Heathrow to introduce low emission zone which could cost private hire drivers £10-15 for daily acces

Taxis will be exempt from the “HULEZ” charge... for now

Heathrow has announced it is getting ready to introduce a set of tough new measures to protect local air quality, reduce congestion and tackle emissions, as the airport looks to crack down on motorists to help solve environmental challenges.

The UK’s only hub airport is putting plans in motion to introduce charges for passenger cars and all private hire vehicles. This includes the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone (the Heathrow ULEZ), set to be introduced in 2022. 

The Heathrow ULEZ will introduce minimum vehicle emissions standards identical to the London Mayor’s ULEZ for passenger cars and private hire vehicles entering car parks or drop-off areas at any of Heathrow’s terminals, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Over time with the opening of the new runway from 2026 and improvements to public transport access to the airport, the Heathrow ULEZ will transition into a vehicle access charge (VAC) on all passenger cars, taxis and private hire vehicles coming to car parks or drop-off areas. The goal is to tackle the main source of local air pollution – road vehicles – and reduce congestion by encouraging more people to use sustainable ways of getting to and from the airport.

Initial proposals for the Heathrow ULEZ could set the charge figure between £10-15, in line with charges set by the Mayor in central London. 

Taxis will be exempt from the HULEZ charges, in line with the London ULEZ scheme. Taxis will be subject to the Heathrow VAC charge when it comes online with the new runway. Private hire vehicles will be subject to the Heathrow ULEZ and Heathrow VAC charges.

The airport is currently exploring ways of expanding the current electric vehicle charging points for black cabs and other cars at the airport to incentivise and make practical the use of the cleanest vehicles possible.

Heathrow is proposing that private hire vehicles have the opportunity to qualify for a discount under the Heathrow ULEZ if they register their vehicle with the airport. This proposal will be finalised after consultation with the submission of the DCO application. Under the HVAC, Heathrow is proposing to monitor registered private hire vehicles and black cabs for the number of times they are recorded picking-up and dropping-off passengers in the same trip (i.e. ‘backfilling’ – cutting down empty trips to/from the airport) and issue a discount on the charge owed to Heathrow per backfilled trip at the end of the invoicing period. 

Private hire vehicles and black cabs will need to pick-up and drop-off in legally designated areas for these pick-up/drop-off activities within the airport in order to qualify for this discount. These details of the HVAC scheme will be finalised closer to the time of the scheme opening.

Today’s announcement comes at a time when action is needed to protect local air quality by changing industry and public behaviour. 

Heathrow will now join London and Birmingham as the third UK zone to impose charges on the most polluting cars.

Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Heathrow Expansion is not a choice between the economy and the environment – we must deliver for both. Today’s announcement shows that we will take the tough decisions to ensure that the airport grows responsibly.”

Former London Deputy Mayor for Transport and newly appointed Chair of independent Heathrow Transport Area Forum, Val Shawcross, said:

"This is a significant step change in Heathrow’s effort to clean up local ground level air pollution by shifting people into the cleanest modes of transport. I have never pulled my punches talking to the airport about local air quality and I look forward to continuing to hold Heathrow to account in my new independent role as Chair of the Heathrow Area Transport Forum.” 

Heathrow will be consulting on proposals for its surface access strategy, including Heathrow ULEZ and Heathrow VAC, in a statutory consultation on the preferred masterplan for expansion which will be launched on 18 June. The public will have the opportunity to provide feedback on our proposals as part of this consultation.

Image: Heathrow

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