Costs and Controversy Surrounding London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone Expansion
The expansion of London’s ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) is set to cost Transport for London (TfL) between £120-£130m by October, as revealed by London Mayor, Sadiq Khan. The cost covers the installation of a network of 750 cameras, of which 400 are located within the new zone and 350 on its new boundary. The cameras will detect drivers of non-compliant vehicles who have failed to pay the £12.50 daily levy, as about a fifth of vehicles in the enlarged zone currently breach its emissions rules. Each new camera site costs between £10,000 to £15,000, and this cost is expected to escalate if there is a need to add more cameras in the future.
The expansion of the ULEZ will have new boundaries that reach up to the North and South Circular roads, and the suburbs will be included from October 25th. Despite requests from the Green Party to extend the zone’s coverage to all of Greater London, the Mayor has confirmed that he has “no plans” to do so. Although TfL is delivering the infrastructure in the “most cost-effective way possible,” the total cost includes staff costs and “improved access to public transport.” The income from the ULEZ will be reinvested in TfL.
Disabled Londoners with a blue badge will not be exempted from paying the ULEZ, according to Mr. Khan’s written response to Tory members of the London Assembly. In addition, Mr. Khan’s previous suggestion that Londoners with non-compliant vehicles should simply buy newer models has sparked controversy.
A Tory member of the London Assembly, Emma Best, questioned the Mayor about the hidden cost for taxpayers, charities, and businesses, and suggested that many Londoners only make short journeys within the zone. Best also questioned whether the expansion would need even more cameras to catch all drivers. Furthermore, the investment in the ULEZ cameras raises questions about what will happen in the future when the majority of non-compliant vehicles are expected to be off the road by 2030 at the latest.
Despite the controversy, TfL’s director of city planning, Alex Williams, highlights that London’s toxic air is responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths, and expanding the ULEZ is essential. By including the new boundaries up to, but not including, the North and South Circular roads, NOx emissions from vehicles are expected to fall by around 30 percent across the capital. Large numbers of people are already making the green transition, with over 80 percent of cars in inner London now meeting the tough pollution standards.
In conclusion, while the expansion of London’s ULEZ will have a significant cost, TfL and the London Mayor aim to deliver the infrastructure in the most cost-effective way possible. The introduction of the 750-camera network to detect non-compliant vehicles is a critical part of the scheme’s effectiveness, but its costs and implications for short-journey Londoners and the future of the ULEZ cameras raise questions. Nonetheless, TfL’s director of city planning highlights the essential need for the ULEZ expansion in reducing NOx emissions, which are responsible for thousands of unnecessary deaths in London.