Covid-19: Transport for London delays tightening of Low Emission Zone rules

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Transport for London (TfL) has announced that new rules for freight vehicles entering the capital’s Low Emission Zone (LEZ) along with the Direct Vision Standard, which were set to come into force in October this year, have been delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic

Covid-19 has placed intense demands on the road freight sector which could make compliance with the new standards more challenging. The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has asked TfL to delay the enforcement of the new rules for at least four months to allow the freight industry to focus on its core operations during the pandemic.

TfL has already temporarily suspended the current Low Emission Zone, Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) until further notice to help our critical workers get to work and for essential deliveries to take place.

The Low Emission Zone, which covers most of Greater London, encourages the most polluting heavy diesel vehicles driving in London to become cleaner by setting minimum standards for emissions. These standards will be tightened for buses, coaches and lorries in line with the tough requirements in place for the central London ULEZ.

The Direct Vision Standard, which is being introduced with the support of London Councils, is set to reduce danger to all road users by introducing a permit system for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs), assigning vehicles a star rating based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab window.

From 26 October 2020, heavier vehicles not meeting the new stricter emissions standards would have had to pay a daily charge to drive within the Low Emission Zone. From the same date, anyone driving an HGV within Greater London without a valid HGV safety permit (free on application) could have received a penalty charge notice of up to £550.

Though the freight industry has been preparing for these new rules for some time, with many vehicles already compliant, the coronavirus pandemic has disrupted supply chains and has placed additional demands on the industry. These challenges would have made it more difficult for the new standards to be met on time, particularly for businesses who have been unable to make changes to their fleet during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has therefore asked TfL to delay enforcement of the new rules for at least four months to give the industry and fleet operators more time to adopt cleaner, safer vehicles. Although the new rules under both schemes will still legally come into force on 26 October, no charges will be payable or enforced for non-compliant vehicles under those new standards until the end of February 2021. The new date for the start of enforcement will be kept under review.

“Coronavirus has disrupted supply chains and placed additional demands on the freight industry, making it more difficult for new standards to be met on time,” says Khan. “To help ease pressure on the sector I’ve asked TfL to delay the enforcement of the new stricter rules, initially for four months, to allow the freight industry to focus on its core operations during the pandemic.

“People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really have to. London’s roads should only be used for essential journeys. I continue to urge all Londoners to follow the advice of public health authorities and not leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential to save lives.”

“The tighter standards for the Low Emission Zone and Direct Vision Standard are both absolutely vital to our plans to make London a cleaner, greener and safer place to live,” says Christina Calderato, TfL’s head of transport strategy and planning. “We’re committed to bringing these changes in as soon as practically possible while supporting the freight industry and recognising that the coronavirus pandemic has placed intense new demands on people and organisations across the capital. We’ll continue to work closely with the freight industry and propose to begin enforcement of the new rules four months later than planned, at the end of February 2021. We will keep this under review.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs in charge of public agencies around the world as well as chairmen and CEOs of multinational transportation technology corporations. Tom's early career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).