Map of ULEZ expansion area


6 mins

ULEZ expansion... are you ready?

December 11, 2023

On 25th October 2021, London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) expands to become 18x larger. The new 140sq mile zone grows outwards from central London, to cover everything within the North & South circular roads. According to TfL this will mean 565,000 cars in London will be liable for the daily £12.50 charge. [1] To put that in perspective, if each of the 565,000 cars drove within the expanded zone every day of the year, TfL would generate a staggering £2.5 billion in revenue. In other words, more than the entirety of their current income combined. [2]

With the expansion representing the largest change to London’s road network since the introduction of the Congestion Charge in 2003, we decided to take to the streets to hear from people who will be most affected and try and get a better understanding of the sentiment towards the expansion. What quickly became apparent was, despite a large advertising campaign by TfL, there is still a lot of confusion, unawareness and in some cases anger towards the change.

Heading East to the new ULEZ boundary

We first headed to an out-of-town shopping centre in East London, located a couple of miles within the expanded zone. With a full car park, it didn’t take us long to find motorists driving vehicles that will be affected.
We spoke to Florida (pictured below) about how the ULEZ expansion and £12.50 charge would be affecting her.

“I won’t be coming here anymore, I can’t change my car now, because it’s a lot of money.”

We also asked her if she knows how to pay the new charge: “no, I know absolutely nothing…” After explaining it can be paid with two taps on Caura, Florida appreciates the functionality but still concludes the financial burden of the charge:“it’s just putting people down.”

Florida is certainly not alone in having this opinion, TfL already makes £392.8m annually from the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, accounting for 16.4% of TfL’s total income in 2021. With the ULEZ zone increasing to include many less affluent areas, some people are viewing it as a tax on people who cannot afford to change to a newer vehicle.

image of a woman in a car park

What's the deal with diesels?

A van driver we spoke to who didn’t want to be on camera said he bought his diesel vehicle when “the government told us to buy diesels,” and he wants to hang onto his as “it’s better for my longer journeys, now I have to change and I can’t afford an electric car, It’s money-grabbing.”
Indeed in the early 2000s Gordon Brown as Chancellor introduced a new way of determining a vehicle’s excise duty (car tax). The amount a vehicle owed was determined by the CO2 output. A metric that favours diesel vehicles, but doesn’t take into account the other pollutants harmful to health that diesel vehicles emit more off such as nitrogen oxides and particulates. The result was an increase from 3 to 9 million diesels on the road. Millions of which are now liable to charges such as ULEZ. [3]

Something has to change...

The health benefits of the ULEZ expansion and the desperate need for cleaner air in London cannot be ignored and the evidence is clear. The current ULEZ has reduced NO2 levels by 44% within its boundaries already. In Birmingham the effect since the introduction of their own Clean Air Zone in June has been similar. NO2 levels have fallen within the zone  by 20%, see our blog on Birmingham's CAZ here for more. Whilst the current ULEZ has made a difference, London remains the worst affected city in the UK, with concentrations of NO2 exceeding the limit by up to 95% in its most polluted areas. Research shows the expansion could prevent up to 614 deaths per year and London could see an additional £48m yearly benefit from the planned extension. [4]

It’s not just lives that will be saved, a study published in the British Medical Journal found that living in areas of London with the highest levels of NO2 pollution was associated with a 40% higher risk of dementia than living in one of the least polluted parts of the city, a shockingly high disparity. [5]

The great ULEZ divide

Throughout our research into ULEZ one unsurprisingly prevalent theme has developed. Those with vehicles affected consider the financial impact first, and those who either don’t drive or have compliant vehicles largely praise the expansion’s health benefits. We asked the simple question on the London subreddit, ‘How’s the ULEZ expansion going to affect you?’ The majority of responses spoke directly to the cleaner air element of ULEZ and praised it.

image of comments on Reddit

For some people like Terry, it has accelerated the inevitable.

“Me personally I’ll have to buy a new car, it’s coming to the end of its life, but would have probably got another 2 years out of it, so for me personally it’s not worked out very well”

Asked if he knew how he’d go about paying the ULEZ charge he wasn’t sure but when informed of Caura’s features: “Yes that would be very useful.”

image of man in a car park

Whilst not aware of the finer details Terry was aware of the ULEZ expansion in general. However many more motorists we spoke to had no idea the expansion was happening so soon. If there's one thing we have learnt from Birmingham's CAZ launch in June it's that fines for motorists forgetting to pay for ULEZ will go through the roof. In July alone Birmingham council issued 113,000 penalty charge notices to motorists forgetting to pay. With such a larger density of population and far larger zone, the number of fines could easily eclipse this.

How Caura's making things easier...

The laborious process to pay for the ULEZ charge using Transport for London's (TfL)  site is undoubtedly responsible for generating fines in its own right. It's a fiddly process, best tackled on a computer which often means waiting until back home at the end of a day and remembering to pay the charge. It's a 15+ step process that involves manually entering your numberplate, card details and email address. We built Caura to rebalance this process in the favour of motorists. By allowing effortless ULEZ payments in just two-taps you can easily make the payment whilst on the go during your day, meaning you're less likely to forget. Find out more about the London ULEZ charge here or download Caura and get set up in seconds.

Infographic showcasing the number of clicks to pay the ULEZ charge: with Caura requiring just 2 clicks and TfL requiring 15 clicks




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