Navin Shah AM argues Boris Johnson could learn from Delhi about running a sustainable transport network.
Navin Shah AM (Brent and Harrow) is a member of the Labour Friends of India policy forum
The Delhi Metro has become the first rail system in the world to earn ‘carbon credits’ under a United Nations scheme. The credits were given by the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), which gives firms in developing countries an incentive to cut greenhouse gases.
As transport links suffer from government cuts and London suffers from some of the worst urban pollution in Europe, the Delhi story provides a timely reminder of the value of environmentally-friendly and affordable transport.
The Delhi Metro was launched in 2002, and aimed to tackle massive congestion in the city. Delhi has 14 million inhabitants and a population density of almost 12,000 people per square kilometre (as a comparison, London has around 5,000 people per square kilometre), leading to massive congestion and pollution.
The effects of creating an environmentally-friendly metro on this problem are truly impressive.
The Metro carries about 1.8 million people every day. It is estimated that it has helped to have taken 91,000 vehicles off the road. 90% of vehicles circulating in Delhi are personal vehicles, and for every passenger who chooses to use the Metro instead of a car or bus contributes to a 100gm reduction in carbon dioxide for every trip of 10km or more.
Not only is this improving the lives of Delhi’s commuters, and reducing pollution in the city, it is the kind of cumulative contribution in the battle against climate change that is so valuable.
Earlier this month, a major report found that London ranked among Europe’s unhealthiest major cities, with only Dusseldorf, Milan and Rome ranked lower, and had taken “backwards steps” in combating pollution. The European Union has consistently had to press the government over its failure to meet minimum air quality standards in London. Another study found that pollution in London causes 4,267 early deaths.
Despite all this, Boris Johnson has scaled back the congestion charge, introduced above inflation rises in rail fares and government spending cuts have delayed the Crossrail project.
With London rail fares set to increase 2% above inflation – 7% in January 2012 – it appears that Boris Johnson has failed to grasp the connection between transport, pollution and the economy.
As Labour Mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone said
“Fares must be cut – on transport grounds to make the system more attractive, but also on economic grounds to put ordinary Londoners first by putting money back in the pockets that will boost the London economy.”
The Delhi Metro Carbon Credits – for which it will receive £6.1m annually, which will increase as passenger numbers rise – show how long-term planning can pay off both environmentally and economically. Whilst this UN scheme is open only to developing nations, it still pays for London transport to be environmentally sound.
It is estimated 725,000 work days are lost across the European Union annually due to pollution. The savings are not just the result of an improved environment, but an efficient transport system is also a massive plus to the economy. It is estimated that a 5% reduction in travel time could save British businesses £2.5bn a year, whilst traffic congestion is believed to cost the UK economy £25bn by 2025.
The value of an efficient public transport system is immeasurable, affecting every corner of city living. The authorities in Delhi have understood this, and the return on their investment in environmentally-friendly transport is evident not only in the £6.1m they will now receive each year or the 91,000 vehicles they have taken off the road, but the improvements in quality of life for its citizens.
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• Exposed: Boris Johnson’s efforts to evade air pollution rules – Darren Johnson AM, 4th October 2011
• Who will turn London green? – Joss Garman, September 20th 2010
• “Greenest government ever” ordered to face High Court on air pollution – Shamik Das, September 16th 2011
• Boris’s backward steps for London on pollution and traffic congestion – Eleanor Besley, June 3rd 2011
• Coalition aviation policy is still green… for now – Natan Doron, March 29th 2011