Labour London Mayor hopeful Sadiq Khan has promised to pedestrianise Oxford Street, set low emission bus targets and consult on expanding and bringing forward the introduction of the planned ULEZ if he wins the forthcoming election in May.
Launching his manifesto today (March 9), the MP for Tooting promised to “restore London’s air quality to legal and safe levels” if he is elected on May 5 to succeed Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London.
Latest polls currently put Mr Khan several points ahead of his nearest rival candidate, Conservative MP for Richmond Zac Goldsmith, with current Mayor Mr Johnson stepping down after his second term in office.
Improving air quality in the UK capital has been a major issue of debate during the election campaign, and Mr Khan’s manifesto sets out a number of policies aimed at cleaning up London’s air, which he describes as “our most pressing environmental challenge”.
Mr Khan said: “I know from personal experience that the city’s air is damaging people’s health, as I suffer from adult-onset asthma. So many pollution hotspots in the city are around schools, exposing our children to dangerously polluted air, and putting them at greater risk of respiratory conditions like mine.”
The Labour candidate said he would consult on introducing the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) planned for the centre of the city sooner than its current 2020 start date, and would also look to expand its area “along major arterial routes or a wider section of central London”.
“I know from personal experience that the city’s air is damaging people’s health, as I suffer from adult-onset asthma. So many pollution hotspots in the city are around schools, exposing our children to dangerously polluted air, and putting them at greater risk of respiratory conditions like mine” – Sadiq Khan MP, Labour London Mayor candidate
Mr Kahn pledged to start the process towards full pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, a well-known pollution hotspot, by first bringing back car-free days – potentially at weekends – before eventually barring vehicles from travelling along the busy shopping street outright.
He said: “Our eventual ambition should be to turn one of the world’s most polluted streets into one of the world’s finest public spaces – a tree-lined avenue from Tottenham Court Road to Marble Arch.”
He also said he would revive plans to part-pedestrianise Parliament Square in Westminster.
The manifesto sets out several policies aimed at encouraging low emission vehicles and buses, including the introduction of ‘Clean Bus Corridors’ where new, clean buses would be prioritised to run on the city’s most polluted roads.
Mr Khan would in addition set a target of only buying clean electric or hydrogen buses from 2020, while getting other global cities to do the same in order to “create a race to the top in clean bus technology”.
He also promised to deliver electric charging infrastructure in partnership with the private sector, and to call on the government to introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme to support those wanting to “change to a greener car”
Other policies include a ‘cleaner walking routes to school’ initiative, a “major” tree-planting programme, appointing a ‘pedestrian champion’ to make walking and cycling safer and easier, and opposing a third runway at Heathrow Airport.
Launching the manifesto, Mr Khan said he would be “the greenest Mayor ever, seeking to establish London as a leader in low-carbon innovation and industry, cleaning up our dangerously polluted air, and setting out an ambitious long-term plan for clean energy in our capital.”
The election takes place on May 5, with Mr Khan up against the Conservative’s Mr Goldsmith, Liberal Democrat candidate Caroline Pigeon, Sian Berry of the Green Party and leader of the Respect Party George Galloway.
Mr Goldsmith has also promised more support for cycling, lower-emission liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) fuel for black cabs, more freight consolidation centres as well as “tough new rules” on “great juddering, polluting HGVs” [heavy goods vehicles] on central London’s roads.
Speaking during a hustings event last week (March 4), Mr Goldsmith said he had “had consultations with HGV operators and there are ways of doing this”.
He added: “My plan is that all buses throughout London should be at least ULEZ-capable by 2020.”
Lib Dem Caroline Pigeon, meanwhile, has also called for a ban on HGVs in central London at peak times, as well as pedestrianisation of Oxford Street, support for cycling and a sooner implementation of the ULEZ.
However, she added at the hustings event: “Ultimately you have to get rid of some of the vehicles from London’s roads.”