The expansion of the London Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has made London’s transport authority an extra £93 million in just eight months, according to new research. Analysis of Transport for London (TfL) figures by the RAC shows the expansion of the zone has increased TfL’s revenue from non-compliant vehicles, which have to pay at least £12.50 a day to drive in the zone.

The ULEZ was originally installed in the very heart of London in a bid to discourage the use of cars that failed to meet certain emission standards. In October 2021, however, the zone grew to the North and South Circular roads, with petrol cars that fail to meet the Euro 4 petrol emission or the Euro 6 diesel emission standard charged to enter the zone.

Between the beginning of November 2021 and the end of June 2022 – a period of eight months – the data shows an average of 1.9 million journeys were made into the zone every month by vehicles that do not conform to the standards. That resulted in an estimated revenue of £112.5 million, up from just £19 million during the eight months to September 2021, when the zone was smaller.

Night traffic in London

Those figures do not include fines for vehicles that failed to pay, and the RAC estimates 1.6 million penalty charge notices (PCNs) have been issued, compared with just over a quarter of a million prior to the expansion. Given fines cost £160, but are reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days, the RAC estimates the potential income from PCNs issued to drivers in the expanded zone between November and June is between £130.9m and £261.9m, up from between £20.3m and £40.5m in eight months in the original central London boundaries.

“The expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone in 2021 meant a far larger geographical area was covered by the mayor’s strict vehicle emissions standards,” said the RAC’s head of road policy, Nicholas Lyes. “For many, this meant a very stark choice: either replace their vehicle with a compliant model or face paying the £12.50 daily charge. Failing to pay the charge wasn’t an option, either, as it would result in a hefty penalty charge notice.

“The expansion of the ULEZ has resulted in a much-increased revenue stream for Transport for London, notwithstanding the costs associated with introducing the larger ULEZ. Londoners living outside the current ULEZ will now be worrying about the prospect of further expansion, mooted to be at the end of August 2023.

“While we accept that action is needed to reduce toxic emissions from vehicles, the cost-of-living crisis is hurting drivers in the pocket and there is a risk that further enlarging the zone will be hugely costly for those with older vehicles who can least afford to change them for something newer. We would encourage the mayor to take a pragmatic approach and redouble his efforts to support lower-income families and businesses with non-compliant vehicles with a targeted scrappage scheme ahead of any expansion plans.”

ULEZ charge congestion warning sign in central London