The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, announced yesterday (4 August) that he is introducing air quality alerts across the capital to notify Londoners during the worst incidents of air pollution.
Sadiq Khan has been vocal about tackling London’s poor air quality and an initial consultation on a comprehensive package of measures to clean up the capital’s air has just come to a close (see letsrecycle.com story).
Nearly 15,000 people responded to this consultation and 79% of respondents stated they wish to receive information when air pollution is high or very high so that they can take action to protect their health and reduce its impact.
The Mayor has now announced a new programme of air quality advice and alerts for the public. From Monday 15 August 2016, on the day before and during high and very high air pollution days, air quality alerts will be displayed at 2,500 bus countdown signs and river pier signs across London.
There will also be 140 road-side message signs on the busiest main roads into London, with instructions to switch engines off when stationary to reduce emissions, as well as electronic update signs in the entrances of all 270 London Underground stations.
Depending on the alert level and communication channel, different information and guidance will be provided including: advising people to walk, cycle or use public transport if possible to help improve air quality; to reduce strenuous activity if someone experiences symptoms; or advising asthma sufferers and other vulnerable groups that they may need to use their reliever inhaler more often.
This is the first step towards London putting in place a comprehensive air pollution incident plan, which will also provide critical information to emergency and support services similar to the existing heatwave plan for England. This will ensure improved coordination during the very worst air pollution incidents and that the most vulnerable Londoners are better prepared.
Figures revealed by Sadiq Khan during the first month of his mayoralty claimed that predecessor Boris Johnson, failed to take sufficient action on over a hundred occasions when air quality was moderate, high or very high in London during 2014, 2015 and 2016.
The Mayor said: “Unlike my predecessor, I believe that Londoners have a right to know about the quality of the air that they breathe. These new alerts will allow them to take precautions and help them plan ahead to avoid the worst instances of air pollution.
“I am doing everything within my power as Mayor to put the health of Londoners first. I hope that these alerts will become less and less frequent as we take steps to make our already great city a cleaner place to live, work and study in.â€?
The alerts will use a three-day ahead forecast about air pollution levels provided by airTEXT. More vulnerable Londoners with particular health needs will have access to the airTEXT service enabling them to get regular forecasts via text, voicemail, email, mobile app and online.
The Mayor will also use his Twitter account and other social media channels to make people aware of moderate air quality incidents, which occur around 40 times a year.
Leon Daniels, TfL’s managing director of surface transport, said: “We are working with the Mayor to deliver an ambitious and wide-ranging programme to improve air quality across the capital. An important part of this work is to raise awareness and provide advice to people on how they can personally contribute to this work.â€?
The first round of the Mayor’s Clean Air consultation, which closed on Friday 28 July, proposed a range of measures including new charges for the oldest most polluting vehicles entering central London from 2017, an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone, and a diesel scrappage scheme. A further more detailed consultation will take place later this year and some measures could be implemented as early as 2017.
The major also recently pledged £11 million in funding for five ‘low emission neighbourhood’ projects across the capital, designed to help reduce air pollution (see letsrecycle.com story).