Only one in 10 cars will need to pay Ulez expansion fee as drivers take ‘pre-emptive action’

Only one in 10 cars being driven in the outer London “doughnut” area soon to be included in the ultra-low emission zone will have to pay the levy, it was revealed today.

Mayor Sadiq Khan announced a marked increase in the number of cars that comply with the Ulez’s exhaust emission rules, meaning they are exempt from the £12.50 daily charge.

The proportion of compliant cars spotted in the area between the North and South Circular roads and the Greater London boundary, which extends almost to the M25 motorway, has increased from 85 per cent last May to 90 per cent.

The figure is expected to increase further before the Ulez expands Londonwide on August 29.

This means that fewer than 200,000 motorists a day, including van drivers and motorcyclists, are now expected to have to pay the clean air levy.

This will come as something of a relief to Mr Khan, who has faced a backlash against the expansion from motorists who say they cannot afford to pay the Ulez nor upgrade their cars.

The figures indicate that many drivers have taken “pre-emptive action” to avoid being caught by the Ulez expansion by switching to “cleaner” cars.

However, Transport for London still expects thousands of complaints. Capita, the contractor that runs its Ulez call centre in Coventry, is recruiting an additional 800 staff.

TfL has also been deluged with applications for scrappage grants – and its £110m fund is likely to run out sooner than expected due to the demand from van drivers for £5,000 payments to help them switch vehicles.

Mr Khan, speaking at Mayor’s Question Time at City Hall, said the higher number of compliant cars was a “fantastic result” – even though it could mean the Ulez will generate less income than the £200m expected in its first year.

“We expect the number of compliant vehicles to go up even more as people prepare for the expansion,” he said.

“I have always been clear with Londoners that the aim of the Ulez is to get the most polluting vehicles off our roads in order to protect both the health of Londoners and our environment.

“With this jump in compliance, it’s now just one in 10 cars seen driving in outer London that aren’t Ulez-compliant.”

However, TfL admits that many thousands of Londoners still own non-compliant cars. Its analysis of compliance rates is based on data from cameras in outer London.

It does not have up-to-date figures showing how many cars liable for the charge are registered to London addresses. In boroughs such as Sutton, it is thought that 30 per cent of vehicles would have to pay the Ulez.

With this jump in compliance, it’s now just one in 10 cars seen driving in outer London that aren’t Ulez-compliant

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

Another issue is that the compliance figures only relate to cars. Only about 80 per cent of vans driving in outer London are thought to comply with the Ulez rules.

Van drivers have been outnumbering car drivers by about two to one in applying to the scrappage scheme.

TfL has received about 10,600 applications, the Standard understands. But because more van drivers than expected are applying, funds are likely to run out more quickly. Van drivers are entitled to £5,000, compared with £2,000 for drivers scrapping a car.

TfL’s online vehicle checker – which reveals whether a vehicle complies with the Ulez rules – has been used more than six million times since Mr Khan approved the Ulez expansion last November.

Petrol vehicles with a “Euro 4” engine – cars built since 2006 – or a diesel with a “Euro 6” engine, which came in from 2014, are Ulez-compliant.

Drivers who fail to pay the Ulez receive a £180 fine in the post.

TfL is paying Capita £355m to handle the administration of Ulez and congestion charge payments and fines until 2026.

Christina Calderato, TfL’s director of transport strategy, said: “We are pleased that so many cars driving in outer London are now meeting the Ulez standards. The vast majority of those travelling in the zone when it expands London-wide will not have to pay the charge.”