London leads the fight against air pollution with Ultra Low Emission Zone

By Elly Henkes |


Transport for London estimates that over 60,000 vehicles will be affected daily | Pixabay

In a world first, London has brought its Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) into effect today. The ULEZ aims to make the air safer for everyone by requiring vehicles travelling in the zone to meet tough new emissions standards or be charged.

The scheme will see nitrogen oxide emissions reduced by 45% over the next two years and is one of the most radical anti-pollution policies in the world. London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has called the city’s poor air quality a public health emergency.

Transport for London (TfL) estimates that over 60,000 vehicles will be affected daily and that the move will reduce the number of cars polluting the capital. Most older vehicles will be made to pay a daily charge of £12.50 in order to travel in the ULEZ, while heavier ones will pay £100.

Sadiq Khan says “the air in London is a killer” and is responsible for thousands of premature deaths. He believes that it causes children to have underdeveloped lungs, and that people suffering with asthma are particularly affected. Approximately 50% of air pollution comes from road transport.

… Levels of nitrogen dioxide in Truro were recorded at more than twice the EU air quality standard limit

Whilst these concerns about pollution in London seem very far away from life in Cornwall, air pollution in coastal cities and towns must be acknowledged, and may be affecting us more than we realise.

The Clean Air for Cornwall Strategy outlines the fact that certain hotspots suffer from poor air quality due to road traffic. Seven ‘Air Quality Management Areas’ have been set up to try and alleviate the pollution in problem towns and areas which fail to meet national air quality objectives.

These include Truro, St Austell and the whole area containing Pool, Redruth and Camborne. In recent years, levels of nitrogen dioxide in Truro were recorded at more than twice the EU air quality standard limit.

It was reported last year that patients at a Health Centre in St Austell were breathing toxic air, and it is clear that Cornwall must also strive to make changes and deal with the dangers of air pollution. The pressure is not only on London to reduce toxic emissions, but the city is leading the charge.

Sadiq Khan is serious about approaching the issue and hopes to improve air quality for millions of Londoners by making public transport more affordable. All TfL fares have been frozen until 2020, in order to “encourage more people out of their cars and onto cleaner public transport”.

Efforts to improve London transport include it’s ‘cleaner, greener buses’ fleet, with over 150 electric buses currently, and from 2020 all new single deck buses entering the fleet will be zero emission, a mix of hydrogen and electric. London has the largest fleet of electric buses in Europe and multiple electric-only bus routes.

Earlier this year at the #LoveCleanAir summit, Khan teamed up with Unicef to demand £1.5 billion of extra funding to help the UK make a move towards using electric vehicles. Money is also being invested in making charging points more accessible. TfL is committed to a target of at least 300 rapid charge points by 2020.

Khan has said that implementing the zone is a part of social justice

According to a press release on the Mayor of London’s gov.uk website, the ULEZ is already having an impact, with a 55% increase in vehicles driving through the zone meeting the new emission standards. Khan has said that implementing the zone is a part of social justice, and declared “this is a landmark day for our city”.

Currently the ULEZ overlaps with the congestion charge zone, however unlike the congestion zone, the new zone will operate 24/7. In 2021 it is set to be expanded to cover the entire area between the North and South Circular roads. TfL’s website has more information on charges and vehicle emission standards.

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