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London Mayor Green Lights World’s Largest Low Emission Zone

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, approved plans from Transport for London (TfL) for the implementation of a London-wide Low Emission Zone (LEZ) to cut emissions from the most polluting trucks, coaches and buses.

The LEZ sets a minimum threshold of Euro 3 compliance for medium- and heavy-duty diesels to enter London free of charge, with a phased-in implementation beginning in 2008. Non-compliant vehicles entering the LEZ would pay a daily fee of up to £200 (US$400). The threshold can be tightened to Euro 4 in 2012.

The emission standards for the LEZ are based on Euro standards for all four regulated pollutants, rather than for particulates (PM) only.

Should an operator of a non-compliant vehicle not pay the daily charge for driving within the LEZ, then following the service of a penalty charge notice (PCN), a penalty charge of £1,000 (US$1,994) will apply for trucks, buses and coaches and other relevant vehicles over 3.5 tonnes, reduced to £500 if paid within 14 days.

The LEZ will operate using cameras to identify registration numbers of vehicles driving within Greater London. Database searches will identify a vehicle’s emissions standards, whether it is liable for a charge and if that charge has been paid.

TfL estimates that two thirds of all trucks and half of all buses and coaches driving in London would be compliant with the 2008 LEZ standards without any changes to current fleet management programs. The LEZ is aimed at encouraging the remaining dirty vehicles to get cleaned up.

The scheme, which was one of the Mayor’s key manifesto commitments, is the first in the UK and the largest in the world. There are significant differences between this plan and London's Congestion Charging Zone. (Earlier post.)

  • It applies to all of Greater London, not just the Congestion Charging Zone.

  • It is in effect 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

  • It does not apply to cars, only to medium- and heavy-duty diesel-engined vehicles.

  • There will be very few exemptions or discounts, and no partial discounts.

  • Whereas the majority of qualifying vehicles which drive within the Congestion Charging Zone have to pay a charge, the majority of vehicles affected by the LEZ will not pay a charge because they will have demonstrably met the minimum emissions standards set by the order.

  • The purpose of imposing a charge is not primarily to reduce congestion and improve journey times for drivers and users of public transport as well as give rise to other benefits as with the Congestion Charging Zone; but rather to deter high-polluting vehicle use and provide an incentive to operators to upgrade their vehicles.

In order to deter the most polluting vehicles, it is necessary to set both the charges and the penalty charges considerably higher than in the case of the Congestion Charge. Thus the daily charge for a high polluting larger van or minibus will be £100 and for a high polluting HGV, bus or coach £200, a level of charge high enough to act as an incentive to adapt or renew the vehicles in question. At the same time, this charge is not so high as to impose an intolerable burden on those operators who need to make a very occasional visit to London and for whom the cost of adapting or renewing vehicles would otherwise be disproportionate.

The LEZ is not designed to counter climate change—I have announced other measures in that respect, as set out in my Climate Change Action Plan. With this order I am concerned with the problem of poor air quality for all those who live or work in and visit London, a problem which not merely makes ordinary living unpleasant, but can also make it dangerous. It is clear from the many studies that have been carried out that the LEZ will achieve important improvements in local air quality in London, and also bring worthwhile health benefits, reducing the risk of respiratory and cardiovascular problems. I do not pretend that the LEZ comes cheap; nor is it intended to raise revenue. I am, however, satisfied that the benefits should exceed the costs.

—Mayor of London Ken Livingstone

Beginning in February 2008, the LEZ charge will be applied to trucks over 12 tonnes. From July 2008 trucks, buses, coaches, motorcaravans, ambulances and hearses between 3.5 tonnes and 12 tonnes will also be charged. From 2010 the Low Emission Zone will include heavier diesel-engine light goods vehicles and minibuses. The lightest vans (under 1.205t unladen weight) will be excluded from this stage as they have car-like emissions.

Transport for London estimates that 350,000 LGVs and minibuses in this category come into London each year, but that more than three-quarters will already be compliant with the LEZ, leaving a minority of fleet owners who will need to put in place new plans to comply.

The Euro 3 standard became mandatory for all new trucks, buses and coaches sold in the EU from October 2001 and for all new vans and minibuses sold in the EU from January 2002. Transport for London would assume that a lorry, bus or coach is Euro 3 compliant if it was first registered on or after 1 October 2001, or 1 January 2002 for vans and minibuses.

