Capital’s classics threatened by proposed Ultra Low Emissions Zone

| 11 Mar 2014

Classic and historic vehicles could be effectively banned from eight-square-miles of London’s financial and business districts, threatening businesses, forcing events to cancel and inconveniencing countless private owners, it has been discovered. A proposal first put forward by London’s Mayor in 2009 to restrict central London to zero and ultra low emission vehicles by 2020 – the ULEZ – has gained further traction following a recent stakeholder forum. The proposed changes will see the current Congestion Charging Zone off-limits to all but the most environmentally friendly cars – or risk picking up a fine – within the next six years.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “Creating the world’s first big city ultra low emission zone has the potential to be a game changing moment in the quality of life of our great capital. My vision is a central zone where almost all the vehicles running during working hours are either zero or low emission.”

While heavily polluting diesel vehicles are the main contributors to London’s increasing levels of Nitrogen Oxides, it is expected that historic vehicles – and classic car events such as the Regent Street Motor Show – may get caught up in the legislation.

A spokesman for the Federation of British Historic Vehicle Clubs said: “It seems reasonable to assume there would be a reasonable chance of inclusion of historic vehicles in the exemptions, as there already is in the current LEZ. But it ought not to be taken for granted. Clearly there should be such an exemption, if only because the contribution to poor air quality of historic vehicles on cultural events will be vanishingly small.”

“We also need to remember that there will be some historic vehicles actually kept within London, and they need to be allowed to stay and get in and out,” he added.

Ultra Low Emissions Zone Map

Chairman of the Royal Automobile Club Motoring Committee and organiser of the London to Brighton Veteran Car Run, Ben Cussons, told C&SC: “We are in discussions with the Mayor’s office about the potential impact of the ULEZ on both classic events such as the Veteran Car Run and the individual motorist driving historical vehicles. They recognise that emissions from historic vehicles form a very small part of total vehicle emissions, but the European legislation which they are obliged to respect forces them to deal with all vehicles."

The proposed legislation would also affect classic car specialists based within the Congestion Charge Zone, such as Taylor & Crawley, which has been operating since 1942. Owner, David Clark, told C&SC: “It will affect our business considerably. Any client coming to our showroom will be unable to drive our cars – they will have to be transported to a different location. And what sort of transporter will be allowed in central London?”

When questioned, Transport for London did little to allay enthusiasts’ fears. TfL’s Managing Director of Planning, Michele Dix said: “Last year the Mayor announced his ambition for a central London Ultra Low Emission Zone that would reduce air pollutant and CO2 emissions and stimulate the low emission vehicle economy.

"Since then TfL has been exploring ways to introduce the scheme in 2020 and has focused on the development of options. Engagement with stakeholders has been a key element of the process and this work will continue throughout 2014. Their feedback will help shape a final proposal for consultation later this year.”

The operating hours of the new zone are still to be finalised, with two options currently being touted. The first would see the ULEZ share the Congestion Charging hours of 7am-6pm Monday to Friday. The second, and as we understand more likely, follows the Low Emission Zone’s lead, being in effect 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

The Mayor’s proposal is set to enter the consultation stage in early 2015.