Low Emission Zone

The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is a charging system for traffic pollution in London which aims to reduce tailpipe emissions of diesel powered commercial vehicles in London. The Low Emission Zone started on 4th February 2008 and the introduction was phased in with stricter regulations until the 3rd January 2012 and only vehicles that do not conform to higher emission standards are charged, the scheme is administered by Transport for London (TfL).

The London Low Emission Zone covers most of Greater London although at the Greater London boundaries a diversionary route or facilities to turn around are given outside of the zone, for example a road entering Greater London will not be part of the zone up until the next roundabout where all exits lead into the zone apart from the one which leads back out of the zone. The zone is in operation 24 hours a day and is marked by signs, the emission standards for the zone are based on European emission standards relating to particulate matter (PM) emitted by vehicles.

The following vehicles are not charged:
  • Cars and motorcycles
  • Larger vans and minibuses that meet the Euro 3
  • Lorries, buses and coaches that meet Euro 4
Non-GB registered vehicles that comply with the required LEZ standards are required to register with TfL to have their vehicle enter the zone, most compliant GB registered vehicles do not have to register to enter the zone.

Owners of vehicles that do meet the LEZ requirements are required to either make their vehicles suitable by fitting a filter etc., reorganise their fleet so that only compliant vehicles are used in London, convert their vehicles to use natural gas or pay the charge.

The charge to enter a non-compliant vehicle into the zone is from £100 – £200 for a 24 hour period depending on the vehicle type, the zone is monitored by Automatic Number Plate Recognition Cameras (ANPR) which record number plates. Vehicles moving around the zone are checked against DVLA records which allow TfL to pursue owners of vehicles that have been in the zone with a non-compliant vehicle but have not paid the charge, an international debt recovery agency is used to obtain unpaid charges and fines from owners of vehicles registered outside of Great Britain. The scheme is operated by IBM.

Air pollution in 30 London Boroughs and Heathrow has been monitored by King’s College London since 1993 and in 2005/06 had noted that almost all sites exceeded the annual average limits for nitrogen dioxide with eleven of the sites exceeding the hour limits on at least 18 occasions each. In 200 one site exceeded EU limits for air pollution and pollution rose for two years prior to 2007, the Green Party reported nine sites in London exceeded EU limits for air pollution in 2007. Also in 2007 TfL estimated that there were 1000 premature deaths and 1000 hospital admissions due to poor air quality in London.

Towards the end of 2006 the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone proposed changing the congestion charge free from a flat rate to being based on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands which are based on laboratory tests which calculate the potential emissions of a vehicle in grams of CO2 per kilometer travelled.

In early 2006 consultations began on another charging scheme for vehicles entering London of which a daily charge would be applied to vehicles responsible for the most traffic emissions such as commercial vehicles, lorries, buses and coaches, cars will be excluded. The objective was to help make London meet it’s EU air pollution obligations in the EU Air Quality Framework Directive and despite opposition on 9th May 2007 the Mayor confirmed that the London Low Emission Zone would go ahead as part of the programme to make London the greenest city in the world and plans to reduce emissions by 16% by 2012.

There are currently plans to make Central London an ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ which would be operational during working hours meaning that only the “greenest” of cars can enter the city during working hours. These plans were first announced by Mayor of London Boris Johnson and currently no decision has been made on whether it will go ahead.