In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about the October ULEZ expansion. If you live in London or drive to the capital regularly, you will likely already be aware of the ULEZ (Ultra Low Emission Zone).

On 25th October 2021, the existing zone is set to expand to the North Circular and South Circular roads, impacting countless additional London residents and visitors alike.

Want to find out more about the upcoming ULEZ expansion? Read our guide below to discover everything you need to know.

The existing ULEZ zone

London’s existing ULEZ was established in April 2019. It is a boundary area that operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (except for Christmas Day). Drivers that fail to meet the minimum fuel emission standards must pay a daily rate to access the ULEZ.

The zone currently operates within the existing central London Congestion Charge area, largely within the London Inner Ring Road, covering the City of London, Westminster, and other central areas.

It extends north to Kings Cross and St Pancras stations, east to Spitalfields, south to Elephant and Castle, and west to Hyde Park.

The main objective of the zone is to promote lower fossil fuel emissions and enhance air quality within the capital, thereby improving the health of residents.

ULEZ works in tandem with and does not replace the existing London Congestion Charge scheme.

Neither does it replace the existing LEZ (Low Emission Zone), which encompasses large areas of Greater London.

The aim of the ULEZ zone

The key aim of ULEZ is to improve the health and wellbeing of residents and workers in London. As arguably the most polluted area of the UK, London suffers from poor air quality and above-average toxicity. 

Much of the pollution comes from older cars, bikes and vans that emit greater amounts of Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), and Particulate Matter (PM) than eco-friendly alternatives.

According to the Mayor of London office, toxic fumes in the capital cause the premature deaths of 4,000 people every year. The expansion of the ULEZ area is therefore a major step in combating pollution-caused chronic airway and similar diseases. 

ULEZ also aims to promote the use of ‘greener’ hybrid and electric cars, helping the UK to meet domestic and international targets on greenhouse gas emissions.

ULEZ expansion October 2021

On 25th October 2021, ULEZ will expand to encompass a much greater area — nearly 20 times larger than the existing central London ULEZ boundary. 

The zone will expand outwards to the perimeter of (but not including) the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).

Many London boroughs and suburbs will fall into the zone for the first time. 

In North London, Islington, Camden, Hackney, and Haringey, among others, will face daily charges from 25th October 2021 for failing to meet the emissions criteria.

In South London, Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Greenwich will fall into the ULEZ area.

Towards the western areas of the city, areas like Kensington & Chelsea and Hammersmith & Fulham will become part of the ULEZ.

And in the eastern areas, Tower Hamlets, Newham, and Waltham Forest will also form part of the new jurisdiction. The boundaries are reviewed regularly and may be subject to change in future.

Use the ULEZ map below to see the exact zone:

Enforcement of the October ULEZ expansion

Transport for London will enforce the expanded ULEZ area with ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) cameras. 

When any driver enters the ULEZ area, their number plate will be read upon entry and this will be cross-referenced with the system. 

Drivers who do not qualify for free ULEZ travel will be required to pay a daily rate. Failing to pay the required sum promptly will result in a penalty fine.

Times the October ULEZ expansion will operate

The newly expanded ULEZ zone will operate all day, every day. The only exception to this rule is Christmas Day. When driving in the ULEZ on weekends and all other bank holidays, charges will still apply. 

Transport for London operates charges between 12 am and 12 am the following day (midnight to midnight per 24 hour period). Vehicles parked in designated parking areas are exempt. Charges only apply if the vehicle is moving in the ULEZ zone.

Vehicles that qualify for free access to ULEZ

ULEZ charges apply to cars, vans, motorcycles, and larger vehicles that fail to meet the minimum fuel emissions standards. 

Vehicles that qualify for low emissions can access the zone without charge.

The scheme applies to smaller and lighter vehicles up to 3.5 tonnes and large vehicles over 5 tonnes in weight.

