Think-tank challenges London mayor to introduce clean buses over shock death figures

The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has called on Ken Livingston to introduce hydrogen buses across London to combat deaths from traffic pollution which now far outnumber road accidents.

The left-leaning think-tank has called on Ken Livingstone to introduce hydrogen buses throughout London by 2005, after official Department of Health statistics showed that 380 Londoners die each year due to traffic related pollution compared to only 226 deaths due to road traffic accidents, the IPPR said on 12 January.

The IPPR has targeted Livingston, as he has direct control over buses, which it says, are responsible for over half of the public transport journeys in London. As a result, and unlike in the rest of the UK, the ability to specify greener fuels for the bus service lies with the Greater London Authority and not with private bus companies.

Hamburg and Berlin have already introduced hydrogen buses into their fleets and plan to expand these to 100% in 2-4 years time . As yet there is no coherent strategy to introduce hydrogen buses in London. Iceland’s capital, Reykjavik, has begun to introduce hydrogen into its public buses as part of the nation’s goal to become the world’s first hydrogen economy (see related story).

“The UK Government prides itself on leading on international environmental issues such as climate change,” said Julie Foley, Researcher on the IPPR Low Carbon Initiative. “But when it comes to developing hydrogen as a low carbon transport fuel even the US is ahead of the UK”. The Government should develop a Research and Development programme to advance the development of hydrogen fuel in the UK,” she said referring to a US Department of Energy blueprint for developing a hydrogen fuel infrastructure over the next 5 years, linked to a £68 million budget for exploring alternative fuels.

“We are investigating the possibility of introducing hydrogen-powered buses in London,” a Greater London Authority transport spokesman told edie. “We have seen IPPR information and will be making an announcement about buses, probably next month, but cannot say anything more about it at the moment,” he said.

A week earlier Mayor Livingstone called for London to take a lead in the development of the Fuel Cell Industry and announced a Zero Emissions Summit to be held in London this spring. He said that two hydrogen fuel cell powered Black Cabs were in use in London.

On 12 January, Darren Johnson, Environmental Advisor to the mayor, launched a pilot scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cut fuel consumption, by trialing new buses run on naturally-aspirated diesel engines. Sightseeing company, the Big Bus Company is testing the new equipment, which lowers CO2 emissions by 66% and is 15% more fuel efficient than current bus engines.

The IPPR also announced the development of a policy strategy for introducing hydrogen vehicles in the UK in consultation with NGOs, vehicle manufacturers, academics and energy companies and will run a series of seminars this spring to examine the public policy implications of developing hydrogen as a sustainable transport fuel.

However, a recent report argues that current methods available for generating hydrogen for fuel usage could cause almost as much damage to the climate as burning petrol in conventional cars (see related story).

A new international organisation to promote hydrogen fuel has also been launched (see World section of this week’s bulletin).

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie