ULEZ expansion will have ‘no appreciable impact on air quality’, transport secretary insists

Transport secretary Mark Harper has criticised the London mayor for expanding the controversial Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the outer boroughs of the capital, saying it will have “appreciable impact on air quality”

The zone, that charges motorists £12.50 a day if their car does not comply with emissions standards, will now cover every London borough and not just the city centre.

The expansion comes despite the London mayor facing opposition from both the Conservatives and within the Labour Party, after it was blamed for the party’s defeat in the Uxbridge and South Ruislip by-election last month.

A group of five Conservative-led councils even launched a High Court challenge against the plans, however their case was not successful, meaning the expansion to outer London goes ahead today as planned.

Speaking to Sky News, Mr Harper said that the ULEZ expansion is a “decision for the mayor of London, backed by the Labour leader”.

He said said the policy is not about air quality in the capital, as Mayor Sadiq Khan insists, but “raising money” by charging more Londoners.

While he acknowledged the policy has helped reduce air pollution in central London, he said that the London Mayor’s office’s own impact assessment shows it will be “negligible” in the outer boroughs.

He added: “It’s a scheme to charge hard-pressed motorists more money for making essential journeys and it will have almost no appreciable impact on air quality”.

It came after Sadiq Khan has fiercely defended the expansion as he told Sky News that air pollution causes health issues in children and adults, and also causes 4,000 premature deaths in London per year.

Challenged on research showing an average reduction of less than 3 per cent in nitrogen dioxide levels and minimal impacts on other toxins, Mr Khan cited other research from the “vast majority of other scientists” showing reductions of up to 50 per cent in central and inner London.

“What they don’t want is politicians for short-term political gain playing politics with public health and the climate emergency,” he said.