It’s pretty common knowledge that the streets of London aren’t exactly famed for their fresh air, in fact it’s become one of the key issues of Sadiq Khan’s leadership. Various plans and proposals have either been suggested or enacted and lately there have been even more ideas announced to curb emissions in the capital.
With warmer temperatures and southerly winds throughout late June combining to create dangerously toxic air, he was forced to issue an emergency air quality alert. He has already brought in the Ultra Low Emission Zone; from 2020, any pre-2014 diesel vehicles will be banned from central London.
However, his plans have gotten even more ambitious. Plans were recently announced to make London’s entire public transport system zero emission by 2050, along with 3 million car journeys being removed each day. Starting with taxis and minicabs, due to be non-polluting by 2033, followed by all 9,200 buses by 2037. Finally, by 2040, all road vehicles entering the city will have to be zero emission. To call this plan ambitious would be a bit of an understatement, forecasts currently estimate that electric vehicles could make up only 35% of the market by 2035, so there will still be a lot of motorists unable to drive in London.
In addition to this more long-term plan, Mr Khan has also floated the idea of charging motorists a fee for every mile they drive in London, combined with a ban on the construction of new parking facilities to discourage people from driving into London. An increase in investment for cycling and walking in the city has also been planned to encourage a healthier lifestyle combined with lower emissions.
While there is a long time to go before these plans are implemented, the public consultation alone is open until October 2nd, there is a noticeable lack of information regarding the future of the HGV traffic within London. These vehicles are crucial to the economic health of the city and an outright ban, without proper plans to mitigate the effects, would be disastrous. The industry needs to ensure that if and when these plans become laws, HGVs that meet the emissions and safety requirements are widely available for a cost that won’t destroy businesses. While the environmental health of London’s streets and those who live there is certainly important, the transition to a low-to-zero emission city will have to consider all road users, all businesses and their specific needs.