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Effectiveness of London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone questioned

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London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will damage small businesses while delivering limited air quality improvements, according to the Freight Transport Association (FTA).

With just three months until the scheme’s introduction in the Congestion Charging Zone, FTA is renewing its calls for Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to recognise that the ULEZ would not be a transformative measure but would only bring forward an air quality gain at a cost to the livelihoods of many small businesses in London.

“FTA recognises and supports the legal obligation to improve air quality and supports the principle of a low emission zone,” said Natalie Chapman, head of urban policy at FTA, “but we question the effectiveness of the scheme in improving air quality as it is not a new standard. 

“Instead, it is just bringing forward the fleet replacement cycle at huge cost to many small businesses and operators of specialist vehicles. 

“Operators and vehicle manufacturers have already led the way with investment in cleaner technologies through developments in engine standards. This has helped in reducing levels of key pollutants more than 20-fold over recent years.

“When businesses buy new vehicles, it is not the purchase price they need to consider, but how long they plan to run them for and what they will sell them for when they are finished. 

“The ULEZ means that for many businesses, the timeframe in which they had planned to sweat their assets has reduced and the residual values of Euro 5 vehicles have plummeted.  So not only have they got to stump up for new vehicles sooner than they had planned, they have the double whammy that they have also lost out financially on the vehicles they are replacing.”

However, Alex Williams, Transport for London's director of city planning, said: “The central London ULEZ will significantly reduce the amount of polluting vehicles driving within central London. After one year we expect harmful NOx emissions in central London to reduce by 45%

“We are working hard to ensure Londoners are prepared for the ULEZ and believe that our large-scale communications campaign and the support we are offering them will help London’s small businesses be ready for the ULEZ in April.

“As part of this, we have worked hard with the business community to support their ULEZ preparations and carried out extensive consultations, with many businesses already making the move to comply with ULEZ.

"We have directly contacted more than 3,000 small businesses and are working with London’s business groups to reach thousands more. We are also finalising a £23m van scrappage scheme, which will help small businesses replace their polluting vans with new cleaner ones.

“These measures to make the city’s air cleaner will improve the health of all Londoners and make the capital a more attractive and thriving city.” 

With less than three months to go until the ULEZ starts in Central London, FTA urges vehicle operators who are unsure of their compliance status to use TfL’s online compliance checker.

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