Call to extend ambulance Ulez exemption to avoid £65m upgrade costs

City Hall maintains that Ulez will save the NHS money in the long term, reports Noah Vickers, Local Democracy Reporter

London Ambulance Service and (inset) Ulez

Sadiq Khan has been urged to keep NHS ambulances exempt from paying the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) charge “well beyond” the current deadline of 2025.

It comes following reports that ambulance trusts in and around London are set to spend almost £65m to replace non-compliant vehicles in their fleets.

Keith Prince, a Conservative on the London Assembly, has said in a letter to the mayor that this is not “a sensible burden” to place on the health service at a time of high inflation.

The mayor’s office maintains that the Ulez will save the NHS money in the long term, because of an expected reduction in pollution-related illness.

The total figure of “nearly £65m” being spent on Ulez-compliant ambulances was reported by the Daily Mail, based on Freedom of Information requests to ambulance trusts in the south of England.

Prince, who represents Havering and Redbridge on the assembly, wrote to Khan: “At a time when, post-pandemic, inflation is high and budgets are tight, there can be few people who genuinely believe that this is a sensible burden to place on our health service.

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“Given this, I am writing to ask that you extend the Ulez exemption for ambulances well beyond October 2025.

“As you know, the impact on London’s air quality of such an exemption will be miniscule but the saving will make a very real difference.”

A spokesperson for the mayor said: “The Ulez is about making Londoners healthier, and saving the NHS money in the long term.

“Research has shown that if no further action is taken to reduce air pollution the cost to the NHS and social care system in London is estimated to be £10.4bn by 2050.

“Charges for non-compliant emergency vehicles are waived as per the agreements Transport for London has made with public emergency service organisations and NHS bodies while they work on upgrading their publicly-owned vehicles to meet standards.

“These agreements have been developed on a case by case basis, working closely with each organisation to understand their needs, to ensure we do not put pressure on their operational services.”

Similar exemptions exist for non-compliant vehicles used by the Met Police and London Fire Brigade.

Ulez was first launched in central London in 2019, before expanding to the North Circular in 2021, and again to the London boundary in August this year.

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