Transport for London (TfL) has started a publicity campaign about the forthcoming expansion in scope for the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) on 3 January 2012. The Low Emission Zone covers virtually all of metropolitan London (far beyond the congestion charge zone) and imposes a charge on eligible vehicles that do not meet certain minimum environmental standards. The range of vehicles to be covered has, to date, been only lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses/coaches over 5 tonnes. The scope is widening to effectively cover all vehicles besides private cars, taxis and motorcycles.
The LEZ works by using Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras to detect vehicles to determine if either they have paid, or to check the UK's Motor Vehicle Registry to determine the environmental classification of the vehicle. Vehicles that do meet the standard can travel freely.
Vehicles that do not meet the standard have to pay a daily charge to drive in London of £100 (US$159) for minibuses and Light Goods Vehicles (LGVs), or £200 (US$318) for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs), buses and coaches. The charge applies for a calendar day, so a vehicle driving from 11pm till 1am would have to pay for two days.
Those vehicles that do not pay by midnight the next working day (Mon-Fri) have to pay a penalty within 14 days of £250 for minibuses and LGVs, or £500 for HGVs, buses and coaches. The penalty doubles after 14 days, and increases by the same margin again after 28 days.
As was mentioned before, the range of vehicles subject to the LEZ will be expanding and tightening as follows from :
- HGVs (goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes), buses and coaches will have to meet the Euro IV standard for particulate matter to enter free of charge ( currently they have to meet the Euro III standard). Those registered after 1 October 2006 automatically meet this standard;
- Minibuses (over 8 seats) of 5 tonnes or less will have to meet the Euro III standard, those registered after 1 January 2002 automatically meet this standard;
- Motor caravans and ambulances between 2.5 and 3.5 tonnes will also have to meet the Euro III standard;
- Vans, pick up/utility vehicles and 4x4 utility vehicles between 1.205 and 3.5 tonnes will also have to meet the Euro III standards.
Classifications are complicated, as some 4x4 utility vehicles may be registered as cars because they are not designed to move goods or more than 8 people. Range Rovers and Land Rovers are likely to be caught.
The impact of these changes are significant, as effectively all goods vehicles and all passenger service vehicles, besides taxis, will be subject to these restrictions and charges (it is unlikely to be worthwhile paying £100 a day to regularly use such vehicles in London). As previously reported, it is part of the Mayor's Air Quality Strategy. However, as it will capture a lot of private vehicles, early publicity is essential.
More details on the LEZ are on its website, here.