Petrol: For petrol cars, vans, and minibuses, the minimum emission standards are Euro 4. Typically, petrol cars with a 2005 plate or newer qualify for free travel.

Diesel: Diesel cars, vans, and minibuses must meet Euro 6 or higher to avoid charges. Diesel cars registered after 2015 are likely to qualify in most cases.

Other vehicles: Motorcycles and similar vehicles, such as mopeds, motorised quadricycles and tricycles, must meet the Euro 3 standard to avoid charges. 

It is worth mentioning that 4 in 5 vehicles on the road already meet the required standards and will not have to pay the ULEZ daily rate.

Drivers of relatively new cars and vans should be exempt, as are all hybrid, electric, and other eco-friendly vehicles.

ULEZ costs and penalty fines

Residents and visitors to London who drive in the existing or expanded ULEZ area must pay a daily charge of £12.50 if their vehicle does not meet the required emissions standards.

This charge applies to cars, smaller vans, motorcycles and similar vehicles, up to 3.5 tonnes.

The daily fee for very heavy vehicles like lorries and coaches over 5 tonnes is £100 per day. 

If the fee is not paid promptly, a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) can be issued. The penalty cost if ULEZ standards are not met is £160 — or £80 if settled within two weeks (14 days). 

Drivers who receive a penalty should aim to pay the fee as soon as possible. Delaying payment can result in significantly higher charges and potentially legal action, leading to considerable further costs.

ULEZ and business drivers

The existing and expanded ULEZ area applies to both residential and business road users with vehicles that do not meet the low emission criteria. 

That said, the vast majority of road users (around 4 in 5) have newer, less polluting vehicles. 

Businesses can save money on ULEZ charges by ensuring all fleet cars and vans are ULEZ compliant. 

To safeguard business vehicles for future use, investing in hybrid, hybrid-electric, and fully electric vehicles is well worth considering. 

It is entirely possible the criteria will change so preparation is key to reducing costs.

Payment of ULEZ charges and penalties

Drivers can avoid paying ULEZ charges simply by having a vehicle that qualifies for low emissions. Use our ULEZ checker to see if your vehicle needs to pay ULEZ. For drivers who need to pay, the best route is via the official Transport for London website. 

This is by far the easiest and safest method. It is possible to pay up to three previous charging days, the next charging day, or a custom date range. Payment is possible up to 90 days in advance of any journey date.

For drivers who want peace of mind, setting up Auto Pay can be very worthwhile. This service is available for £10 per vehicle per year and facilitates automatic payment of both Congestion Charge areas and the ULEZ.

Challenging a ULEZ penalty

It is possible to challenge a ULEZ penalty online. Drivers who feel the penalty was issued by mistake or for any unfair reason can make a representation, either online or in writing. 

There are a few things required before this process can happen. Applicants need their PCN number, the registration of the vehicle, and several valid reasons why the penalty should not have been issued. 

The easiest way to challenge a PCN is by using the online function at the Transport for London website. Drivers have 28 days from the date of issue to make a representation.

ULEZ car and motorcycle scrappage scheme

Low income and residents with a qualifying disability can take advantage of the ULEZ “car and motorcycle scrappage scheme”. This provides a grant towards upgrading to a newer, ULEZ-compliant car or motorcycle. 

Proof of receipt of benefits is required to qualify for the scheme. A £1,000 grant is available for motorcycle and moped scrappage. For cars, the grant is £2,000. The scheme is open to anyone living in the 32 London boroughs, including the City of London.

Best ways to avoid a ULEZ charge

The best way to avoid ULEZ charges is to buy a low or non-polluting vehicle. Or to walk or take public transport. Low income, disabled, OAPs, and people with young children are eligible for money-off buses, the tube, and numerous rail services.

The Santander bike hire programme is also worth considering and gives 30 minutes free travel for those qualifying for grants.

Younger travellers also have access to a wide range of discounts for free travel on buses, trams, and other public transport methods.

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