Plurality of Londoners Support Expanding London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ)

July 13, 2023
R&WS Research Team
Cities & Urban Life | London | Sadiq Khan | Transport

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In November 2022, the Greater London Authority announced plans to expand London’s existing Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) to include all London boroughs from 29 August onwards.

If enacted, drivers of vehicles that fall below certain emissions standards would have to pay a £12.50 charge whenever they drive in Greater London. Currently, the ULEZ covers only a portion of Inner London boroughs, leaving Outer London largely unaffected.

The planned expansion has brought about an impassioned political debate in London.

In February, five Conservative councils in Outer London took the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to court over the planned ULEZ expansion. The Labour candidate in the upcoming Uxbridge and Ruislip by-election has spoken out against Khan, citing the unpopularity of his plans. Meanwhile, Labour leader Keir Starmer has said that Sadiq Khan has “no choice” but to expand the ULEZ due to his legal obligations to improve air quality in the capital.

ULEZ expansion is just the latest of several measures introduced in London since the turn of the Millenium aimed at reducing car journeys and thus pollution, such as the introduction of the Congestion Charge and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

With 40% of Londoners currently dissatisfied with Khan’s transport policies, the views of Londoners on this issue could have an effect on the London Mayoral Election less than 12 months away. As a result, we at Redfield & Wilton Strategies recently asked Londoners for their views on transport-related issues in the capital.

Overall, we find that Londoners generally support policies favouring pedestrians and public transport, in addition to the ULEZ expansion.

Reflecting upon the current state of London’s streets, 60% of Londoners say that more priority should be given to pedestrians, while 57% say buses should be given more priority. A plurality (45%) say the same about cyclists. 

A quarter of Londoners (25%) think private cars should be given less priority on London’s streets than they currently receive.

When asked which mode of transport should be given the highest priority on London’s streets, 37% say buses should be given the highest priority. 21% believe pedestrians should be given the highest priority, followed by private cars (13%) and cyclists (12%).

In addition, a plurality (45%) of respondents say they would be willing to pay higher fares on London public transport in return for a better standard of service.

In line with this general sense of the public’s priorities, London has been introducing policies in the past to make the city friendlier for pedestrians and public transport.

For instance, Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTNs), in which bollards are erected to prevent vehicles from entering certain streets to allow for more space for pedestrians and cyclists, were first introduced in London in 2003 and have been continually expanded ever since.

Overall, 58% of respondents support the introduction of LTNs in London, while only 17% are opposed to the idea.

However, Londoners are split on the effectiveness of LTNs in reducing private car journeys, with 43% saying that LTNs reduce the overall numbers of cars on the road (in line with the concept of induced demand), while the same number (43%) say that LTNs merely redirect cars to other areas.

Introduced in 2003, the Congestion Charge is a £15 charge that all drivers pay upon entering central London during peak hours everyday. A majority (53%) of Londoners support the existence of a Congestion Charge, while 28% oppose the charge.

That said, Londoners are split on whether the zone should be expanded to include the entirety of Inner London. 45% would support the expansion of the Congestion Charge zone to include the entirety of Inner London, against 35% who would be opposed to such a plan. 

At the same time, while proposals to pedestrianise Oxford Street were formally axed last August, a majority (53%) of Londoners would support the pedestrianisation of the entirety of central London, suggesting that the framing of the policy (in this instance, a charge or tax versus a reorientation of public space towards pedestrians) matters immensely.

Londoners view the ULEZ in a similar way as the congestion charge. 58% say they support the existence of the ULEZ in London, while 24% say they are opposed.

Regarding their own understanding of the motives for the ULEZ charge, a majority (58%) say it is to reduce air pollution. However, 26% instead think the objective is to collect tax revenue for the Government.

A majority (52%) of Londoners also think the ULEZ has reduced the level of air pollution and improved air quality in the city, while a sizeable 36% say it has made no difference.

Support for expanding the ULEZ is slightly higher than is the case with the Congestion Charge, with a larger plurality (47%) coming out in support of expanding the zone and 32% opposed to the idea.

Those living in Outer London are split evenly on the ULEZ, with 39% in support and 39% opposed.

If given a choice, a plurality (37%) of Londoners would prefer to keep the ULEZ within its current boundaries, while 32% would like to see it expanded to include the entirety of London. 22% would like to see it scrapped altogether.

These figures show that Londoners are supportive of policies favouring public transport and walking, including taxes, charges, and fines such as the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ aimed at reducing road traffic. Londoners agree that these measures have reduced air pollution in the city.

However, public opinion remains somewhat divided on whether such measures should be expanded to include all of Greater London, suggesting that while the public broadly supports the measures currently in place, expanding current schemes to include more of London requires careful and nuanced framing to win public support.

To find out more information about this research contact our research team. Redfield & Wilton Strategies is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. Follow us on Twitter

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