The introduction of the ULEZ zone on Monday aims to reduce toxic air pollution and protect public health, according to a press release from the London Mayor of Sadiq Khan.
Vehicles are responsible for about half the harmful emissions of nitrogen oxides in the UK capital, contributing to a toxic air health crisis that increases the risk of asthma, cancer and dementia, as well as thousands of premature deaths every year, the release said.
"This is an important day for our city, our toxic air is an invisible killer responsible for one of the largest national health disasters of our generation," Khan said in the statement.
"The ULEZ is at the center of our plans to clean up the skies in London – the boldest plans of any city on earth, and the eyes of the world are on us."
Under new rules introduced on April 8, polluting vehicles are discouraged from entering the ULEZ thanks to a daily charge of £ 12.50 (about $ 16) for some cars, vans and motorcycles and £ 100 ($ 130) for trucks, buses and coaches. The zone covers the same area as the existing congestion charge – collected from drivers in the center – until 2021 when it is extended to the area between the most important orbital roads known as the North and South circular.
The ULEZ is the next phase in a plan to clean up the air in London, which began with the so-called T-charge – a surcharge for highly polluting vehicles in the city center – introduced in February 2017. Since then, the number of vehicles that zone entry has fallen by around 11,000 a day, according to official figures, and there is a 55% increase in emissions-compliant vehicles in the zone.
The famous red London bus fleet is also being updated as part of these efforts, and all 9,200 vehicles will meet ULEZ standards by October 2020, according to the mayor's office.
In the current circumstances, around 2 million Londoners live in areas where the nitrogen dioxide content is above the legal limits of the European Union. However, these measures will ensure that air pollution complies with legal requirements within six years, according to an analysis by academics at King & # 39; s College in London.
Air pollution affects disproportionately less wealthy city dwellers, according to Khan.
"This is also about social justice – people in the most disadvantaged parts of London, who are least likely to own a car, suffer the worst effects of harmful air pollution."
And young children will also see major health benefits.
"Air pollution can have major health consequences for the developing child, with early exposure proven to increase the risk of asthma and lung infections, and these can be life threatening," said Professor Jonathan Grigg of the Royal College of Pediatrics and Child Health in the press release.
However, a November 2018 study questioned the effectiveness of low-emission zones introduced in 2008 and found no evidence of a decrease in the number of children with reduced lung capacities or asthmatic symptoms since the implementation of the low emission zones in London.
The authors argued for more ambitious control measures to improve respiratory health in children.
And Daniela Fecht – a geospatial health teacher at Imperial College London, who was working on a study of asthma and air pollution in the city on behalf of the Greater London Authority – told CNN that the ULEZ is expected to deliver benefits, but results must be closely monitored.
"The ULEZ is a very good initiative that is needed to lower traffic-related air pollution levels in London," Fecht said in an email.
"The effectiveness will have to be carefully evaluated, because earlier regulations both in London and internationally have not lowered air pollution levels as much as expected due to various factors."
Fecht says she believes the benefits will also be felt by those who do not live in the ULEZ or spend a lot of time, especially vulnerable sections of the population such as children going to school in central London; persons with pre-existing health problems that are exacerbated by air pollution; and people who work, travel or work in the interior of London.