London's ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) began operating on Monday when most diesel car and van drivers will have to start paying £12.50 a day to use roads in the centre of the capital.

ULEZ aims to improve London’s appalling air quality by discouraging owners of the most polluting cars from driving into the city. Nearly 25% of all schoolchildren in London and 44% of the capital’s workforce are exposed to levels of air pollution that exceed legal and healthy limits.

Launching the ULEZ programme, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan said London’s air pollution was a “public health emergency” and it was the “poorest Londoners that suffer the worst quality air”.

The most recent data published by Transport for London (TfL) reveal around 6000 premature deaths across London were associated with NO2 long-term exposure, while around 3500 premature deaths linked to long-term exposure to minute diesel particles (PM2.5) were also recorded.

Some older petrol cars will be affected, but the biggest impact will be for owners of diesel cars and vans which don’t meet the latest European emissions standards, known as Euro 6. Nearly 27,000 non-compliant vehicles have been taken off of the roads in the last two months, resulting in the total number of cars entering central London drop by 11%, according to TfL.

Vehicles that do not meet ULEZ standards will be subject to £12.50/day in toll fees. This is on top of the Congestion Charge, meaning that a day trip to London could cost £24 in fees alone. At first, the ULEZ will cover the same area as the Congestion Zone, but it’s due to expand in 2021 when it will apply across virtually all of the London area within the North and South Circular roads.

The ULEZ will cover the same area as the Congestion Zone but will be expanded out to the North and South Circular, meaning the scheme will apply across virtually all of the London area within the North and South Circular roads by 2021.

TfL estimates the initial ULEZ scheme will lead to a reduction in toxic emissions from road transport by about 45% in two years.

Last reviewed 8 April 2019