The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, is outlining plans for a low-emission zone (LEZ) in the capital. Under the plan, highly polluting commercial vehicles like buses and lorries could be charged up to £200 ($400) a day to drive in the city. Currently there is an £8-a-day charge to drive a car in Central London, but under the plans the most polluting cars will pay £25 a day to enter the zone, which will be extended to include all 33 boroughs. Penalties will also be increased, with a bill of up to £1,000 if caught without having paid the charge. The congestion charge was devised to reduce congestion, not lower emissions, as the new plan aims to do. Hybrid cars are currently except from the charge, but even more economical standard cars are not. The LEZ should address issues like this, and encourage people to buy economical cars, not cars that provide a loophole. "London suffers from the worst air quality in the UK and the proposed low-emission zone would target those diesel engine lorries, coaches, buses, heavier vans and minibuses which are pumping out the most harmful pollutants," Livingstone said.
The LEZ should launch next year for cars and in 2010 for commercial vehicles. Transport for London, who regulate transport in the capital, estimate that the scheme will prevent about 40 deaths a year from pollution-related illnesses.