Boris’s backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion

Boris's lifting of the Western Extension Zone of the London congestion charge has led to more traffic and pollution

The Western Extension of the Congestion Charging Zone (WEZ) was removed in January and traffic levels, traffic speed and air quality have been monitored closely since then. Today TfL released data related to the WEZ removal playing down a significant increase in level of traffic entering the and within the area alongside a reduction in average speed. But TfL have suggested this is a good news story.

The level of traffic driving into the former WEZ has increased by 8 per cent since the WEZ was abolished in January. According to figures released by Transport for London, there has also been a 6 per cent increase in the level of traffic within the former zone while average traffic speeds have slowed by around 3 per cent leading to increased journey times.

However, all three of these measures are at the lower end of predicted impact ranges and have therefore been packaged as a good news story despite the considerable impact which poor air quality has on the health and wellbeing of Londoners.

The PM10 (particles measuring 10µm or less) standard was designed to identify those particles likely to be inhaled by humans, and PM10 has become the generally accepted measure of particulate material in the atmosphere in the UK and in Europe. In directives 1999/30/EC and 96/62/EC, the European Commission has set limits for PM 10 in the air. The legal standard for PM10, which is itself twice the World Health Organisation (WHO) guideline for human exposure, has been breached in London for the whole of 2011 before the end of April.

A number of the Mayor’s seemingly backwards steps on air quality, including the scraping of the WEZ and the deferral of Phase 3 of the low emission zone from 4 October 2010 to 3 January 2012 have resulted in an unhealthy situation for the capital. For the congestion charge in London to achieve or even work towards achieving improved air quality it would be needed across a wider area along with the creation of Low Emission Zones across Greater London, preventing highly polluting vehicles from travelling within the M25 – both steps which are being reversed under our current Mayor.

Moreover, the DfT recently gave Johnson £5 million for a Clean Air Fund. Sustrans asked London Assembly member Jenny Jones to question the Mayor on his intentions for the fund. His response was that the Clean Air Fund will support measure including:

• Targeted cleaning at priority locations for PM10
• Increased application of dust suppressants at priority locations
• Reducing idling at priority locations through the provision of taxi marshals at central London stations and other key locations
• Reducing idling through improved signage and infrastructure, targeted interventions with specific vehicles such as taxis and coaches, awareness raising activities and enforcement

Dust suppressants have been trialled and have failed – yet funding is going to widen the programme – why?

The congestion charge is not an anti-car measure, but a pro-London measure. It is too easy to condemn as ‘anti-car’ any measure, however small, that seeks to control the way cars have come to dictate our lives. Congestion charging won’t stop all cars coming in – it will ease congestion for those that need to and will improve quality of life for all Londoners if used in the right way. People with a disabled ‘blue badge’, taxis and licensed mini cabs, and drivers of dual fuel gas or zero pollution vehicles, are zero-rated and can drive in the congestion charge zone for free.

Population rises and economic recovery, causing traffic to grow 33% by 2025 in the UK, combined with road spending cuts will necessitate wholesale reform of road pricing. Congestion charging in some format is inevitable and it will benefit the country and the British public by improving their wellbeing, making it easier and faster to travel using public transport, on foot or by bike and by improving the quality of the air that people breathe. We need a political presence which understands and supports this issue, but it’s not coming from either end of the spectrum in London.

21 Responses to “Boris’s backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion”

  1. Eleanor Besley

    RT @leftfootfwd: Boris's congestion charge removal //t.co/YbOjTID @sustrans @MuradQureshiAM @davehill @greenjennyjones

  2. Daniel Elton

    RT @leftfootfwd: Boris's congestion charge removal //t.co/YbOjTID @sustrans @MuradQureshiAM @davehill @greenjennyjones

  3. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion: //bit.ly/iADCBX : writes @EleanorBesley #News

  4. George Woods

    Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion: //bit.ly/iADCBX : writes @EleanorBesley

  5. Eleanor Besley

    Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion: //bit.ly/iADCBX : writes @EleanorBesley

  6. Daniel Vockins

    Boris happy that congestion has increased by ONLY 8 per cent since abolishing part of congestion zone in Jan: //bit.ly/m8JyBI #sigh

  7. Sustrans

    Boris’s backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion //bit.ly/inLdVM

  8. Michelle

    Here here – how can any increase in traffic levels be seen as good news

  9. Pete Masterman

    Boris’s backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion //bit.ly/inLdVM

  10. News about Air quality issue #1 | | Pucketts ProjectsPucketts Projects

    […] uses ultraviolet absorption spectroscopy to measure the level of pollution in cer more… Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion – Left Foot Forward – leftfootforward.org 06/03/2011 BBC NewsBoris's backward steps for London on pollution […]

  11. J H Holloway

    As usual, the social scientists fail to understand, or deliberately fail…this is a terrible piece.

