London Low Emission Zone
The London Low Emission Zone is a geographic zone within London where any vehicles that do not meet particular emission standards are subject to a daily charge to enter or drive in the zone. The zone came into force on 4 February 2008 and was an initiative strongly supported by the then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.
The zone is situated entirely within the Greater London area as Transport for London has no jurisdiction outside of this area. The zone boundary has been designed so that any vehicle approaching the zone has the opportunity to divert away from the zone without having to carry out a three-point turn. A map of the boundary therefore shows it skirting round some sections of road in order to ensure that vehicles can choose not to enter the zone. Examples of this include:
The eastbound M4 - the GLA boundary runs through the eastern section of the M25 interchange, but the M4 is an exempt route as far as junction 3 where vehicles can U-turn. Junction 4 is not a permitted U-turn because the junction is too big and congested for the boundary to be clearly signed around the junction 4 roundabout.
Southbound M1 - the boundary is at Scratchwood Service area.
Restrictions apply to all signed roads within the zone boundary including motorways and the zone operates 24 hours per day, 365 days a year.
The Low Emission Zone (LEZ) affects older, diesel-engined lorries, buses, coaches, large vans (exceeding 1.205 tonnes unladen weight) and minibuses (over eight seats plus the driver's seat and below 5 tonnes).
It also affects other specialist vehicles that are derived from lorries and vans, including motorised horse boxes, breakdown and recovery vehicles, refuse collection vehicles, snow ploughs, gritters, road sweepers, concrete mixers, tippers, removals lorries, fire engines, extended-cab dual purpose pick-ups and some light utility vehicles. Motor caravans, ambulances and large hearses (over 2.5 tonnes) are also included.
The LEZ applies to all vehicles, irrespective of whether they are used for commercial or private use.
Exemptions are based on the Euro emission standards. Any vehicle complying with Euro III for particulate matter or higher is exempt from the zone until 3 January 2012, when the standard will be increased to Euro IV.
Vehicles first registered on or after 1 October 2001 are assumed to be Euro III, and therefore meet the LEZ emissions standards until 3 January 2012. Vehicles registered after 1 October 2006 meet Euro IV standard.
Many non-compliant vehicles can be modified to make them comply with standards. This work needs to be certified by a TfL approved supplier or by obtaining a Reduced Pollution Certificate or Low Emissions Certificate from the Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA). Vehicles certified by a TfL approved supplier must be registered with TfL, those with a VOSA certificate do not need to be registered.
Cars, motorcycles and small vans (under 1.205 tonnes unladen weight) are exempt.
Readers should note that the only definitive source of information regarding applicability and enforcement of the LEZ is TfL and no reliance should be made on the information provided in this article.
Signage and Enforcement
The zone is signed by specially authorised signs similar to the Congestion Charge signs, except that instead of a red 'C' and the words Congestion Charge, there is a green circle with the word Zone written in it, and the text Low Emission above.
There are also advanced warning signs on some routes where it was considered that visibility of the boundary sign was not clear enough to allow vehicles to avoid the zone safely. There are also repeater signs within London to remind people of the zone.
The zone is enforced by a mix of static and mobile cameras which use Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to compare number plates with a list of exempt vehicles or a list of those who have paid the charge. Any non-exempt vehicles who have not paid the daily charge will be subject to a penalty charge, currently £1,000.
Under Ken Livingstone, it was intended that the scope of affected vehicles would be increased to include light vans, i.e. everything except cars. Following the election of Boris Johnson, these plans were put on hold.