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Press Release

Reprieve for small businesses as Mayor suspends phase three of Low Emission Zone
2-2-2009   056

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, today announced his intention to suspend the third phase of the Low Emission Zone because of the detrimental impact it would have on London’s small businesses. He outlined how, whilst entirely committed to improving air quality, improvements can be achieved through other measures.

The move is part of the Mayor's agenda to aid businesses during the economic downturn, and complements his £3bn Economic Recovery package to get London back on track. The Mayor has extended half price bus fares to Londoners on Job Seekers Allowance, introduced the 24 hour Freedom Pass, and free travel for war veterans, and has frozen the Council Tax precept for the first time.

The Low Emission Zone currently targets the most polluting lorries over 3.5 tonnes, buses and coaches, and the Mayor is 100 per cent committed to the existing phases 1 and 2 of the scheme, which have proved effective. Phase three of the scheme, planned by the previous Mayoral administration, was scheduled to start in October 2010 and would have affected much smaller vehicles, including vans and minibuses, and even family camper vans. Without these changes many of the owners of the 90,000 non-compliant vehicles that use the zone each year would have faced a bill of up to £2000 for abatement equipment, or £15,000 for a new vehicle.  They would have alternatively faced £100 daily charges or fines of £500 for each day they entered Greater London. These costs could have tipped firms into receivership and caused job losses. 

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said:

“I want to do all I can to ease the burden of the economic downturn that is affecting us all at this time. Although the Low Emission Zone has been successful in tackling the worst polluters, and will continue to play an important role, it is not the right time to press ahead with extending it to include smaller vehicles like vans and minibuses.

"Many of these will be owned by small businesses, charities, and self-employed Londoners already hard hit by the recession. Simply put, the cost of fitting pollution equipment or getting a new vehicle would have come as punch in the ribs to those who need our help at this time, would have destroyed profit margins, and endangered our businesses. I am confident that the new course we have set finds a balance between London's environmental and economic needs and that we can lower emissions in more imaginative ways."

The Mayor recently met with Lord Hunt to discuss Air Quality issues, and agreed that the GLA and Defra will work jointly on a package of measures, both national and regional, which will address PM10 emissions in London in order to meet EU targets. He has also written to Lord Mandelson, the Trade and Industry Secretary, with the aim of working together with the Government on a subsidy scheme for replacing the oldest, most polluting light goods vehicles.  Such a scheme would help small businesses, improve the environment, and stimulate the UK automotive industry at a time of economic slowdown.  In addition, Transport for London is delivering a range of initiatives focused on improving air quality. These include:

  • Introducing 56 hybrid buses to the London fleet by the end of February 2009, the largest fleet of hybrid buses in the UK. A further 300 new hybrid buses will join the fleet by March 2011, after which it is expected that all new buses entering service in London will be hybrids.
  • Delivering eight hydrogen hybrid fuel cell buses, emitting nothing but water, next year. 
  • Funding of £1m to trial low carbon technology in London's taxi fleet. The aim of the programme is to reduce CO2 emissions from taxis, although it is also likely to deliver benefits for local air quality. It is intended that prototype vehicles will be produced by the end of October 2009, with trial vehicles on the road by March 2010.
  • Supporting, through TfL’s Climate Change Fund, the introduction of a fuel efficient driving campaign aimed at both taxi and private hire drivers.
  • Smoothing traffic flow to increase the reliability and predictability of journeys, including through tackling “stop-start” traffic conditions, which have a particularly detrimental impact on air quality.
  • Introducing schemes to encourage motorists to leave their car at home and use more sustainable methods of transport. These include the introduction a bike hire scheme to London to make bikes available to all.
  • Establishing an Electric Vehicle Partnership to support greater uptake of electric vehicles, which have zero tailpipe emissions.

The Low Emission Zone will continue to reduce emissions from the most individually polluting vehicles in London. The scheme standards will rise again for these vehicles in January 2012 when vehicles affected by phases one and two will have to meet the Euro IV standard for particulate matter to continue to drive within Greater London without charge.
The Mayor will begin the legal processes necessary to implement the proposal, which will involve public consultation on a revised Transport Strategy and a variation to the Low Emission Zone Scheme Order. The Mayor will take into account the views expressed in the consultations and decide whether or not to confirm his decision.

Notes to Editors

  1. A draft revision to the Mayor’s Transport and Air Quality Strategies reflecting his intention to remove the third phase of the Low Emission Zone will be the subject of a 12-week public and stakeholder consultation scheduled for late summer 2009. TfL will also need to consult the public and stakeholders on the necessary changes to the Low Emission Zone Scheme Order before the Mayor can decide whether to formally remove phase three based upon the results of the consultation.
  2. The Low Emission Zone was introduced on February 4 2008. Phase three of the Low Emission Zone was due to start on 4 October 2010 affecting light goods vehicles and vans up to 3.5 tonnes, minibuses under 5 tonnes, and specialist vehicles including motor caravans and horseboxes between 2.5 - 3.5 tonnes.
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