Mayor Gives Go-ahead to Low Emission Zone

Causing local businesses to see red over his latest green initiative

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From Monday 14 May 2007, vehicle operators and members of the public will be able to contact Transport for London for detailed information about the Low Emission Zone by calling 0845 607 0009 or by visiting Transport for London’s website at

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The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has approved plans from Transport for London for the implementation of a London-wide Low Emission Zone, to cut harmful emissions from the most polluting lorries, coaches and buses. The scheme, which will be the largest in the world, will launch in February 2008, improving air quality across the capital.

London currently suffers the worst air pollution in the UK and some of the poorest in Europe. Poor air quality worsens asthma and also causes the premature death of over 1,000 people each year. The most recent survey of Londoners, carried out by Ipsos Mori, found that 72 per cent of Londoners are worried about pollution from traffic exhaust fumes.

However, London First, the influential business organisation representing London’s 300 leading companies, slated the proposal, branding it an inefficient way to improve the capital’s air quality.

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said, “We support the Mayor’s stated aim to tackle London’s pollution and improve the environment, but the Low Emission Zone is a tax disguised as an environmental measure. It’s all stick and no carrot. And it’s a blunt device, which doesn’t take account of vehicles’ actual contribution to congestion, airborne pollutants or climate change - just their official vehicle licensing status. The answer is to incentivise the best at the same time as cracking down on the worst.”

London First has proposed that, to be genuinely effective, the Low Emission Zone scheme should tackle polluting cars, taxis and vans as well as the large trucks and coaches already included in the scheme. The scheme should also focus on where the problem is most acute - the existing central London congestion charging zone - where the enforcement technology is already in place and administrative costs can be reduced.

The aim of the proposed Low Emission Zone is to discourage older, more polluting vehicles from driving within the London area in order to reduce harmful emissions from road transport and improve air quality. Diesel-engine heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), buses, coaches, heavier vans and minibuses would have to comply with emissions standards in order to drive within Greater London without charge.

In order to maximise the health and air quality benefits, it is intended that the Low Emission Zone would operate 24 hours a day, 365 days per year, and cover the Greater London area.

The proposed boundary – the M25 - has been designed to allow vehicles to divert away from the zone if they wish. TfL are currently considering an option to include the motorways (excluding the M25) and trunk roads in London (i.e. the M1, M4, M11 and A3113) in the Zone. The Department for Transport is responsible for these roads and their inclusion would require the approval of the Secretary of State for Transport.

Mayor Ken Livingstone said, “In a modern world city, people should have the opportunity to live and work without fear of being poisoned by the air they breathe. Thousands of Londoners suffer ill-health from pollution released by traffic fumes. This is why we are launching the London-wide Low Emission Zone. It will improve Londoners' quality of life, and help make London cleaner and greener for residents and visitors alike.

The latest government figures show that roadside air pollution in London has been on the rise for the last two years.

Dr Noemi Eiser, Honorary Medical Director for the British Lung Foundation, said: “The British Lung Foundation welcomes the introduction of a London-wide Low Emission Zone. Any initiative which reduces harmful emissions for Londoners is a positive step forward, particularly for the most vulnerable such as the elderly and very young.”

From February 2008 the Low Emission Zone will apply to lorries over 12 tonnes. From July 2008 the Low Emission Zone will also apply to lighter lorries, buses and coaches, and the dirtiest of other heavy vehicles.

Operators of affected lorries, buses and coaches that do not meet the Low Emission Zone standards (unless exempt or entitled to a 100% discount) will need to pay a charge of £200 for each charging day they are driven in the zone. The level of charge has been set in order to encourage operators to clean up their fleets rather than to incur a charge. The Mayor hopes that very few non-compliant vehicles will be driven in the zone.

May 10, 2007