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ULEZ and Congestion Charge Guide

Welcome to GowringsVersa Mobility’s comprehensive guide on the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and congestion charge in the UK. This guide aims to provide all the essential information you need to navigate these regulations, particularly as a wheelchair user or someone caring for a wheelchair user.

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What is ULEZ and Congestion Charge?

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Congestion charge are two key measures implemented in the UK to reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, particularly in urban areas like central London. These regulations aim to encourage the use of cleaner vehicles and reduce overall emissions. Understanding ULEZ and congestion charge rules is essential for wheelchair users and their families to navigate travel within these zones efficiently.

What is The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ)?

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a designated  area in which vehicles must meet strict emission standards to drive without incurring a charge. ULEZ was introduced to reduce air pollution and improve public health. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Location: ULEZ currently covers central London but is set to expand. Always check the latest boundaries on the Transport for London (TfL) website.
  • Operational Hours: ULEZ operates 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, including public holidays.
  • Charges: Vehicles that do not meet the emission standards are charged daily. The charge is £12.50 for most vehicle types, including cars, motorcycles, and vans (up to and including 3.5 tonnes). Heavier vehicles, including lorries over 3.5 tonnes and buses/coaches over 5 tonnes, face a charge of £100.44.

ULEZ Expansion: Support for Disabled People

For disabled people who have cars that do not comply with ULEZ standards, there are discounts and exemptions available. These exemptions are called “grace periods”.

For more information about grace periods, including how to apply for a grace period for your car, go to the ULEZ discounts and exemptions page on the Transport for London website.

If your car is registered with the DVLA under the “disabled tax class” or “disabled passenger tax class”, it is exempt from ULEZ until 2027.

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ULEZ Compliant WAVs

 After 2027 you might need to pay the ULEZ charge if your car still doesn’t meet ULEZ standards.

There are various options available to you to ensure your car is ULEZ compliant by 2027.

  • Scrap (give up) your car and get up to £2000
  • Scrap your Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle and get up to £10,000
  • You can use this money to buy a new vehicle, or for alternative modes of transport. (Alternatives mode of transport include: Annual Bus & Tram Passes, adapted bicycles, mobility scooters)
  • Get up to £6000 to retrofit (modify) a Wheelchair Accessible Van so it meets ULEZ standards.

You can scrap your car by applying to the Mayor of London’s scrappage scheme.

If you get your car from Motability or through Access to Work, you need to speak to them about changing to a ULEZ compliant car.

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Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) Grace Period

This grace period is open to wheelchair accessible cars and vans that do not meet ULEZ emissions standards and that have been converted by mobility experts to allow a disabled person to access the vehicle as driver or passenger. To be eligible, the WAV needs to be fitted with one of the following adaptations:

  • A permanently fitted foldable ramp or a powered lift allowing the wheelchair user to enter the vehicle
  • An electric or hydraulic hoist to lift a person or wheelchair into the vehicle
  • A swivel seat on either the passenger or driver side of the vehicle
  • An accelerator ring permanently fitted to the steering wheel of the vehicle

The vehicle must be registered with the DVLA (or equivalent EEA body) in the name of the applicant. To apply for this grace period, you will need to provide images of your vehicle’s logbook (V5C), a photo ID of the applicant and three images of your vehicle’s permanent conversion for a disabled person’s use.

You can only apply for a grace period for one WAV. Successful applicants will not need to pay the ULEZ charge for their vehicle until 25 October 2027. Apply for WAV grace period

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Congestion Charges

The government is still very much set on their Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener. This strategy sets out policies and proposals for decarbonising all sectors of the UK economy to meet an ambitious net-zero target by 2050. One of the main ways they plan to achieve this is through rolling out congestion charges across the UK. New low emission zones are planned across the country in the following cities: Aberdeen, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Dundee, Edinburgh, Fareham, Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, Oxford, Reading, Sheffield, Slough, Warrington and York.

One of the biggest concerns for those who have a disability, is access. Before the emission zones came into play, anyone could easily drive into most towns and cities – close to the destination, unhindered. Now the new rules threaten to make things harder, but things may not be as bad as they sound for people with mobility issues.

If the scheme has been introduced in your city and you are wondering if you will need to pay a charge, you can use the government’s congestion charge zone checker to find Clean Air Zones near you. For London, specifically, you can find out how much you’ll need to pay on the London Transport Website

If you own a vehicle and it is disabled passenger tax class and disabled tax class these vehicles are entitled to a national exemption and do not have to pay the charge.

Hire wheelchair vehicles may have to pay the charge, depending on specific clean air zone.

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Exemptions and Payment

There are some national and local exemptions from the charge.

You’re automatically entitled to a national exemption, and do not have to pay a charge, if you have:

  • a vehicle that’s ultra low emission
  • a disabled passenger tax class vehicle
  • a disabled tax class vehicle
  • a military vehicle
  • a historic vehicle
  • a vehicle retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS)
  • certain types of agricultural vehicles

The zones operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year. The charge period runs from midnight to midnight.You must pay the charge by 11:59pm on the sixth day after driving into the zone. You can pay up to 6 days before you travel. If you do not pay the charge in this time, you may get a penalty charge notice (PCN).

The maximum payment that can be made in a single transaction is £5,000. Payments that exceed this limit will need to be split into separate transactions.

As long as you are eligible and your WAV (wheelchair accessible vehicle) is registered within the correct tax class you should be exempt. If you are not sure or you need to update your tax class – read here for information on how to update your tax class.

This post is provided as information only, the law can change and you should check your eligibility and local authority information before purchasing a new vehicle.

Planning Your Journey

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Check Your Vehicle

Use the TfL vehicle checker to see if your vehicle meets ULEZ and congestion charge standards.

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Plan Ahead

Consider alternative routes or times to travel to avoid peak congestion charge hours.

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Use Public Transport

Where possible, use accessible public transport options to avoid the charges entirely. Explore more about accessible travel options on our Accessible Travel Guide.

Additional Resources

For more detailed information, visit the following links:

Ultra Low Emission Zone

Congestion Charge

Vehicle Checker

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