London low emission zone

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Low emission zone
Location Greater London
Launched 2008
Operator IBM (from 2009)
Manager Transport for London
Currency GBP
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Website Official page
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The London Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is a traffic pollution charge scheme with the aim of reducing the tailpipe emissions of diesel-powered commercial vehicles in London. Only vehicles that do not conform to higher emission standards are charged, the others may enter the controlled zone free of charge. The low emission zone started operating on 4 February 2008 with phased introduction of an increasingly stricter regime until 3 January 2012. The scheme is administered by the Transport for London executive agency within the Greater London Authority.

The current scheme

The zone covers most of Greater London (with minor deviations to allow diversionary routes and facilities to turn around without entering the zone and the M25 motorway). The boundary of the zone, which operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is marked by signs.[1] The LEZ emissions standards are based on European emission standards relating to particulate matter (PM), which are emitted by vehicles, which have an effect on health. The following vehicles are not charged:[2]

Non-GB registered vehicles that meet the required LEZ standards will need to register with TfL; most compliant GB registered vehicles do not.[3] Owners of vehicles that do not meet the above requirements have a number of options:[4]

  • Fit a filter
  • Replace the vehicle
  • Reorganise their fleet to only use compliant vehicles in London
  • Convert to natural gas
  • Pay the charge (from £100 to £200 for each calendar day that the vehicle travels within the zone)[5]

The zone is monitored using Automatic Number Plate Reading Cameras (ANPR) to record number plates.[6] Vehicles entering or moving around the zone are checked against the records of the DVLA to enable TfL to pursue owners of vehicles for which the charge has not been paid.[7] For vehicles registered outside of Great Britain, an international debt recovery agency is used to obtain unpaid charges and fines.[6] The scheme is operated on a day-to-day basis by IBM.[8]



Since 1993 the London Air Quality Network of King's College London has coordinated the monitoring of air pollution across 30 London boroughs and Heathrow, and has noted that in 2005–06 almost all road and curbside monitoring sites across greater London exceeded the annual average limits for nitrogen dioxide of 40 μgm-3 (21 ppb), with eleven sites exceeding the hourly limits of 200 μgm-3 (105 ppb) on at least 18 occasions each.[9]

In 2000 one measuring site exceeded EU limits for air pollution, pollution rose for two years prior to 2007.[7][10][11] The Green Party report that nine sites in London exceed the EU limits for air pollution in 2007 (up was one in 2002).[12] The A23 at Brixton suffered the most consistently high levels for more than two-fifths of the period. Carbon monoxide levels had however reduced rapidly during the late 1990s and been relatively stable since 2002.

In 2007 Transport for London (TfL) estimated that there were 1,000 premature deaths and a further 1,000 hospital admissions annually due to poor air quality from all causes.[13]


Towards the end of 2006, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, proposed changing the congestion charge fee, from being a flat rate for all qualifying vehicles, to being based on Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) bands.[14]

VED bands for new vehicles are based on the results of a laboratory test, designed to calculate the theoretical potential emissions of the vehicle in grammes of CO2 per kilometre travelled, under ideal conditions. The lowest band, Band A, is for vehicles with a calculated CO2 value of up to 100 g/km, the highest band, Band G, is for vehicles with a CO2 value of greater than 225 g/km. These results were to be used to determine which band each vehicle falls into.[15] The resulting figures were described by the editor-in-chief of What Car? magazine as s "deeply flawed".

Under the proposed modifications to the scheme, vehicles falling into Band A would have a reduced, or even zero charge, whilst those in Band G would be charged at £25 per day. Certain categories of vehicle, such as electric vehicles, are already exempt from the charge.[16][17] These proposals were put out to public consultation in August 2007.[18]

In early 2006, consultations began on another charging scheme for motor vehicles entering London. Under this new scheme, a daily charge would be applied to the vehicles responsible for most of London's road traffic emissions, commercial vehicles—such as lorries, buses, and coaches, with diesel engines. Cars were explicitly excluded. The objective of the new scheme is to help London meet its European Union (EU) air pollution obligations—specifically the EU Air Quality Framework Directive—as part of the Mayor's programme to make London the greenest city in the world. Despite some opposition, on 9 May 2007 the Mayor confirmed that he would proceed with a London Low Emission Zone, focused entirely on vehicle emissions, that plans to reduce emissions overall by 16% by 2012.[7]


Signage at entrance to low emission zone
Outline of Greater London. The LEZ covers most of this area

The LEZ came into operation on 4 February 2008 with a phased introduction of further provisions as increasingly tough emissions standards apply.[19] Vehicles registered after October 2001 were generally be compliant with the first stages of the zone when Euro 3 engine compliance was the mandatory requirement.