Euro 4 became mandatory for all new trucks, buses and coaches sold in the EU from October 2006. Transport for London would assume that a lorry, bus or coach is Euro 3 compliant if it was first registered on or after 1 October 2006.

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

It is estimated that by 2012 the Low Emission Zone will deliver reductions of around 16% in the area of London where the air quality exceeds European Union pollution objectives, and will deliver more than £250 million (US$499 million) of health benefits.

(A hat-tip to John!)



John Baldwin

The article says that "London currently suffers the worst air pollution in the UK and some of the worst in Europe. Poor air quality worsens asthma and also causes the premature death of more than 1,000 people each year"

We all know that Delhi transformed its air qualitty within 3 years by converting all its public transport to natural gas, and in Los Angeles all buses will be CNG by 2010. It is a scandal that London air quality is so bad when clean CNG bus technology exists and can easily be introduced. Hopefully the London Olympics will feature CNG and not be the first diesel transport Olympics for 20 years!


Hmm, modern clean diesel buses would be just as effective as CNG buses, and would be less expensive to run. Numerous major cities in USA have already demonstrated this.

John Baldwin

No - diesel buses don't yet meet the low NOX number that will be required in the future.


NOx is easy. Just add urea.


Well if people were thinking straight this proposes a new business opportunity for tug trucks. If the trucks are high polutters and they need to enter the London restricted area, they could hire a 'clean' tug truck, preferably electric that would tug the transportation truck to its destination and then back out. It would cost less than the penalty, but would allow replacing the transportation truck further down the road. It would be like the tug boats bringing in the big barges at ports.


If you think London has the room for thousands of tug vehicles in traffic (let alone parking), I've got a bridge to sell back to you.


Considering how much it costs to get an ordinary car towed, I'm not entirely sure that there is enough margin here for a profitable tug operation.


What is most likely to happen is that companies around London will sell their older vehicles to companies in other areas of the UK, or elsewhere in the EU. The vehicles won't fetch as much as they would without this regulation in effect, but London is rich and companies will just pass the costs along.


The mayor of London is a lunatic who makes life of middle class citizens pretty miserable. I'm really happy that I don't live in London. If I did, I'd be already on the move. Environmental fascism is going to cost us a lot of money. When we finally wise up, we'll realize the opportunity cost that will have been wasted.



Health effects of air pollution are cumulative. It means that in low concentrations, comparable with natural background, our body can cope with air pollution without measurable negative effects. When concentration of pollutants rise, their negative impact on human health rise dramatically. That’s why reduction of air pollutants in big cities, where a lot of people live and where concentration of pollutants is high, should have priority.


Andrey - Are you really addressing me? If so, why? I don't oppose the regulation; I just stated how I think companies in the London area will respond, as opposed to some kooky tug scheme.


"Environmental fascism is going to cost us a lot of money."

The idea that pollution has no economic effect is ridiculous and long ago disproven. If a person takes off work due to asthsma caused by pollution, is that not an economic effect? If a child stays home instead of developing future work skills at school, is that not an economic effect? Heck, was the Great Smog of 52 a hoax? Anyway, fascism general defined as the fusion of state and corporate power under the rubric of virulent nationalism into a dictatorship, which is hardly anything like a duly elected representative enacting new regulations that should bring a net benefit to the population s/he represents. If you don't feel the regulations will bring a net benefit, cite some facts to support that position.



Just pointing out that simple redistribution of existed HD vehicles to have the cleanest ones for big cities, and the rest – elsewhere, is overall beneficial to public health. Ideally all vehicles should be as clean as possible, but it takes time and money. Meanwhile, mayor Livingston regulation is the right thing to do.


"Just pointing out that simple redistribution of existed HD vehicles to have the cleanest ones for big cities, and the rest – elsewhere, is overall beneficial to public health."

Thanks for re-stating what the article already told us.


In American, conservatives would refer to this as "nanny ism" or the idea that the government is acting like a nanny and telling the irresponsible children what they should do.

I call it good policy. If this is all possible and cost effective then you should do it. How much is human health worth? Even if you just want to bring in down to dollars and cents, health care costs $2 trillion dollars per year in the U.S. and these would be external costs that are not paid by the people creating the problem.


Peter he's not a lunatic at all and he hasn't made life a misery for the middle classes at all. In fact he's made life a hell of a lot better for most Londoners. I guess you might be thinking of his days as Red Ken but he's changed a lot since then. He is also one of the few politicians in the UK who actually speak their minds and get things done.

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