Some Surprising Facts About ULEZ London's clean air zone which has covered the congestion charge area since Monday 8th April 2019

On April 8th 2019, London Mayor, Sadiq Khan brrought in a new ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) to help improve the quality of the capital’s atmosphere. At the moment, it covers the same area as the London congestion charge.

Congestion charge hours will continue as they are now. That is they will remain in force from 7.00 am to 6.00 pm. However, this new clean air policy will be in place 24 hours a day.

Most vehicles including motorbikes, cars and small vans will need to use a ULEZ vehicle checker to make sure that they meet new, tighter exhaust emission standards. If they fail, they must pay a hefty daily charge if they want to travel within this new cleaner area.

Does this sound familiar? Well it should. Only a few years ago the Mayor similarly banned diesel vehicles over a certain age. I was obliged to buy a new van.

pic of a bird

Before ULEZ was introduced, even as the owner of a somewhat newer Renault Trafic van, I already had to pay for fuel, parking and a daily “Congestion Charge” of £11.50. On top of that, I was previously obliged to cough up for the London “Toxicity Charge” of £10.00. This T-Charge will be replaced by the new £12.50 ULEZ levy.

But wait there is more …

ULEZ runs 24 hours a day. It start at midnight on day one and runs until midnight on day two. If you are in town for an event which finishes late, there is every chance you will have to pay twice.

From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ expansion continues. The proposal is that it will include the outer London area bounded by the North and South Circular Roads. Check out the proposed ULEZ expansion map for details. When this is introduced I won’t even be able to park outside my own house!

As a long-term asthma sufferer, diesel van driver and a cash-strapped small businessman, who needs to regularly work in Central London, the introduction of the ULEZ has giving me an awful lot to think about.

Am I looking forward to being able to breathe cleaner atmosphere in London? Well, of course. But I am also very concerned about the financial cost to my own and other small businesses? Already, 2 years ahead of the enlarged boundary change, furious drivers have started a petition against it. This is the dilemma we all face.

So my first thought was “Compared to the rest of the world, just how bad is London’s atmosphere?” Google at the ready, I did some research …

Opinions vary as you would expect but according to a 2018 report, London is badly trailing behind many other major European capitals in its effort to create a clean, affordable and safe transport system.


Listen to this: The study of 13 cities found that London has the joint-third worst air quality, as well as the most expensive public transport costs and the highest number of cycling accidents.

Copenhagen came out top followed by Amsterdam, Oslo and Zurich.

We performed better than Rome and Moscow but worse than many other leading European cities such as Madrid, Paris and Berlin.

Guess what though!

The pollution levels for Europe are nowhere near as high as those of other world cities. In May 2018, in a report by the World Health Organisation, India’s capital, New Delhi was named the world’s most polluted city.

Greater Cairo was the second on their list. Dhaka was third and another of India’s mega cities, Mumbai ranked fourth. Beijing in China came fifth.

The report concluded that 9 out of 10 people around the globe are breathing badly polluted air and claimed that air pollution is responsible annually for the deaths of 7 million people worldwide. Most of these people live in Asia and Africa.

In previous pollution reports, China was frequently listed as the world’s worse culprit. However over the last few years, in response to much public demand, the Chinese have introduced anti-pollution measures across 28 cities.

China also recently announced it would scrap plans to build 85 new coal-fired plants. So, there has definitely been a significant move away from coal and towards renewable energy sources. It’s a shame that India has not followed China’s good example.

Improvements to Chinese fresh air quality have certainly been made. However this has not been achieved without cost. Many workers have lost their jobs and some Chinese families were banned from burning any fossil fuels even during the harsh winter months.

The current clamour for clean air in polluted cities like Beijing and Shanghai is enormous. To satisfy the demand, many Chinese are buying fresh air online. And they have turned in their thousands to a most unusual source ... the UK.

British companies like Coast Capture Air sell beautifully packaged glass bottles of pure fresh English air “farmed” from our remote coasts or mountains. They are then shipped over to China.

Captured in Great Britain for aale in China

Director, Sally Lands, started the company because she believes that breathing fresh air should be a universal right, not a privilege.

And you know what … It appears that many people in China agree with her. Some have even got a standing order to ship several jars of pure English air each and every month direct to their homes.

But listen to this … One Chinese couple specifically asked for their air to be captured not on a mountain top but from the middle of London’s Tower Bridge. It turns out that this was the exact spot where the groom had proposed to his bride-to-be.

I am sure that Sadiq, the Mayor would be most impressed, and perhaps also a little surprised!

Sally LandsComment