AS LONDON’s Mayor this week issued a ‘high pollution’ warning, many feel his aim is to rid the capital of all cars.
Sadiq Khan took the step of announcing a ‘toxic air’ warning for the first time in two years last week and pleaded with millions in the city to avoid making ‘unnecessary car trips’. The announcement came just a few days after the mayor was accused by LBC radio’s Andrew Marr of “trying to drive car drivers out of London”.
It’s also just a couple of weeks since Mr Khan announced plans to expand the Ultra Low Emission Zone across the entirety of London in 2023 to make the capital greener and less congested.
Mr Khan said: “We have too often seen measures delayed around the world because it’s viewed as being too hard or politically inconvenient, but I’m not willing to put off action we have the ability to implement here in London.
“In weighing up the different options, the rising cost of living was a key consideration for me. Because at a time when people’s budgets are under pressure, I’m not willing to ask people to pay more unless I’m absolutely convinced it’s justified to save lives and protect the health of Londoners.
“I believe the proposal to extend the ULEZ London-wide will have the biggest effect on emissions and congestion relative to the potential financial impact on Londoners as a whole.”
The Mayor also suggested he will launch a scheme to allow Londoners to scrap their cars in exchange for financial support.
He said: “We are also proposing to introduce the biggest scrappage scheme feasible to help Londoners on low incomes, disabled Londoners and businesses.”
Andrew Marr put several points to Mr Khan as he interviewed him live on the subject, saying: “Bit by bit you’re trying to get ordinary car users out of London, and it seems to a lot of people that there is an underlying, secretive plan to get cars out of London.”
Mr Khan responded: “I do want to also encourage those who don’t need to drive to not be drivers, so people like you can be freed up.”
Marr continued: “It seems to me that large parts of London have become effectively a car park and they have allowed roadworks to happen simultaneously all across a bit of London so that completely close to ordinary traffic.
“I’ve looked at the numbers now the average traffic speed in London in 2010 was 17 miles now which is not fast, and now it’s nine miles an hour.
“Are you trying to drive car drivers out of London?”
Mr Khan replied: “We’ve seen a post-pandemic a massive return to people driving their cars, rather than using public transport for reasons we understand because they’re concerned about social distance and the virus. So we’ve got to give people an alternative to driving their car which means increasing the number of safe cycling.”
The London ULEZ has already been expanded twice in the past two years, with the most recent resulting in £600,000 of charges per day in the capital.
That came from some 77,000 older non-compliant vehicles driving in the zone each day.
Only this week an NHS boss at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich said workers were having to leave their cars parked outside the zone and walk the rest of the way to work due to the expansion.
The divisional director of operations for Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Kelly Lewis-Towler said there were “huge implications” for staff and paying £12.50 a day was “not doable” for those with older vehicles.
Christina Calderato, director of transport strategy and policy at Transport for London, said: “The world-leading road user charging schemes we’ve delivered throughout the last two decades have been really effective, but it is clear that as a city we need to go further.
“We know that Londoners understand the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and expanding it to cover all roads and bring the area in line with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will be hugely beneficial for improving air quality across the whole city.
“We look forward to further developing the scheme through formal and comprehensive public consultation later this year.”