/ Motoring

Ultra Low Emission Zones: what are your views?

With London expanding its Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) this week, we’re interested in your views. How do you feel about these schemes?

London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) now covers an area around 18 times larger than before – a pretty hefty expansion for the capital that will see the drivers of non-compliant vehicles paying a £12.50 charge if they enter the zone.

ULEZ expansion: everything you need to know

But what are your views on schemes like ULEZ? Do you believe they’re effective in reducing pollution and encouraging people to purchase cleaner vehicles?

Low emission zones outside of London

And how do you feel about similar schemes being rolled out beyond the capital to other cities? This Is Money has reported on 14 areas where similar zones are ‘imminent’:

Asthma UK and British Lung Foundation Partnership believes that the ULEZ expansion is a step in the right direction. Its Chief Executive, Sarah Woolnough, said:

“Looking across the country, we can see the positive impact that Clean Air Zones are having on communities, making them healthier places for future generations to grow and thrive, by cutting levels of major pollutants that can cause and worsen lung conditions.

Whilst this is a huge step in the right direction, we mustn’t be complacent against this invisible threat. The fact of the matter remains that the majority of people living in London are still living in areas where pollution levels are dangerously high. We therefore look forward to working with the Mayor to ensure ULEZ and other pollution reduction schemes go further and are delivered faster in order to improve the quality of air across the entire capital.”

Your views on Ultra Low Emission Zones

What are your views on ULEZ and similar schemes across the country? Do you think they go far enough? And what would you do differently to reduce levels of pollution and help motorists move to greener alternatives?

Get involved in the discussion in the comments.

Comments

“London’s expanded “Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) has come into force today, covering an area that’s roughly 18 times larger than before. Drivers with cars that aren’t compliant now face a daily £12.50 charge.

Read more: https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/10/extended-london-ulez-in-operation-from-today/ – Which?”
Unless someone has a good argument, if the aim is to reduce pollution I believe it wrong to allow owners of non-compliant vehicles to be allowed to pollute within the zone simply by making a payment. Apart from essential users. It devalues the principle of the scheme.

The original ULEZ has had a marked effect in reducing nitrogen dioxide pollution, protecting those who live and work in London. I support expansion of the ULEZ. According to the Which? article, petrol cars made since 2004 are already compliant and will not be affected with the new requirements, so anyone who feels they must drive in the ULEZ has an obvious solution available. The new charging may be a pragmatic solution for the time being but like Malcolm I’m not keen on anyone being able to pay to pollute.

I also welcome the recent legislation to ban the sale of coal and wet wood.

Pollution would have been even less if applied strictly. I don’t see why charging is “pragmatic” when the effect is to allow people to continue polluting.

Improving the environment is usually tackled progressively to allow our citizens and businesses time to adapt to change. For example, the ban on installation of gas boilers in new homes will take place well before it affects the rest of us. Time was allowed before the sale of housecoal was banned and householders will be allowed to use up existing stocks. The sale of peat will be banned for environmental reasons but time has been allowed for users to adapt.

You have said that you own two old diesel vehicles, Malcolm. If the aim is to reduce pollution perhaps they should no longer be used. Maybe the pragmatic solution is to wait until vehicles like this fail their MOTs and are scrapped. At present you are allowed to continue to pollute, like those in the ULEZ who pay the daily charge.

I assume that a great deal of thought has gone into deciding between a ban and and the new charges. I emphasise that I am not in favour of ‘pay to pollute’. Imagine if you lived within the enlarged ULEZ and told that you were not allowed to drive your car.

The proposal to enlarge the size of the ULEZ was announced quite a time ago so time to.prrpare, perhaps. You only need to own a car that is around 16 years old or so for petrol or 7 for diesel to drive within the zone so not too onerous for those living within the N and S Circular roads to have prepared for – the intention being to protect other people’s health who have to live within the zone.

It is irrrelevant what cars I own. That distracts from the point being made, of course, which was minimising pollution in heavily built up areas.
You do not know where I drive them – which happens to be very rarely and not in such built up areas – I have a Euro 6 car for normal use.

