London has an ambition to be the world's greenest global city. The Mayor's strategy (1) covers cleaning up the "toxic air", greening the streets, reducing waste, tackling climate change, a zero carbon city by 2050 and gaining extra legal powers to deliver the vision. Obviously much of this is traffic and transport related. I expect most Australian cities to set similar ambitions within the next decade and hence generate considerable employment for AITPM members.
The world's first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced to central London on 8 April 2019. It operates 24 hours a day and will be expanded in stages to broader London in October 2020 and October 2021. Vehicles with low air emissions are exempt from ULEZ charges. Vehicles with higher emissions are still permitted to enter but are charged 12.50 pounds ($22.88) per day for small vehicles and up to 100 pounds ($183) per day for heavy vehicles (>3.5t) and buses (>5t). Fines for non payment are 160 pounds ($293) for cars and 1,000 pounds ($1,830) for heavy vehicles. Vehicles' emissions ratings are determined by the Euro Standard achieved by each vehicle model, regardless of age and condition. ULEZ Exemptions are set at Euro 4 for petrol cars and vans, Euro 6 for light diesel vehicles and Euro VI for heavy vehicles. In general this translates to petrol cars first registered after 2005, light diesels after 2015 and heavy vehicles after 2014. There are temporary substantial concessions for residents living within the zone, allowing them several more years for vehicle updating.
The system uses fixed cameras and registration plate recognition to assess each vehicle. The hardware was pre-existing as it was already in use for the London Congestion Charging Scheme. This system was introduced in 2003 and charges vehicles 11.50 pounds ($21.05) per day to be in the zone from 7am to 6pm, Monday to Friday. It is regarded as a success (2) since traffic dropped 27% from 2002 levels and has remained stable to the present day.
Yet another scheme has been in operation 24/7 in Greater London since 2008 - the Low Emission Zone (LEZ). Its aim was to reduce toxic diesel exhaust gases but is now based on each vehicles' European emission standards relating to particulate matter. All cars plus heavy vehicles rated Euro 4 are charge exempt. Daily charges are 100 pounds ($183) for light vehicles and 200 pounds ($366) for heavy vehicles.
Payments must now be made to each of the schemes.
T-Charge was a further penalty scheme on vehicles that polluted in Central London. Introduced in 2017 the "T" stands for Toxicity as in exhaust gases and applied 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday. The fee was 10 pounds ($18.30) per day on top of the Congestion Charge. The ULEZ is replacing T-Charge.
It's early days for ULEZ operation but the number of high emission vehicles (ie ULEZ chargeable) is substantially down. A report (3) on the first month of operation found 74% of vehicles were below the emissions thresholds and hence free of charge. This is huge compared to the figures for February 2017 (39%) and March 2019 (61%). It was an intention of the scheme to encourage vehicle owners to upgrade to lower pollution vehicles in the years leading up to implementation. Clearly this has worked. The number of older more polluting vehicles was down by 9,400 or more than a quarter on typical days compared to the previous month. From February 2017 to April 2019 there was an 80% increase in the portion of compliant vehicles. London has modernised its bus fleet to reduce emissions and is planning to use electric propulsion (in hybrid engine buses) for areas with air quality problems.
The ULEZ was pitched as a health and environmental project rather than as a road pricing scheme. The charge exemption for low polluting vehicles also confirmed this to the public. Consultation in the planning stages showed 60% of public respondents strongly supported ULEZ.
The Mayor of London claims there are 9,400 premature deaths annually in London linked to air pollution. Medical research shows that the young are particularly susceptible to air pollution with a key impact being asthma. For old adults the problems are exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and coronary heart disease. Whole life exposure may be partially responsible for the development of such conditions in later life too. Some 1.9 million people in London in 2013 were exposed to NO2 concentrations above the EU air quality limits while half a million aged under 19 live in areas that breach the limits. A 2017 report (4) found that 443 of London's 1777 primary schools have unsafe and illegal air pollution levels. The EU Air Quality Directive lists the acceptable limits as 40ug/m3 annual mean for each of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM10 and PM25. There are also 24 hour mean limits. Extremely high air pollution days such as in January 2017 and April 2011 caused serious public concern and calls for action.
While the ULEZ can be regarded as an extreme control measure, it is generally supported by the population and seen as necessary in view of the air pollution health issues. It also shows an administration actively redressing a difficult and complex environmental issue. Looking at it from another perspective the air pollution health impacts may be higher than Greater London's road crashes which have a fatality rate of about 120 per annum.