Visits to places of worship are not exempt from London’s ULEZ charges

8 August 2023
What was claimed

Journeys to a house of worship for Muslim, Sikh, Jewish and other minority religions for the purposes of prayer are exempt from London’s ULEZ charges.

Our verdict

There is no specific exemption for those driving to places of worship, although a temporary exemption is in place for minibuses providing community transport services.

A widely-read post on Twitter falsely claims that members of some religions who want to drive to a house of worship in order to pray will be exempt from paying charges in London’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), even if their vehicles do not meet the required emissions standards. 

The post, which has also been shared on Facebook, features a clipping that purports to be from a newspaper article. The article appears to quote London Mayor Sadiq Khan as saying: “In cases where it is absolutely necessary to travel such as medical emergency or prayer for the minority religions and other mitigating circumstances, the ULEZ rules will be relaxed for the first 6 months."

The article goes on to specify that this exemption would include Muslim, Jewish, Hindu and Sikh drivers.

These claims are inaccurate as no such specific exemptions exist. 

There is no indication of where the article clipping originated, and it is highly likely to be fake. A search of the text does not lead to any other versions online and a photograph of Mr Khan which it claims was “taken yesterday” can be found in a brochure published in 2018.

The article suggests the statements were made in response to a question from the editor of the US-based Muslim Observer, but no articles about ULEZ appear on its site. Furthermore, the article contains typographical errors and does not follow standard newspaper formatting.

When such posts are made on social media they can spread quickly and be difficult to contain. Claims that contain misinformation about specific religious or ethnic groups have the ability to create divisions within society, potentially leading to further harm. 

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Grace periods for community minibuses

A spokesperson for Transport for London told Full Fact that there was no specific exemption in place for journeys to a place of worship. 

They added that a temporary exemption, in place until 26 October 2025, does apply to: “minibuses used for community transport by a range of not for profit organisations, which could include transport to a place of worship, among other activities.”

Guidance online says this exemption covers minibuses that are able to carry eight to 16 passengers and are used on a not-for-profit basis, such as “educational, religious, social welfare reasons, or other activities that benefit the community.” After this period, the vehicles will need to pay the ULEZ charge if they do not meet emissions standards.

However, this only covers eligible minibuses that have registered to receive this exemption and while that may include some vehicles used by the religious groups specified in the article, it could also include other groups and organisations.

The article also talks about the rules being initially relaxed for “medical emergencies”. No specific exemption exists in the case of medical emergencies but such a situation could be used as mitigation to challenge non-payment of the charge, though it is up to the discretion of those issuing the penalty charge notice as to whether it would be accepted. Certain NHS patients may be entitled to reimbursement of the ULEZ charge when attending hospital appointments. 

While the majority of drivers and vehicles who fail to meet the necessary emissions standards will have to pay a daily fee to enter the ULEZ, there are a number of other exemptions.  For example, disabled people whose vehicles fall under the tax class of “disabled” or “disabled passenger” are entitled to a grace period, meaning they do not have to pay the charge before 25 October 2027. The same applies to those in receipt of certain disability benefits and those driving registered wheelchair accessible vehicles.

ULEZ currently operates across central London but the zone is being expanded across all London boroughs on 29 August 2023. We have previously published fact checks highlighting incorrect claims relating to the public consultation that took place around the expansion of ULEZ.

Image courtesy of Matt Boitor

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