By Jeremy Lovell
LONDON, Feb 1 (Reuters) - The world’s largest clean transport area comes into effect in London on Monday.
The British capital’s low emission zone will add to its reputation as a leader in sustainable transport policies, following its congestion pricing scheme.
Low emission zones are already in operation or planned in 70 towns and cities in eight European countries including Norway, the Netherlands and Germany. But London’s will dwarf them all.
"This will be the first in Britain and the largest in the world by a significant margin," said a spokeswoman for Transport for London, which will run the scheme.
The scheme will initially apply only to diesel lorries over 12 tonnes which have to comply with strict European Union limits on particulate or soot emissions from their exhausts.
Cameras at 75 sites in and around the zone will snap the licence plates of vehicles. These will be checked against a central database to make sure the vehicles comply. Lorries that do not comply and have not been retro-fitted with exhaust scrubbers to bring them up to standard will be charged 200 pounds a day to be in the zone.
All foreign-registered lorries will have to register with the database and fines will be issued for non-compliance.
The scheme, which cost 49 million pounds ($97.5 million) to set up, will be extended to lorries over 3.5 tonnes, coaches and buses in July 2008 and to larger vans and minibuses in Oct. 2010.
"We realise that the mayor has a statutory duty to improve the air quality of London but we don’t think the scheme as proposed will be effective in achieving that," a spokeswoman for the Freight Transport Association said.
"It is costing the industry a huge amount of money to comply and some of the smaller operators will struggle." She said exhaust scrubbers cost up to 5,000 pounds ($10,000).
Central London already operates a camera-monitored congestion charge zone. That was set up primarily to cut traffic, with air quality improvement as an afterthought.
"London’s air quality is the worst in Britain and among the worst in Europe. Levels of particulate matter in many parts of London are way over EU standards," the TfL spokeswoman said.
"It will help improve the quality of life for people suffering from asthma, cardio-vascular conditions and all the conditions that particulate matter exacerbates," she said.
All lorries manufactured after Oct. 2001 automatically comply with the Euro 3 standards of particulate emissions of 0.05 grammes per kilometre, the level adopted by the scheme. TfL said it identified 120,000 different lorries over 12 tonnes inside the zone during six months of monitoring last year. It estimates 10 percent do not meet the standards. (Editing by David Clarke)