I wonder if families with breathing difficulties – children or old people with asthma perhaps – living in that heavily built up area think the scheme well thought through when it lets people with the means to pay drive a heavily polluting vehicle past their house or school?

I’m hopeful this will start to make a difference on the Marylebone Road, as this is on the outer edge of the central London ULEZ. I’d forgotten how bad the pollution was (is) just outside of the Which? office front door until I came back in for the first time earlier this month.

Malcolm – I’m an asthmatic and understand the issue very well. I spent a week in London several years ago and had to visit a hospital for additional medication because of breathing difficulties, which disappeared when I returned home, where the air is cleaner. I fully support measures to tackle air pollution in cities, where the problem is worst, mainly because of vehicles and gas heating.

As I have explained, measures to improve the environment tend to be introduced gradually, even if tackling air pollution cannot come soon enough for some of us. There are many conventional cars that are exempt from the new ULEZ charges in London, and they produce nitrogen dioxide too. In future the rules are likely to become tighter. Other city centres have illegal levels of air pollution and various systems are being introduced where they are needed most: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-10127557/All-towns-cities-Britain-planned-clean-driving-zones.html

We can also tackle air pollution by reducing commuting and the number of vehicles on our roads.

Jon – Maybe you need an internal campaign to encourage the powers that be to move the Which? offices to a cleaner environment. It would save money too.

malcolm r says: Today 02:42

It is irrrelevant what cars I own. You do not know where I drive them – which happens to be very rarely and not in such built up areas

I’m not sure it’s irrelevant to own the highest polluting vehicles when engaging in a topic about emissions and not mentioning it. Politicians call this ‘full disclosure’. And to claim they are only driven rarely and not in such built up areas poses more questions; the RAC recommends that diesel cars be driven for 30-40 miles ‘on a regular basis.’ If that’s being done then they become serious contributors to air pollution, surely?

But even if that is done in a rural setting, or even ‘not in such built up areas’ the emissions remain in the atmosphere and eventually enter lungs. The government states “Nitrogen dioxide is heavier than air, such that exposure in poorly ventilated, enclosed, or low-lying areas can result in asphyxiation.”

The upshot of all this is that the government needs to get its act together on polluting vehicles sooner rather than later. Otherwise, the risks to life in a high-pressure heatwave will become unacceptable.

Well, I don’t agree with the personal comments. Hoewever; as it happens, I have declared the cars that I own a number of times.

Those with BEVs need to remember that they also pollute – tyre and brake dust, and 30-40% of their elecricity is generated from fossil fuel – that pollutes.

Pollution does not only depend upon the engine but is proportional to distance driven. So driving a pre Euro 6 diesel vehicle 500 miles a year is likely to be much less polluting than 8000 miles in a Euro 6.

They’ve another office in Cardiff’s Capital Quarter. That sounds like a heavily populated area so may not be good for pollution.

I doubt they will move from Marylebone Road any time soon as they spent many millions on it.

Is the ULEZ a genuine attempt to reduce pollution and congestion or a tax revenue to run the city? The former is much needed, the latter is underhanded.

There is usually a psychological reason for excess, whether it be cars for some or mistresses (or misters) for others, but that aside, it has to be said, excess at an individual or collective level usually involves other people or things, directly or indirectly.

It took years for the message about the pollution from cigarette smoking to sink in and the affect it had on others, until legislation was finally passed. Smokers were then finally made aware of what their addiction was doing to others. Once dopamine the feel good chemical in the brain takes control of most of your thought processes, you can devise a hundred or more reasons to justify your need or dependency.

The following website illustrates some of the pollutants from cars, and the damage caused to the planet and people’s health, just as the cigarette used to do. During the Covid lockdown carbon emissions around the world were reduced by about 17% and as much as 60% in some areas. Whether some will resort to sticking warning labels on cars remains to be seen, but any action that can help to improve the air we breathe would be welcome.

bbc.co.uk – Viewpoint: It’s time to end our love affair with cars.

Vynor asks an interesting question about the motive of the ULEZ charges. There is no doubt that the driver is the need to tackle the illegal level of pollution in London, and the same applies in other major cities. Some of the revenue will be used in running ULEZ, not least the installation of cameras to monitor use by non-compliant vehicles. Maybe the remainder could be used for other related purposes such as funding treatment of respiratory disease exacerbated by vehicle pollution. I hope that Transport for London is able to answer your question.

Ian wrote: “The upshot of all this is that the government needs to get its act together on polluting vehicles sooner rather than later.” I presume that a growing minority is happy to lend their support to the cause. The pandemic has shown that some jobs can be done by working from home, at least part of the time. Apart from pollution, what a waste of lives to drive somewhere in the morning and then drive back home in the evening, five days a week. Despite range anxiety and the cost of BEVs, they are now outselling hybrids.

I feel a little sorry for Malcolm in these exchanges. His car purchases are historical, under different circumstances than the ones we face now. It emphasises the point that for all the ideal climate and pollution aims that we have, there has to be a starting point and that starting point is the here and now. I doubt many here would disagree with the facts presented – pollution is too high and needs to be reduced and climate change is already upon us and will get worse. Given that consensus the planning needs to be constructive. How do we expect those who have perfectly workable transport and house heating and those who travel the greatest distances to curb their travel and scrap their hardware? It is all very well to wring hands and point fingers, one must have a practical solution in place. To turn on the public and tell them to make instant changes is not a practical solution. They can not afford the outlay and good working equipment is being ditched when it has many years of use left in it. Replacements have to be made and supplied too. Is this being done? before we knock the public, the infrastructure has to change as well. That’s not happening very quickly.
If the argument is made that climate and pollution are so urgent that they can not wait for evolutionary change, then there has to be a national wartime effort in place, in which the government energises the manufacturers and concentrates on these industries at the expense of our general living standards and our little luxuries. There has to be a national industry that is solely devoted to house conversions and another that removes old cars and replaces them and provides transport for those in need. Another industry is needed to recycle all the equipment that is taken out of the houses and other buildings. Food has to be locally sourced and imported on line shopping discontinued.

You either change by evolution or you change by direct and immediate action there is no other way round. Protesters can clamour for change, but they then need to change places with the government and make it happen. Doing that would make them realise that shouting about it is the easy bit.

I’m for change by evolution, Vynor. Much that I would like to see the most polluting vehicles banned from the ULEZ, what would the owners of existing vehicles do? I don’t support the ‘pay to pollute’ charges but hopefully they will provide an incentive to replace these vehicles before long.

If the alternative to ULEZ charges is a ban on using, maybe even owning, a non-compliant vehicle if you live in the expanded ULEZ, that seems rather draconian and would be likely to attract strong opposition. What about those who live in the expanded ULEZ who might be visited by friends with a non-compliant car?

I’m not sure some “change by evolution” happens quickly enough. It hasn’t happened with climate change, pollution, clean energy, plastics, and other issues important to our future. These need proper plans putting in place and they need urging along; not just being allowed to happen at their own sweet pace.

I agree that pressure is needed to make progress and am disappointed that it has taken so long to address air pollution in our cities. Recall when UK industrial pollution, mainly electricity generation, was responsible for acid rain in other countries. This was one factor that resulted in desulphurisation of flue gases released by Drax and other large coal-fired power stations, resulting in a substantial decrease in sulphur dioxide emissions. The sulphur content of diesel, heating oil and petrol have also been reduced. Here is one of many articles about the way in which UK governments have failed to tackle air pollution in cities. It has been the EU rather than the UK that has been pushing for action in recent years.

Unfortunately we cannot rewrite history and action has been taken to introduce charges for driving non-compliant vehicles in the expanded London ULEZ. I would be interested to know what your alternative proposal would be, Malcolm. Should those who live in the ULEZ been warned that in a year or two they would no longer be able to use non-compliant vehicles? I don’t know the answer but support progressive change without unnecessary procrastination.

Yes, a decent warning of a ban on non-compliant vehicles should have been given, maybe with incentives, if we are serious about pollution in such a heavily populated area, where health is at significant risk. It is the responsibikty of individuals as well as public authorites to improve a particularly dangerous environment.

I doubt progressive change works adequately or quickly enough. But charging people to pollute in a ULEZ does not, somehow, seem appropriate.

The cost of repeated charging for residents would seem money better spent on a compliant vehicle.

