The difference between London Congestion Charge, Low Emission Zones and the London T-Charge

What’s the difference between London Congestion Charge, Low Emission Zones and the London T-Charge?

While plenty is being done to reduce emission levels in our capital, these schemes can sometimes overlap and appear complicated.

Here we outline the difference between all of the current and future London emissions schemes that motorists will need to be aware of and may be subject to charges from.

Current: the London Low Emission Zone

The most comprehensive London emissions charge currently operating is the Low Emission Zone.

This was introduced in 2008 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

It charges high-emission vehicles between £100 and £200 a day to drive within the zone.

The zone covers all areas within Greater London, those at Heathrow and some parts of the M1 and M4 are included. The M25 is not affected.

However, it currently only affects larger vehicles such as HGVs, buses and some larger vans, 4x4 light utility vehicles and pick-ups: car drivers do not need to worry about it.

For more information read our complete guide to Low Emission Zones.

Current: London Congestion Charge

The London Congestion Charge is...

The London Congestion Charge does affect car drivers who wish to take their vehicle into central London.

It was introduced in 2003 and operates on weekdays between 7am and 6pm; the fee is £11.50 and it is policed by CCTV. 

There are a range of exemptions to the Congestion Charge: for registered residents, disabled drivers and owners of cars emitting 75g/km CO2 or less.

However, if you aren’t exempt from the Congestion Charge and are also penalized by entering the Low Emission Zone you will have to pay for both.

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Proposed from 2017: London ‘T-charge’ Emissions Surcharge

The T-charge is...

The proposed London Emissions Surcharge, dubbed the T-charge (T for toxic), could apply to the most polluting vehicles entering central London from 2017 for an interim period.

The charge will be in addition to the Congestion Charge and is will apply within the C Charge area.

It is designed to discourage the most polluting vehicles from entering central London.

Owners of vehicles with pre-Euro 4 emissions standard petrol and diesels – those registered before January 2005 – will need to pay an additional £10 charge on top of the £11.50 Congestion Charge.

READ MORE: Everything you need to know about smart motorways

This will automatically be applied to affected cars.

From 2020: London Ultra Low Emission Zone

In September 2020, the London Ultra Low Emission Zonewill be a zone which will impose a charge on polluting vehicles entering central London. . It will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and at present will operate within the same area as the Congestion Charging Zone.The proposed charge is £12.50. Petrol cars must be Euro 4 emissions-compliant to escape it – but the rules for diesel cars are stricter.

They will need Euro 6 emissions compliance, meaning only diesels built after 1 September 2015 are guaranteed to escape the charge.

Pre-Euro 6 diesels emit higher levels of NOx and particulates and it is these pollutants that are partly the cause of inner-city air quality problems. That’s why the Ultra-Low Emission Zone is more punitive for diesels.

More on this in our complete guide to LEZs.

NOTE: Currently, the Mayor of London is seeking to extend the ULEZ boundaries and bring it forward to 2019, however this is in consultation stage and nothing has been finalised yet.

To put it simply

The Congestion Charge and the Low Emission Zone are two separate schemes which affect different vehicle types and have differing boundaries. Car drivers at present will only have to pay the Congestion Charge.

From 2017, owners of the most polluting vehicles will have to pay 2 charges (T-Charge & Congestion Charge) to drive within the same Congestion Charging Zone.

From 2020, the Ultra-Low Emission Zone will supersede the T-Charge, affecting even newer vehicles, however there are plans to bring this forward to 2019.