GLA Conservatives call for ULEZ exemptions for fire, police and ambulance fleets to minimise cost impact for emergency services
London's emergency services are struggling to make their fire engine, police car and ambulance fleets compliant with forthcoming Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) air pollution standards by the proposed 2019 deadline, the GLA's Conservative group will today warn.
According to Shaun Bailey, London Assembly Member and Conservative group's environment spokesman, FOI requests he put to the Metropolitan Police, London Fire Brigade and the London Ambulance Service show they each need to replace significant numbers of vehicles over the next few years in order to be ULEZ compliant and drive in central London without a charge.
Under the ULEXZ plan - which is designed to improve the air quality in the capital - all vehicles, including emergency services' fleets, travelling inside the zone are required to meet stipulated exhaust emissions standards or pay a charge of £12.50 a day.
The ULEZ was originally planned by the previous Mayor Boris Johnson to come into force in 2020, but since his election last year Mayor Sadiq Khan has pledged to bring forward the deadline to 2019 in line with his commitment to making tackling air pollution a major priority for the Mayor's Office.
Khan has also said he wants to widen the boundaries of the ULEZ beyond central London to the capital's North and South Circular ring roads.
But Bailey said it was "unbelievable" that emergency services were not exempt from the ULEZ rules "given their whole reason for driving in London is to save lives". He called for an extension of the deadline for all fire engines, police cars and ambulances to improve their exhaust emissions.
Bailey's Freedom of Information requests found 82 per cent of the Met Police's entire fleet is currently non-compliant with ULEZ emissions standards and would need replacing with lower emissions models in order to drive in central London without charge.
Despite a replacement programme for its fleet, around 800 police vehicles are still not expected to be compliant by 2020, and the Met has reportedly asked the Mayor for concessions for its non-compliant vehicles.
In addition, an FOI request to the London Fire Brigade found 52 vehicles in its fleet are not expected to meet emissions standards by 2019, which could potentially cost the service £250,000 in ULEZ charges.
The London Ambulance Service, meanwhile, still needs to replace 828 diesel vehicles and 27 petrol vehicles in order to avoid ULEZ charges, Bailey said.
Bailey said it made sense for emergency services to introduce more modern vehicles with more stringent emissions standards over time in order to cut pollution and reduce fuel costs. But he warned meeting the current 2019 deadline was placing financial pressures on tight budgets and threatening the ability of police, fire and ambulance staff to do their jobs.
"The consultation responses I've uncovered show our emergency services are concerned," said Bailey. "The Mayor should immediately give them an exemption or at least provide some flexibility on their compliance. These services cannot and should not be hit with a financial burden stretching into the millions of pounds when their travel is so vital and their environmental impact so minimal."
Nicole Fletcher, head of sustainable development at the London Fire Brigade, conceded that complying with the ULEZ stipulations was "challenging" but said the service would be capable of doing so by the earlier 2019 deadline if necessary.
"The ULEZ target is challenging and we are in discussions with suppliers regarding meeting the earlier 2019 deadline," Fletcher said in a statement. "We are currently on schedule to replace all of our vehicles by 2020 with the exception of a small number of specialist vehicles. For this minority we are able to convert these vehicles using SCR (selective catalytic reduction) technology so they are compliant. Should the ULEZ introduction be brought forward we can apply SCR to any frontline vehicles yet to be replaced."
City Hall, the Metropolitan Police and London Ambulance Service were all considering BusinessGreen's request for comment at the time of publication.
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