An independent commission has called on Sadiq Khan to reduce car use in London in order to help tackle both pollution and congestion across the capital.
A report published by the Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets, which was convened by the think tank Centre for London, calls on the mayor to focus his efforts on developing a transport network around public transport, walking and cycling.
It recommends the mayor target the most polluting vehicles on the road in London by introducing a cash-back scrappage scheme, as part of the Ulta-Low Emission Zone.
In the long term, it calls for current congestion charge to be replaced with a new pre-pay smart road-user pricing scheme, which will reflect the environmental impact of a journey.
In the short term, it wants the exemption under the congestion charge for private hire vehicles to be removed.
It also calls for an end to subsided residential parking and an extension to existing payment platforms, such as Oyster and Contactless to include other types of services, like car clubs, cycle hire and taxis.
‘Brave and farsighted reforms’ required
The commission said money raised through the reform of parking and road user charges should be invested in the capital’s public realm, making it more ‘walkable’.
And it called on boroughs to take a ‘design-led’ approach to road maintenance and traffic engineering work, rather than seeing these as purely engineering challenges.
‘London’s transport system is admired around the world and more and more Londoners are giving up private cars in favour of public transport, walking, cycling and a range of new mobility services,’ said Centre for London’s director, Ben Rogers.
‘The mayor’s draft transport strategy makes it clear he wants to see this trend continue. But he will need to introduce some brave and farsighted reforms if we are going to tackle London’s worsening congestion and air pollution, and create a healthier and more liveable city.
‘With the help of the reforms proposed by the Commission, London could be admired across the world for the way it enables easy, pollution-free and affordable movement around the city, the vitality of its neighbourhoods, and the quality of its public realm,’ added Mr Rogers.
The chair of NHS England, Malcolm Grant, said: ‘London’s healthcare system is under huge pressures, including supporting an ageing population with often a prolonged period of ill-health later in life; the long-term health consequences of obesity, especially childhood obesity; and respiratory problems from air pollution.
‘Transforming London’s roads and streets into spaces where people of all ages and abilities can move and exercise healthily and safely can significantly ease these pressures.’
Tackling toxic air
The commission’s report has been published just days after the mayor published new research, which shows Londoner is being exposed to dangerous toxic air particles.
The research revealed every area of London exceeds recommended guidelines for PM2.5, which are small toxic air particles widely acknowledged to increase the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
According to scientific research, PM2.5 is also known to result in 29,000 premature deaths in the UK every year.
The research also showed 7.9 million Londoners live in areas exceeding World Health Organisation air quality guidelines by at least 50%.
‘This research is another damning indictment of the toxic air that all Londoners are forced to breathe every day,’ said the London mayor.
‘I am doing everything in my powers to significantly reduce NOx emissions by introducing the T-Charge to drive down the number of dirty vehicles polluting our roads and our lungs and implementing an Ultra Low Emission Zone with even tighter standards,’ added Mr Khan.
‘I also urge the government to devolve powers to me so I can get on with tackling the dangerous toxic air particles – known as PM2.5 – that we know come from construction sites and wood burning stoves. It’s measures like these that we need to get on with now to protect our children and our children’s children.’
Yesterday, four parliamentary committees re-launched their joint inquiry into improving air quality.
The environment food and rural affairs, environmental audit, health, and transport committees will all team up to examine whether the government’s plans to plans to reduce the harmful effects of air pollution on public health and the environment.
With several government departments having a role in managing air pollution, the inquiry will explore how effectively departments work together across Whitehall to tackle air pollution.
‘The government are on their third attempt to meet legal air quality standards,’ said environmental audit committee chair, Mary Creagh.
‘Local authorities have said the government’s plan for air pollution does not go far enough to help the millions of people living with illegally high levels of air pollution today.
‘Ministers will now face unprecedented scrutiny in parliament to ensure they are doing everything necessary to protect people from filthy air,’ she added.
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