Heathrow Looks to the Future with ULEZ from 2020

The well publicised news surrounding Heathrow Airport’s ongoing attempts to add an extra runway might not seem to have much bearing on courier work. But with proposals to bring in an ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) to help offset local air pollution on the agenda, it’s worth looking into how it might affect delivery drivers.

Read on to learn more about what’s planned.

What is a ULEZ?

If you’ve spent much time doing courier work in and around London, you’ll likely be familiar with the concept of a ULEZ. An expansion of the existing congestion charge and low emissions restrictions, they seek to reduce the environmental impact of driving by levying charges on more polluting vehicles. The first one in the country rolled out in Central London in April 2019, and is set to expand until it covers the entire city within a few years.

The Heathrow proposal is effectively the same, even down to the charges: polluting vehicles can expect to be charged between £10 and £15 to drive in and around the airport. It’s also set to roll out in a similar way, with extensions and expansions planned.

What’s it For?

While debate around the airport expansion focuses largely on the potential climate impact of a new runway, other significant concerns have also been aired. While disagreements over construction and flight paths have animated residents, those doing courier work have been caught up in wrangling over air quality in the immediate area.

Val Shawcross, chair of the independent Heathrow Transport Area Forum, which consults on the issue, called the plan a ‘significant step change in Heathrow’s efforts to clean up local ground level air pollution’, focusing on its potential impacts on local air quality as a key point in its favour.

Who is Included?

As with the Central London zone, Heathrow’s ultra low emissions zone will focus first on the older and most polluting passenger and private hire vehicles, seeking to reduce their use in the area. It’s set to expand to all passenger cars, taxis and private hires over time, but there’s not too much to worry about for those doing courier work in the area: standards will be in line with those in the city centre.

When Will it Take Effect?

Much has been said about the proposed Heathrow expansion, but it’s important to bear in mind that nothing is yet set in stone. The new runway is due to be completed by 2026, but the ULEZ requires far less time and money to introduce. No hard date has been set, but anyone in the delivery industry should expect to adapt from 2020.

It is difficult to be certain how and when the expansion will go through. Public consultation opened June 2019, and results of this process will need to be taken into account before anything can proceed. Still, the emissions restrictions are perhaps the element of the plan least likely to fall through. If expansion goes ahead as planned, Heathrow is legally committed to stay within clean air requirements. If the expansion is halted, something like ULEZ will likely come into effect sooner or later to bring the airport into line with citywide standards.

So, nothing is certain, but restrictions on emissions look highly likely. And anyone doing courier work should keep a close eye on regulations to stay abreast of the situation.

Norman Dulwich is a correspondent for Courier Exchange, the world's largest neutral trading hub for same day courier work in the express freight exchange industry. Numerous transport exchange businesses are networked together on their website, trading jobs and capacity through what is now the fastest growing Freight Exchange in the UK.

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Author: Desiree Michels