What Could the ULEZ Expansion Mean for Drivers?

ulez road sign

If you’ve read our MG Guide to ULEZ then you know it's the name for the new ultra-low emission zones that have appeared in London. 

Transport For London has recently announced an expansion of these ultra-low emission zones in 2023. Initially the scheme was focused on inner London areas that are often congested, however, it is now expanding into outer London in more residential areas. 

Although this is good news for the environment as it will mean more places will see less pollution, there are concerns on how it will affect local residents. This article will take a deep dive into the ULEZ expansion to analyse its advantages and disadvantages and what it could mean for you.

What areas are impacted by the ULEZ expansion?

ULEZ is expanding into outer London areas. This spans all the way from Croydon in the south, Barnet in the north, Dagenham in the East and Ealing in the west. Therefore, we are heading far into the suburbs and residential areas, away from inner city London where the scheme was first announced. This means that people who drive to work everyday, or take their kids to school, could be impacted by this change to their local area.

To see if your area is affected, type your postcode into TFL’s ULEZ expansion map.

Advantages of the ULEZ expansion:

  • Studies found that CO2 emissions from traffic were cut by 5% - Since its launch, ULEZ has proven to be effective in reducing pollution caused by built up traffic. The more areas it expands into, the more CO2 emissions can be reduced to help minimise the harm that fuel cars have on the environment.
  • Encourages drivers to buy low-emission cars - Research found that 92% of vehicles comply with the ULEZ expansion which suggests that if you put these laws into place then the majority of drivers will switch to a low-emission car to avoid the charge. Therefore, green initiatives like this may be the nudge people need to make a behaviour change, as they may not have bought a low-emission car otherwise.
  • ULEZ scrappage scheme makes the switch easier - In order for Londoners to become ULEZ compliant they may need to buy a new car. TFL’s scrappage scheme allows drivers to scrap their current vehicle in exchange for a grant that they can put towards buying a more eco-friendly one.
  • Improves air quality - Studies have found that the number of young people admitted to hospital for asthma related issues has increased 64% year on year. Therefore, London faces a big challenge of the quality of air causing health problems. The ULEZ expansion can help reduce the amount of harmful pollutants entering the atmosphere which could help to improve the air quality.

Disadvantages of the ULEZ expansion:

  • Lower-income individuals could be hit the hardest - Not everyone will be able to afford to buy a new vehicle, even with a grant, which may mean they can’t switch to a ULEZ compliant car. Therefore, they will have to pay the daily fine. If you live within a ULEZ zone then you may have to pay £12.50 a day, which some families will not be able to afford.
  • There is widespread opposition - A YouGov Poll found that 51% of adults opposed the ULEZ expansion, which suggests it is not a popular initiative. The more resistance there is, the less likely people are to comply, which means we may not see the same positive results of the first ULEZ scheme during this expansion.
  • It could increase congestion in areas outside the ULEZ zones - The whole aim of the scheme is to reduce the pollution caused by traffic jams, however some critics have argued that the ULEZ zones don’t solve this problem but displaces it. It may reduce pollution within the ULEZ zones because drivers are actively avoiding that area so they don’t have to pay a fine, and instead, are increasing traffic in wider areas.
  • Public transport is reduced in Greater London - Residents living in outer London do not have access to the same public transport as those inside London. Those living in zone 1, for example, may not have been that affected by ULEZ because they do not rely solely on their car - they can cycle, get the bus, train or tube. Alternatively, those within the areas that ULEZ is expanding into have fewer transport links so can’t give up their car as easily.


Conclusion : What does the ULEZ zone expansion mean for you?

If you live within the area of the ULEZ expansion then you will need to check that your car is ULEZ compliant or you will have to switch your car to avoid paying a daily fine. As a driver, this has a significant financial impact that not everyone will be able to afford. However, as a resident, it would help improve the air quality of your area which can not only improve your health and well-being, but helps the environment. 

Whether this ULEZ expansion will be successful or not, only time will tell. The important thing for drivers is to ensure you are prepared for its arrival so they don't get caught out!

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