A package of measures to improve air quality in the capital will be launched this month to cut harmful pollution coming from road transport.
The new initiatives, stemming from the London Mayor's Air Quality Strategy and delivered by Transport for London (TfL), will deter some of the oldest and most polluting vehicles from driving in the capital through changes to the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) and reforms to taxi licensing standards.
The Freight Transport Association is advising operators of Y-registration (and some 51 plate) vans to keep out of London to avoid costly charges and fines.
Natalie Chapman, FTA's head of policy for London, said: "The penalties are such that non-compliance is simply not an option.
“Research by FTA shows that fortunately, most large HGV fleet operators will be fully compliant with, or prepared for, the move up from Euro 3 to Euro 4 standard engines. However, for tradespeople operating vans over ten years old the LEZ will be an entirely new consideration and, therefore, preparedness will be far lower. This is where our immediate concern lies.
"For many small businesses and sole traders, 2011 has been all about keeping afloat and the looming LEZ changes may catch them out. We are advising those with non-compliant vans to stay out of London, but this may prove impossible for London-based van operators."
Leading health organisations including Asthma UK, the British Lung Foundation and the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have voiced their support for the changes.
Research commissioned by the Mayor's office has suggested that poor air quality contributes to an equivalent of around 4,300 premature deaths in London annually, with many people, especially children and older people, having their quality of life adversely impacted by it.
Implementing the measures in the Mayor's strategy is expected to reduce PM10 emissions (tiny airborne particles generated principally by road transport) in central London by about a third by 2015, compared to 2008 levels. These new measures will play a significant role in the delivery of these targets.
Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: “From January we are ushering in even higher environmental standards to curb pollution and ensure fresher, healthier air for all.
“Delivering cleaner air is key to my goal of creating a better quality of life for Londoners. 2012 is also an historic year during which the eyes of the world will turn to London and I want people to experience a cleaner, greener city before, during and after the Games.”
The measures being introduced in January are:
• The current Low Emission Zone has been successful in delivering significant reductions in harmful vehicle emissions by encouraging the oldest, most polluting lorries, buses and coaches driving into London to clean up their emissions. From 3 January 2012, larger vans and minibuses will have to meet Low Emission Zone standards for the first time, meaning only cleaner vehicles of this type that meet the Euro 3 emissions standard for particulate matter can drive within Greater London without their owners paying a £100 daily charge or risking a £500 fine. Transport for London figures show that an estimated 94 per cent of the vehicles that will be affected for the first time already meet the new standards.
• In addition, vehicles already affected by the Low Emission Zone – lorries, buses and coaches – will now have to meet stricter emissions standards. These vehicles will need to meet a Euro IV standard for particulate matter to drive within Greater London without their owners paying a £200 daily charge or risking a £1,000 fine.
• It is expected that collectively these changes to the Low Emission Zone will broadly double the initiative's current impact on PM10 emissions. Introducing LEZ standards for larger vans and minibuses is estimated to remove around 80 tonnes of PM10 from the air from 2011 to 2015 which is equivalent to giving children with chest complaints over 12,000 days free from suffering symptoms and adults almost 18,000 days.
• The introduction of London's first ever age limit on black cabs from 1 January 2012: this will mean the oldest and most polluting vehicles will no longer be licensed, affecting any vehicle over 15 years old. It is estimated this will affect around 2600 cabs in 2012, around a tenth of the total fleet. The age limit will be introduced on a rolling basis throughout the year as affected taxi licence plates expire. A new taxi emits around 20 times less PM than a 15 year old taxi.
• From 1 January, a 10-year age limit for licensed private hire vehicles will also apply to licensed operators.
• The launch of a no-idling campaign in early January: drivers of all vehicles in London including coaches and buses, will be encouraged to do their bit by turning off their engines when stationary, reducing the amount of unnecessary and harmful exhaust fumes emitted. Turning off an engine and restarting it after a minute or longer causes less pollution than keeping the engine idling and uses less fuel.
Larger vans and minibuses were originally due to be included in the Low Emission Zone from 4 October 2010.
However, following public consultation, the Mayor decided to defer the introduction in tough economic times to give the owners and operators of the estimated 70,000 non-compliant vehicles, many of which are smaller businesses and charities, more time to make the necessary changes.
There are a range of ways vehicle owners can meet the standards. For many, fitting a filter to their vehicle may be the best option whilst many newer second hand vehicles will also meet the standards. The Mayor has also worked with a range of major manufacturers to secure significant discounts when purchasing new vehicles.
Nick Fairholme, TfL’s director of congestion charging and traffic enforcement, said: “The existing Low Emission Zone is delivering significant improvements in air quality to the benefit of Londoners' health.
“The new standards introduced in January are vital to our continued efforts to tackle pollution. The vast majority of owners and organisations have taken steps to prepare. Transport for London has a team of people in place to provide practical advice to anyone who remains concerned about how these new standards will impact them."
TfL continues to urge those affected vehicle operators to take action to ensure their vehicles meet the new LEZ standards.
Vehicle owners can check online at www.tfl.gov.uk/lezlondon or ring a dedicated call centre on 0845 607 0009 to check whether their vehicle meets the emissions standards and find advice on what steps they can take to make their vehicle compliant.
Owners and operators of affected vehicles have a range of options available to them to ensure they comply with the scheme including:
o Fitting an approved filter to the vehicle to improve the emissions.
o Purchasing a newer vehicle that meets the required emissions standards. For some operators, particularly van and minibus operators, buying a second hand vehicle and trading in their old vehicle will be the most cost effective way of meeting the standards; Reorganising a fleet so that only vehicles which meet the required emissions standards drive within the LEZ.
o Leasing a vehicle that meets the standards.
Meanhwilw, the FTA has produced an LEZ compliance guide to help operators understand and plan for the changes. This is available for FTA members to download at www.fta.co.uk/lez.