As London Mayor Boris Johnson announces additional hybrid buses for the capital, Darren Johnson looks back at the Mayor’s earlier promise to have more than 350 hybrids on London’s roads by March 2011.
The count down clock is ticking and we are all wondering when the Mayor of London will stop dithering and do something urgent about air pollution.
Marylebone Road has had 26 days where it has exceeded European daily limits for particulate air pollution. This is over two-thirds of its total annual allowance, whilst we are only a third of the way into the year.
The UK is allowed a total of 35 “bad air days” a year until it exceeds European limits for particulate pollution (PM10) and risks incurring a potential fine of approximately £300 million.
Yesterday the Mayor of London announced that another 90 hybrid buses were being launched onto London’s roads. It sounds like good news but what the Mayor has once again failed to tell the media is that he is delivering far less than he promised a short while ago.
In his draft air quality strategy, Boris Johnson outlined an action plan to help reduce emissions and promised that 356 hybrid buses would be on London’s roads by March 2011. So what the Mayor has delivered is over 150 buses less than what was originally promised for his target date.
Even more worrying for the future is that the Mayor had previously adopted the commitment I helped to push through with the previous Mayor: that all buses would be hybrids from 2012 onwards. That solid promise has now become a target of another 100 hybrids by the end of next year, with the vague aim of TfL “maximising the number of new hybrid buses entering service”.
The Mayor is focused upon his vanity project, the new Routemaster, which is a marginally cleaner bus than a regular hybrid. The problem is that the development budget for this new bus has taken away funding from buying a lot more hybrids.
The Mayor claimed a few months ago that he could fund both the new Routemaster and keep his promise on hybrids, but this is clearly not the case. His decision to subsidise the new Routemaster rather than hybrids will actually lead to there being more pollution in London.
This lack of commitment from the Mayor comes as no surprise as he has constantly dithered and backtracked on air pollution. He has delivered 1,300 less electric charging points than he promised last year. He also delayed action against the most polluting light vans by two years. This constant dithering is completely unacceptable when a report commissioned by the Mayor himself estimates that the equivalent of 4267 deaths in 2008 were attributable to long term air pollution.
Londoners are suffering badly and now the threat of a fine is very real. The Mayor needs to take some responsibility and should immediately restore the Western Extension, reinstate twice yearly inspections for black cabs and introduce a Very Low Emission Zone, which only allows the cleanest vehicles to enter central London.