Any government in the past ten years or more could have taken action that would have made the new ULEZ requirements much easier to introduce. Any action that removes personal choice is not popular and likely to result in vocal opposition. In the present circumstances I believe that ULEZ charging is a pragmatic solution and perhaps the charges will be raised to provide further encouragement to switch to cleaner cars.

I am no longer up-to-date on what is happening in London but it does seem to me that there is a natural limit to how many things the public authorities can change or introduce over a given period of years and to my mind they have done rather well in the capital with a mixture of carrots and sticks.

Hitting the population with heavy sticks started with Red Routes, then the congestion charge zone, followed by the low emission zone, and now an ultra-low emission zone. It is undoubtedly a shame that the proposed extensions to the congestion charge zone did not materialise for political reasons.

On the carrot side of the coin there have been extensions and enhancements of the Underground and Overground services [including, before the pandemic, the all-night Tube services] and the soon-to-arrive Crossrail. A great deal of bus and cycling priority measures have been implemented and there have been public transport fare freezes. There have also been controversial major highway improvements that have improved traffic flow and reduced the start-stop traffic tailbacks. A third runway at Heathrow airport has also been kicked into the long grass.

As ever, population levels are one of the intractable problems for which there is no short-term solution let alone a long-term aim. All the other ideas, worthy though they are in their own right, just seem like so much beating about the bush to make minor gains at the margins. Nevertheless, if that is all we have then we had better get on with it.

A figure of 4000 deaths due to air pollution is often quoted, but for everyone who dies, many more will suffer from ill health.

Many years ago London suffered from ‘pea souper’ fogs, due to the combined effect of soot and sulphur dioxide. This very obvious air pollution has been replaced by nitrogen dioxide, which cannot be seen but affects everyone, especially those with respiratory problems. The move to more efficient ‘lean burn’ engines for increased fuel economy has increased nitrogen dioxide emissions.

The introduction of the ULEZ, aided by congestion charging, has made a marked improvement in air quality but there is a long way to go. It’s not just London that has serious air quality problems and nitrogen dioxide from gas heating makes a significant contribution.

We do not know why some people are far less affected by air pollution than others, John.

Wavechange — I didn’t feel too bad when I lived in London for forty years, but having come back to Norfolk I certainly notice the difference when I visit any major metropolitan area now. I no longer wish to go to London even though it means missing meetings with friends.

Norwich has a traffic pollution problem but they are banning vehicles from certain city centre routes and introducing low emission and electric buses. The good thing is that where we live about half a mile from the centre and on high ground the air seems to clear quite quickly once the clouds lift.

Cities and towns are required to monitor air quality. Your nearest Defra air quality monitoring station is Norwich Lakenfields, John.

The nature of air pollution has changed over the years. It’s uncommon to see soot coming out of the tailpipes of diesel engined vehicles, but invisible small particulates (PM 2.5) are recognised as a greater health risk than soot. Modern efficient lean burn petrol engines can produce more nitrogen dioxide than the older ones. Ozone is another pollutant that receives less attention than nitrogen dioxide and particulates. In combination with other pollutants it may be responsible for the haze you mention.

As we get older we can become more affected by pollution. Young people often smoke without any obvious health problems but they may give up as they get older. Those who don’t are at risk of developing COPD. Unlike asthma, it’s not reversible.

That’s interesting. The monitoring station [just a metal container-like structure with various protuberances] is in a low density built-up area around half a mile to the south east of us as the crow flies.

With nitrogen oxides as nitrogen dioxide (NOXasNO2) measuring 825.244 µg/m3 that seems quite high to me but I am not competent to interpret the data. A monitoring station in the Fens recorded 10.519 µg/m3 for the same time.

I don’t think the figures are intended for use by the general public and they should certainly not be shown to five or six significant figures when one or two would be appropriate, considering that the nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants will vary throughout the day. As anyone who has looked at the general pollution figures for their local area will know there can be good days and bad days, and weather conditions are certainly an influence.

My local city has poor air quality, although not as bad as some, but I am not aware of plans to introduce a low emission zone. Even before Covid arrived I did not visit often and it has helped me that there are out of town shopping centres in cleaner areas, with ample free parking.