The regulations were tightened in July 2008 with more vehicles types included.

On 2 February 2009 the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, announced his intention to cancel the third phase of the LEZ covering vans from 2010, subject to the outcome of a public consultation later in the year.[20] The Freight Transport Association welcomed this move in its 3 February press release.[21] The scheme was fully implemented on 3 January 2012.

For London Buses, since January 2012 a new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) was adopted, with those older buses selectively phasing out (those with no electronic destination displays and older than 12 years old) and the remaining buses were converted to Euro 3 or 4 standards. The remaining buses began to be upgraded to LECIP EDS. The new Low Emission Zone (LEZ) rules will be carried out from 2015, thus allowing all the Euro II vehicles and Euro III without catalytic standards to be removed.

Applicable vehicles over the implementation phase:[19]

Vehicle Feb 2008 Jul 2008 Jan 2012
Lorries (over 12 tonnes) Euro 3 Euro 4
Lorries (3.5–12 tonnes), buses and coaches n/a Euro 3 Euro 4
Minibuses and vans (1.205-tonnes) Euro 3
Motor caravans and ambulances (2.5–3.5 tonnes)[19] Euro 3


The scheme was opposed during the consultation phase by a range of stake holders: The Freight Transport Association proposed an alternative scheme, reliant on a replacement cycle of vehicles, with lorries over 8 years old being liable, with higher years for other vehicles. They also stated that the standards were different from the forthcoming Euro 5 requirements as well suggesting the scheme did not do anything to help reduce CO2 emissions.[22] The Road Haulage Association opposed the scheme, stating the costs to hauliers and benefits to the environment did not justify its introduction.[7] Schools and St. John Ambulance have expressed concern about the additional costs that the scheme will bring them, particularly in light of the restricted budgets they operate under.[13] London First, a business organisation, criticised aspects of the scheme with relation to the categorisation of vehicles, but supported the principle.[7] The scheme has been supported by the British Lung Foundation and the British Heart Foundation.

Ultra low emissions zone

Plans for an Ultra low emissions zone, to be implemented in 2020, are under consideration. Diesel vehicles are to be targeted because they produce relatively high levels of particulates.[23]

See also


  1. "The Low Emission Zone. Cleaner air for Greater London" (PDF). Transport for London. pp. Pages 10–12. Retrieved 2007-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "Which vehicles are affected?". Transport for London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Do I need to register". Transport for London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "What are my options". Transport for London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. "pay the charge". Transport for London.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Enforcement". Transport for London. Retrieved 2007-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 "£200 pollution charge for lorries". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-11-22.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Capita to lose congestion charge". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2007-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Fuller & Green (2006-07-28). "Air Quality In London 2005 and mid 2006 – Briefing" (PDF). London Air Quality Network. Retrieved 2008-01-08.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. Tibbetts, Graham (2008-02-02). "Spy camera identifies polluting drivers". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph News and Media. Retrieved 2007-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Dodson, Sean (2006-07-20). "The lighter route to cleaner air". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2008-02-02.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "City roads breach pollution limit". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-09-25. Retrieved 2007-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. 13.0 13.1 Millward, David (2007-11-05). "School minibuses to be hit by pollution charge". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph News and Media. Retrieved 2007-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. McLaren, Elsa; Agencies (2006-11-14). "Gas-guzzlers face £25 congestion charge". The Times. UK: News Corporation Ltd. Retrieved 2008-01-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. English, Andrew (2007-10-06). "Fuel's gold – the cost of carbon emissions". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph News and Media Ltd. Retrieved 2008-01-20.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Simon Jeffery and Sarah Phillips (2006-08-07). "Q&A: The congestion charge". The Guardian. Guardian News and Media. Retrieved 2007-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  17. Webster, Ben (2006-07-13). "Congestion charge will rise to £25 for 'Chelsea tractors'". The Times. News Corporation Ltd. Retrieved 2007-05-26.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  18. "Polluting cars C-charge discussed". BBC News. British Broadcasting Corporation. 2007-08-10. Retrieved 2007-11-25.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 "Emissions standards". Transport for London. Retrieved 2007-11-21.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Reprieve for small businesses as Mayor suspends phase three of Low Emission Zone".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. "Low Emission Zone U-turn: victory for logistics and small business".<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. "LEZ consultation". Freight Transport Association.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. Fiona Harvey. "Diesel drivers may face higher costs in pollution battle | Environment". Retrieved 2014-07-29.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links