ULEZ is an acronym that has been in use for a while here in London. It stands for Ultra Low Emission Zone and dictates the cost of driving through various parts of the city. Currently it applies to vehicles in the Congestion Charge zone, which covers the West End, the City of London and a smaller area south of the river. As we have learnt only recently, cars that are not ULEZ-compliant incur a £12.50 charge every time they drive into that zone, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Congestion Charge itself (typically £15 per day) “only” applies between 7am and 10pm, every day except for 25 December.
Later this month the ULEZ will expand to incorporate the area bounded by the North and South Circular Roads (the A406 and A205 respectively). It will affect far more Londoners than it has to date. Anyone with a diesel car registered before 2015 will be liable for the daily charge if they keep their car in, or drive into, the newly expanded zone. We live within the zone but fortunately our 13-year-old petrol car is ULEZ-compliant.
During its 13-week summer holiday in a local Peugeot garage (as reported here) we speculated frequently about our car’s future. What would we do if the repair bills were too great, or if it couldn’t be fixed at all? What if it was liable for the new ULEZ charge? Would we get rid of it? What would we replace it with? It took me several weeks to visit the TfL website to confirm that we would be exempt, if and when we got our car back, so all of that chat about ULEZ compliance really was idle speculation.
I have also run a check on other number plates to check if friends, family or neighbours will suddenly be faced with an extra £4,000-a-year charge just to keep their car on the road. That G-Reg sports car down the road will soon be much more expensive to keep, but the car I traded in back in 2008 (an 05-registered Peugeot, now 16 years old) will be exempt.
I know of at least three people who live within the zone and still have cars that will incur the new charge later this month. They have yet to do anything about it and are running out of time to trade in their old motor, or move it out of the zone. I would be the same in their position. There will no doubt be a glut of non-compliant vehicles coming onto the market sometime soon. Maybe it’s already happened, with pre-2015 diesel cars being snapped up at a discount far from London.
I don’t expect that the expansion of the ULEZ will make much difference to the quality of the air that we breathe here in West London. If I’m wrong, and we find that it develops an Alpine purity unknown in these parts for hundreds of years, I’ll tell you about it.