    The particulates and NoX levels that are breaching the EU limits are almost all from heavy diesel vehicles – the contribution from petrol engines is minimal. Taxis probably contribute to 25 percent of the particulate levels, but no action has been taken. These heavy (1.8t) and ancient heaps, with worn-out high mileage engines should be banned. But no politician will move in it.

    Add to that the fact that polluting commercial traffic is not put off using the zone. Which is why, despite a rise in traffic there’s no change to the pollution levels. That’s easily explained. Me, in my super-clean new car, now drives through Chelsea, rather than around it. So traffic levels go up, but pollution stays the same.

    Moreover, the rise in traffic levels is not caused by a sudden increase in drivers, but by me diverting from the embankment/earls court back into the old WEZ. I’m not an extra car, I’m just using different roads.

    Three, we already have congestion charging. The more I drive, the more fuel I use, the more tax I pay. Mileage=tax. In my 35mpg car, that’s about £1 per 10 miles and much more If I sit in a traffic jam.

    Four, over in your beloved continental Europe, most German towns and cities have entry to the urban centre based – quite correctly – on engine pollution levels. (That’s not Co2, which isn’t regarded by the EU as pollution). You might see a German car with a green sticker with a ‘4’ printed on it. That means it’s one of the cleaner engines and can drive into city centres. A red or yellow-badged car will be banned. In London, over 75 percent of blacks cabs would be banned under such a system.

    Of course the problem for the UK Left – which is further Left compared to the rest of the EU – is that the life-extending German approach to traffic control doesn’t either raise more money or hit the rich, as Leninspart’s £25 per day WEZ charge intended to. The newest cars are the cleanest, of course and a Range Rover is less polluting than a black cab.

    Fifthly, the mayor of Barcelona recently banned the purchase of anymore diesel-powered buses and taxis.

    Sixthly, Boris’s new bus is not only electrically-driven (it is not an old-fashioned hybrid), but has super-low pollution levels and is 40 percent more economical than a diesel bus (and over 50 percent more economical than a Bendy) and well as being 15 percent more economical than a hybrid bus. And yet you lot want to can it….

    The old,old, story is that urban ‘progressive minority’ hates the private car. It is a rolling exhibition of ‘inequality’ of course. But it also frees the citizen to go where and when he likes, with minimal state control.

    You say ‘congestion charge will…improve the quality of the air we breathe’. But with the most polluting vehicles still using the streets, London remains over the EU pollution limits despite eight years of the C-Charge.

    As I said, a terrible piece of ideology dressed up a ‘progressive’. Like most of the Left’s ideas, of course.

  12. PhoneBookRecycle

    Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion //bit.ly/jmdBqI

  13. Tom White

    Lost me at ‘further left compared to the rest of the EU’. That’s complete nonsense – do some research of your own.

  14. jo abbess

    Boris happy that congestion has increased by ONLY 8 per cent since abolishing part of congestion zone in Jan: //bit.ly/m8JyBI #sigh

  15. mr. Sensible

    Couldn’t agree more Eleanor.

    I would suggest that Cameron ought to have a quiet word… b

  16. J H Holloway

    ‘Lost me at ‘further left compared to the rest of the EU’. That’s complete nonsense – do some research of your own.’

    OK, two examples.

    In Germany, a young family (married or civil partnership) gets up 18k Euros in tax-breaks so one parent can stay at home. Would the Left in Britain wear this?

    In Sweden, divorced parents have to share custody of the children and a parent is not allowed to move from the home area, thus removing the other parents access. Would the British Left wear this?

  17. Stephen Miller

    London Mayor Boris shrinks congestion charge zone; traffic, air quality get worse as result. Boris claims success: //bit.ly/m8JyBI

  18. The Air Purifiers

    Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion //t.co/PXV4ZVQ

  19. Eleanor Besley

    @ J H Holloway. Leaving aside the political dichotomy of left vs right which, I think, is not only flawed but also subjective (and hypocritical) – as usual the scientists fail to understand or deliberately fail, and my assumed love of all things continental (not sure where this assumption comes from) I think you raise a key point.

    However, you (like myself) fail to note two additional points:

    Firstly, gas works in Cromwell Road since last October and still ongoing have meant lane and road closures and major diversions resulting in reduced local traffic. We won’t know the full impact of the wez removal on air quality until those lane and road closures cease.

    Secondly, whilst the move to electrification is an admirable aspiration in certain senses, it fails to acknowledge the gargantuan (sorry) obesity and wider public health crisis which London faces – particularly evident when we look at our children and young people.

    I’m intrigued by your reference to my beloved Europe as indeed I agree we could have a more sophisticated congestion charging system – you are not however referring to a congestion charge but a polluting charge. The current mayor has no interest in pursuing such a charge.

    I am keen to hear more from you on your views regarding congestion as, politics aside, i doubt our perspectives differ a great deal.

  20. ClientEarth

    Boris's backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion: //bit.ly/iADCBX : writes @EleanorBesley

  21. Matt

    In what way can increased motor traffic levels and increased speeds be described as ‘good news’? Whatever your ideology, surely it is acceptable for car drivers to contribute to the real cost of their activity.

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