possible.

“My vision is a central zone where almost all the vehicles running during working hours are either zero or low emission,” said Johnson. “This would deliver incredible benefits in air quality and stimulate the delivery and mass use of low-emission technology.”

However, in the same speech Johnson confirmed that phase 5 of the LEZ, which is to further tighten emissions rules from 2015, will not apply to all heavy-goods vehicles, coaches and buses as planned, and instead focus solely on TfL’s bus fleet.

According to Johnson, the change was due to a lower-than-expected impact on nitrous oxide (NOx) pollution, meaning that limiting phase 5 to TfL’s bus fleet was the most cost-effective way to cut emissions. The move will save businesses operating in London £350 million, he said.

At the same time, the mayor committed to introducing a new LEZ for construction machinery and pledged £2 million a year for the next decade to help London borough councils tackle air quality issues within their authorities.

The success of Johnson’s ambitions air quality plans will ultimately lie in the hands of his successor, as he has ruled out standing for office again when his term ends in 2016.

Central London is one of 43 areas across the UK that are currently failing to meet EU air quality rules on nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Defra admitted in plans submitted to the European Commission in 2011 that it did not expect to cut NO2 pollution in London to the required levels until 2025 – 15 years after the deadline.

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