Heathrow has announced that it will introduce new measures to protect local air quality and reduce congestion on roads around the airport.
The UK’s only hub airport is putting plans in motion to introduce charges for passenger cars and all private hire vehicles, with the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone (the Heathrow ULEZ).
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.
Want to know more about the schemes? All of the key questions and info can be found below.
What is happening and when?
Heathrow is introducing the world’s first airport Ultra Low Emission Zone (the Heathrow ULEZ) in 2022. From 2026, this will transition into a vehicle access charge (VAC).
Why is Heathrow doing this?
Road vehicles are the main source of local air pollution – these schemes will tackle this problem. We want to reduce congestion by decreasing the number of cars on the road and encourage more people to use sustainable ways of getting to and from the airport, like public transport.
Our 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.
Do all vehicles have to pay?
The Heathrow ULEZ will introduce minimum vehicle emissions standards identical to the London Mayor’s ULEZ for passenger cars, motorcycles and private hire vehicles.
Vehicles with older, more polluting engines, will have to pay the Heathrow ULEZ. The charge will apply to petrol cars that fail to meet “Euro 4” emissions standards (typically those registered up to 2005), and diesel cars that fail to meet “Euro 6” standards (typically those registered up to September 2015).
The vehicle access charge will apply to all passenger cars, motorcycles taxis and private hire vehicles.
Where does this apply?
The charges apply to vehicles entering the car parks or drop-off areas at any of Heathrow’s terminals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Heathrow will use Automatic Number-Plate Recognition technology (ANPR) to track non-compliant vehicles, similar to the Congestion Charge or Dart Charge.
How much will the charge be?
Initial proposals set the charge figure between £10-£15, in line with charges set by the Mayor in central London.
How will Heathrow use the fees?
Revenue collected from both schemes will help fund initiatives to improve sustainable transport, contribute to community compensation and help keep airport charges affordable as the airport expands.
What else is Heathrow doing to tackle these issues?
Earlier this month, Heathrow published its annual sustainability report – Heathrow 2.0 – which sets out how the airport is addressing the impact of aircraft and other operations. Highlighted in the report are significant investments made to offset emissions and speed up electric flight, supporting the airport’s goal to become carbon neutral by 2020 and to operate zero carbon airport infrastructure by 2050.
What about sustainable travel today and in the future?
Heathrow is currently the best-connected airport in the UK across all forms of Surface Access. We have invested over £1billion in rail infrastructure and provide over £2.5million annually to encourage public transport use via the airport free travel zone, support for bus services and contributions to local sustainable transport schemes.
We are backing plans to treble rail capacity by 2040 through improved transport links, including the introduction of the Elizabeth Line, an upgraded Piccadilly Line, and proposed rail links from the West and South. This is in addition to improved coach and bus links.
Heathrow central bus station is one of the UK’s busiest bus and coach stations, with over 800 bus and coach departures each day. It is located between Terminals 2 and 3 and is open 24 hours a day.
What exemptions will be applied?
Our proposals for exemptions will be finalised following the Airport Expansion Consultation and engagement with interest groups.
The below groups would be exempt from both charges:
- Disabled passenger vehicles
- LGVs, HGVs, Buses, Coaches
- Emergency services
- Military vehicles
- Historic and specialist vehicles
- Heathrow operational vehicles
Blue badge holders would be exempt from the Vehicle Access Charge. More information will be provided as we develop these plans.
What about Heathrow colleagues?
Heathrow is doing its bit to reduce vehicle use by leading industry change through a targeted colleague strategy, which will be launched next week and will focus on reducing the number of colleague car trips though a mixture of incentives, restraints on parking and investment in new public transport links.
What happens next?
Our upcoming Airport Expansion Consultation will gather feedback on the Heathrow ULEZ, VAC and our Surface Access Strategy which will be used to shape the schemes. We are actively consulting important stakeholder groups about this scheme and will work with them on these.
The public will have their chance to provide feedback in the consultation, running from June 18th – September 13th.
To find out more information click here.