The Ultra Low Emission Zone & Community Transport

Set up in April 2019, the Ultra Low Emission Zone is an area in London where people who drive vehicles that cause the most pollution are charged an extra fee. It was recently announced that the zone will be expanded to cover the whole of Greater London in 2023 – which means that Merton Community Transport’s minibuses are now going to be affected. So, what is the Ultra Low Emission Zone, or ULEZ, and why is it being implemented?

What does the ULEZ do?

The ULEZ was introduced to help clean up London’s air, and operates all day everyday, with the singular exception of Christmas. It requires drivers of vehicles that don’t meet emissions standards to pay a daily charge of £12.50 to drive within it. As well as including older and heavier minibuses, it also means that cars, motorcycles and vans that don’t meet these standards are subject to the fee. In the first four months following its introduction, it caused a 20% reduction in pollution within Central London and resulted in a drop in the number of the worst polluting vehicles, from 36,500 down to 23,000.

When was it introduced?

Although some sort of Low Emission Zone has been operating in London since February 2008, the current ULEZ wasn’t introduced in its current form until 11 years later, in 2019. It’s the successor to the T-Charge which was brought into effect in 2017, after the city was put on high pollution alert for the first time ever. The ULEZ was expanded in October 2021 to the area within the North and South Circular Roads, covering 3.8 million people. In March 2022, it was announced that it will be expanded once again in 2023, to cover the rest of Greater London including Merton and its surrounding boroughs.

How will it affect MCT?

While it will make driving older and heavier minibuses more expensive, the expansion of the ULEZ will not prevent MCT from offering convenient and affordable transport solutions. Depending on its implementation, however, it might affect the range of services we can offer.

Currently, not-for-profit community transport services like MCT can register for a temporary 100% discount of the ULEZ charge until 29 October 2023. However, we don’t yet know whether this will be extended for the newer areas outside the North and South Circular Roads when the ULEZ fee expands there. As it stands, day trips might become too expensive to run and upgrading enough of our fleet to meet standards may be difficult.

Of course, we’ll be happy to be surrounded by cleaner air and less pollutive vehicles nonetheless. We’ll do what we can to make sure ULEZ coming into effect will have a minimal impact on our services and it remains to be seen what the reality will be.