In a few years’ time, London will ban all petrol and diesel cars, allowing only fully-electric cars and possibly hydrogen-fuelled HGVs. Although this hasn’t been decided or announced yet, it is bound to happen, starting with a few specific streets, then central London, then the North and South Circulars, then all London boroughs. The sooner the better. I look forward to the day when cars make almost no noise and emit no fumes.

I presume that when all vehicles are non-polluting the low-emission zones can be revoked. Restraining congestion will probably remain sensible but for efficiency and safety reasons rather than as a pollution control measure, although improved highway design and parking management could probably achieve the same objectives without needing to charge drivers.

A scrappage scheme was introduced by TFL but when this article was published, little funds remained: https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/cars/article-10096057/TfLs-ULEZ-scrappage-scheme-run-dry-ahead-expansion-week.html

At £12.50 a day charge for a resident using a non-compliant car regularly it would pay to lease a new car or buy a decent used one. Not everyone in London needs to be given taxpayers’ cash to get a compliant car.

Decent green public transport in major towns and cities is a necessity to persuade people to use their fossil-fueled cars as little as possible.

g a brum says:
28 October 2021

this is a good idea… but is the pollution data in the clean air areas measured before and after and published on a public data base?? outside london ? i dont think it is.. if it is published where is it published and publicised? without this its just political dogma or a crusade.

Defra (The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) publishes information including forecasts for the next few days: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk I would like to see information that is more accessible to the public, but there seems little doubt that the air quality is improving thanks to emissions and congestion control. Councils work with Defra to tackle pollution on behalf of residents.

I’m not sure that information is much help to most people who live where they live and work where they work. Those who really need it probably know where to find it.

What would be helpful would be if achievable targets were set for towns and cities with penalties for not meeting them, money no longer having to go to the EU. What penalties though? Money would just come from local budgets and deprive other good causes. Perhaps reduce councillors’ reward?. Publish failures to arouse public pressure?

As I said we could do with information that was more accessible to the public. If an area has poor air quality this is frequently mentioned in local press reports but in general, densely populated areas are best avoided. It has been the EU that has been taking the lead on warning about illegal pollution levels, but now we are on our own to sort them out. London is taking a lead and other cities with pollution problems are following. I am not impressed by. what I have read but at least we are moving in the right direction.

Until these problems are addressed, we do have choice in where we live and work. I have friends who have moved from urban areas with a high population density to live near the coast, where the air quality is better.

I think many people do not, in practice, have much choice where they live and work so we must clean up major conurbations. Which? staff have to endure one of the most polluted areas in London and, I believe, if they travel on the underground, that is also very polluted.

I chose to live in the sticks; that is an expensive option, but well worth it. Many simply don’t have that choice.

We should restrict the polluting hgvs in towns and cities. I admit I haven’t looked to see how the ULEZ deals with them. Out of town terminals where goods could be transferred to electric vehicles for the final delivery would be good.

Grant says:
28 October 2021

Another unfair tax on the motorist. Which affects your the poorest motorists. I only found out about this outrageous liberty a week before it came into effect. How does paying £12 / 15 a day improve air quality. We need to get more reactive stop the stealth taxes

If globily want to save & get down Global warming ..sooner the fleece the driver of extra tax … IF One wanted to which doubt whether the government would do is ;WHETHER In stead of punishing drivers . Do a version of Electric Engine which could be exchanged for diesel& petrol enginesfor a fair cash exchange to fit all present day car’s electrical Motors / into those existing petrol & diesel Engines which the lowerest payed driver could afford .. .This would pay off to advantage of all concerned .. how does that sound as it would help a lot to reduce polution & help get Global warming down …

Could I have that in English please ?!

sheila wood says:
28 October 2021

Ultra-Low Emission Zones: what are your views? I do think something needs doing but these people that block the Motorway/roads how do they get to the M25 or A roads do they all have electric cars. Be sure I would love an electric car but my pension will not run to it so unless they are suppling all pensioners with a swap not going to happen. A case of not do as I do, do as I say ! They are putting many lives in danger, their own as well. Need to find another way.