Boris faces up to London’s air quality crisis with £330m green spree

2,400 hybrid buses, zero-emission taxis and 10,000 street trees will all be coming to London as part of new plans announced by Boris Johnson in a bid to tackle the capital's air pollution problems.

The Mayor of London confirmed around £330m of new funding – the majority of which will be spent on green buses and taxis – to assist with plans to create the world’s first ‘Ultra Low Emission Zone’ in central London in 2020.

The Mayor’s senior advisor for environment and energy, Matthew Pencharz, said: “Nobody has shown greater desire to improve air quality in the capital than the Mayor. He has set out the most ambitious and comprehensive set of measures to address the problem and this business plan provides the funding to deliver the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, which will be a game changing moment in terms of improving air quality in London.”

Around ten per cent of London’s bus fleet are currently hybrid models with around 1,000 buses using the technology. A further 2,400 new hybrid buses will be rolled out as well as up to 300 new electric buses in central London by 2020.

Under the Ultra-Low Emission Zone proposals, all newly licensed taxis must be zero-emission capable from 2018 and the age limit for non-zero emission capable taxis would be tightened to ten years from 2020. If the proposal is adopted, Johnson confirmed that TfL will establish a £40m fund to assist taxi drivers affected by a ten-year age limit to purchase newer vehicles.

Leafier London

This announcement comes just weeks after Johnson was forced to accept that London’s Oxford Street has some of the worst air pollution in the world. In an exchange of letters with the Environment Audit Committee (EAC) of MPs, the Mayor said he now accepts scientific evidence from Britain’s leading air research group that the street has some of the world’s highest recorded levels of nitrogen dioxide.

The Mayor’s Office says the new Ultra Low Emission Zone will more than halve NOx emissions in central London and reduce the number of people living in areas which exceed legal limits on air pollution by over 70%.

Meanwhile, Johnson this week today announced plans to make London leafier by planting the final 4,300 trees in his Street Tree Initiative. The Initiative grants £600,000 of funding to 23 projects across 21 boroughs to help make London’s streets cooler and improve air quality. An additional 10,000 street trees will be planted by March 2015.

Luke Nicholls

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