Sadiq Khan took the lead in issuing a ‘toxic air’ warning for the first time in two years last week and pleaded with millions in the city to avoid making ‘unnecessary road trips’ . The announcement came just days after the mayor was accused by LBC radio’s Andrew Marr of “trying to chase motorists out of London”.
It’s also been a few weeks since Mr Khan announced plans to extend the Ultra Low Emission Zone to the whole of London in 2023 to make the capital greener and less congested.
Mr Khan said: “We have too often seen action delayed around the world because it is seen as too difficult or politically inconvenient, but I am not prepared to delay actions that we have the capacity to implement. here in London.
“In evaluating 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 prepared to ask people to pay more unless I’m absolutely convinced it’s justified to save lives and protect the health of Londoners.
“I think the proposal to extend the ULEZ to the whole of London will have the biggest effect on emissions and congestion compared to the potential financial impact on Londoners as a whole.”
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The mayor has also suggested he will launch a scheme allowing Londoners to scrap their cars in return for financial support.
He said: ‘We are also proposing to introduce the largest possible scrappage scheme to help low-income Londoners, disabled Londoners and businesses.
Andrew Marr made several points to Mr Khan as he interviewed him live on the subject, saying: “Little by little you are trying to get ordinary motorists out of London, and it seems to a lot of people that ‘there is an underlying, secret plan to get the cars out of London.’
Mr Khan replied: ‘I also want to encourage those who don’t need to drive not to drive, so that people like you can be set free.’
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Marr continued: “It seems to me that large parts of London have become car parks and have allowed roadworks to go on simultaneously in part of London so that they are completely close to regular traffic .
“I looked at the numbers now, the average traffic speed in London in 2010 was 17 miles now, which isn’t fast, and now it’s nine miles an hour.
“Are you trying to drive motorists out of London?
Mr Khan replied: “We have seen a post-pandemic massive return of people driving their cars, rather than using public transport for reasons we understand because they are concerned about social distancing and the virus, so we need to give people an alternative to driving their cars, which means increasing the number of safe bike trips.
London’s ULEZ has already been expanded twice in the past two years, with the most recent resulting in £600,000 a day charges in the capital.
This came from some 77,000 older non-compliant vehicles driving through the area every day.
Just this week, an NHS boss at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Greenwich said workers had to leave their cars parked outside the area and walk the rest of the way to work due to expansion.
Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust Divisional Operations Manager Kelly Lewis-Towler said there were ‘huge implications’ for staff and that paying £12.50 a day was ‘not feasible’ for those with older vehicles.
Christina Calderato, director of transport strategy and policy at Transport for London, said: “The major road user charging systems we have put in place over the past two decades have been really effective, but it is clear that as a city we must go further.
“We know Londoners understand the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and expanding it to cover all roads and aligning the zone with the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) will be hugely beneficial to improving air quality. in all the city.
“We look forward to further developing the program through a formal and comprehensive public consultation later this year.”