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London’s air is much cleaner thanks to car scrap scheme

The UK’s capital has suffered from poor air quality for a several years, with 99% of the city exceeding World Health Organisation (WHO) air pollution limits in 2021, but new schemes have helped to tackle toxic air. 

A new report by Transport for London found scrappage schemes set up to help residents prepare for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) removed 140 tonnes of nitrogen oxides and 0.5 tonnes of PM2.5 from the air. 2,000 tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of a lorry driving 1.5 million miles, was also removed.  

Research also shows how the Car and Motorcycle Scrappage Scheme reduced vehicle ownership overall, with 22% of respondents saying their household no longer has access to a vehicle.  

Public transport use and active travel, on the other hand, has increased, with 16% more bus journeys, 22% more walking journeys and 5% more cycling journeys.  

white and red train beside building at daytime

The news comes as the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is considering expanding the ULEZ further to cover the outer boroughs of London.  

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: ‘This report shows that scrappage schemes are both effective and popular – helping Londoners scrap their older, polluting vehicles and switch to walking, cycling or public transport, joining a car club or switching to a cleaner vehicle. I urge the Government to follow London’s lead and help clean our filthy air by supporting a targeted national vehicle scrappage fund that will help motorists across the UK to ditch their polluting cars.  

‘The Ultra Low Emission Zone and the scrappage schemes have already helped to cut pollution by half in central London, but every Londoner has a right to breathe clean air. That’s why we have consulted on proposals to expand the ULEZ London-wide – in order to save lives and continue building a better, greener, healthier London for everyone.’  

The schemes provided financial assistance to businesses, charities, people on lower incomes and disabled people to scrap their old cars and switch to more sustainable modes of transport.  

Launched across 2019 and 2020, the scheme has a £61 million investment and helped to take 15,200 older cars, motorcycles, vans, minibuses and heavy vehicles off the road.  

Stephen Edwards, Chief Executive, Living Streets: ‘It’s fantastic to see that Londoners are walking more and that toxic emissions are reducing as a result of the scheme. Fewer vehicles on the road also means less congestion for those who must use their cars to work or get around. The Mayor’s Scrappage Scheme is a great example of the ways we can start to shift people towards cleaner and greener ways to travel, which will be vital if we’re to get to Net Zero.’  

Photo by Tomas Anton Escobar

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