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London mayor Sadiq Khan said his controversial decision to expand the city’s clean air zone “is working” after figures showed that the number of polluting vehicles driving in outer London has fallen.
Transport for London on Tuesday said that 95 per cent of vehicles driving in outer London complied with pollution standards at the end of September, one month on from the expansion of the ultra-low emission zone (Ulez).
The compliance rate has risen from 91 per cent in outer London in June, and 85 per cent from when the scheme was first consulted on in May 2022, equating to an average of 49,000 fewer non-compliant vehicles per day.
The Ulez was expanded to cover all of Greater London on August 29, a move that prompted a fierce backlash from some drivers and politicians.
Motorists driving vehicles that do not meet the emissions standards have to pay a £12.50 daily charge to enter the zone. The fee applies generally to petrol engine vehicles built before 2006 and diesels built before 2016.
“I’ve always said that the decision to expand the Ulez was very difficult, but . . . we can already see that it is working,” Khan said. “This will make a huge difference to the lives and health of Londoners”.
The pockets of public anger against the Ulez expansion, which has seen some cameras ripped down by angry residents, have had wider political implications.
The response informed Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s decision to delay green measures such as the phaseout of new diesel and petrol vehicles and the ending of the installation of new gas-fired household boilers.
Labour’s Khan has hoped that any backlash against the Ulez extension will have abated by the time of the next London mayoral election in May.
But the Conservatives are set to campaign heavily against the policy, which is widely believed to have prevented Labour from seizing the seat of Uxbridge from the Tories in a Westminster by-election this summer.
The national Conservative government has changed the London mayoral election from a system of proportional representation to a “first-past-the-post” system that could make it less easy for Khan to win a third term.
TfL’s report said it was too early to analyse changes to air pollution in the expanded Ulez. But the agency, which runs most of the transport network in the capital, added that the creation of Ulez in 2019 and its first expansion in 2021 had led to a decrease in nitrogen dioxide levels.
For the first four weeks of the expansion into outer London, TfL issued warning notices to drivers of non-compliant vehicles and started issuing fines on September 26. In the last five days of September, 13,480 drivers were fined.
TfL added that there was still money left available from its scrappage scheme, which supports drivers switching vehicles.
Across all of London, including the central and inner London zones, 95 per cent of vehicles were compliant by the end of September, up from 39 per cent in 2017.