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UK & World

London expands controversial Ultra Low Emission Zone

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LONDON, Aug. 29 (Xinhua) — The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was expanded across London on Tuesday to help improve the megacity’s air quality, but the move has drawn widespread criticism at a time when households have already been financially squeezed.

The ULEZ is now in force 24 hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year except Christmas Day, to help clear London’s air by reducing the number of vehicles that fail to meet emissions standards, according to Transport for London (TfL), a government organization.

Those who make a short trip inside the zone using a vehicle that does not meet the ULEZ emissions standards need to pay a daily charge of 12.5 British pounds (15.79 U.S. dollars), the TfL said.

“Poor air quality is impacting the health of Londoners, and it’s mainly caused by polluting vehicles,” the TfL said. Quoting research, it added that although improvements are being made, “road transport is the single biggest contributor of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter emissions in Greater London.”

London’s ULEZ was introduced by Mayor Sadiq Khan in 2019. Initially it covered only central London and was then extended to areas within the North Circular and South Circular roads in 2021. Now it covers all 32 London boroughs.

“No level of air pollution is safe,” Khan, a member of the Labour Party, wrote on Tuesday on social media.” Experts agree the ULEZ is the most effective way of cleaning up our air for Londoners both in inner and outer London. The reduction of harmful nitrogen dioxide will make a positive difference to the lives of millions.”

The expansion plan, however, has long been under attack. “I think people and families are struggling with the cost of living, that is obvious to everyone,” British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said on Tuesday, noting that the ULEZ charge is going to hit working families.

“I don’t think that’s the right priority, I don’t think that’s the right thing to do, and I wish they hadn’t done it,” Sunak said.

There could be up to 700,000 cars in the Greater London area that do not conform to ULEZ standards, and this figure does not include those vehicles that are used by drivers to commute into the Greater London area, the British automotive services company RAC said in late July.

“While the principle of cleaning up London’s air is the right one, it has come at a time where drivers can ill afford to replace their vehicles during a cost-of-living crisis,” RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said.

“This is being made worse by new evidence, which shows drivers are having to pay far more than they should have to purchase a compliant vehicle on the second-hand car market,” Lyes added.

According to carwow, an online marketplace for buying and selling cars, 44 percent of customers who do not have a compliant car are worried the ULEZ expansion has impacted the value of their car, whether they live inside ULEZ or not.

Just under half of Britons say they oppose making it more expensive for people to drive, compared to 31 percent who support such measures, a new Ipsos survey showed on Tuesday.

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