Sadiq Khan’s toxic air vow after Ulez expansion backlash

Sadiq Khan’s toxic air vow after Ulez expansion backlash

Sadiq Khan has insisted he remains committed to “taking action” to tackle road pollution despite a backlash against his proposed expansion of the ultra-low emission zone.

About two-thirds of respondents to a consultation on widening the Ulez across Greater London are reportedly opposed — amid claims from whistle-blowers of negative responses being disproportionately excluded from the results.

But the Mayor, in an interview with the Standard, said the consultation was “not a numbers game” and added that it was vital to further reduce the threat to public health from toxic air.

“The idea of parking things or kicking the can down the road is not an option,” he said. “The easy option is to dither and delay. I think it is important to take action.”

Mr Khan said he believed the consultation, which closed at the end of July, had been “hijacked” by opponents, including people living outside London.

He is yet to receive a report on the consultation results from Transport for London — it is due by next month. The Mayor will then decide whether to press ahead with plans to expand the £12.50-a-day Ulez across all 33 boroughs on August 29 next year.

He indicated the scheme’s widening, dubbed the GL-Ulez, could be modified if he received responses raising “substantive” issues but insisted a “crude majority” opposing its expansion would not automatically lead to the proposals being ditched.

“The decision to expand the Ulez to all of London isn’t predetermined,” he said.

“I have not made up my mind. What I’m clear about is: it is not a numbers game. This is not a referendum. If there is a crude majority of people for it, that doesn’t take me over the line, or a crude number of people against it.

“This is not a referendum [like] Brexit. It’s not about saying if there is a percentage against I won’t do it or a percentage in favour I will do it.”

It was reported last weekend that 66 per cent of respondents opposed the plans, with only 24 per cent in favour. This prompted the GLA Conservatives to demand the GL-Ulez be axed and the consultation responses be opened to public scrutiny.

Nick Rogers, the Tory transport spokesman, said: “Sadiq Khan’s Ulez expansion would have had a negligible effect on air quality but would have been devastating for small businesses and low-income families. I am not surprised that an overwhelming 66 per cent voted against his cost-of-living charge.”

Mr Khan said he was willing to “ameliorate or address” genuine concerns raised by the consultation but insisted measures were needed to reduce car journeys by 27 per cent by the end of the decade to enable the capital to become “carbon neutral”.

He said: “I appreciate that some people have hijacked the consultation, they got their own self-interest. My interest is addressing the issue of climate change, congestion and air pollution.

“There are no other fair ways to reduce particulate matter, to reduce nitrogen dioxide, to reduce carbon emissions from the transport side of things.

“The costs of inaction far exceed the costs of action in relation to the impact on individuals, the impact on the NHS, the impact on families, the impact on the economy. It’s really important we take action.”

According to City Hall, the GL-Ulez would take 20,000 to 40,000 polluting vehicles off the road and deliver a nine per cent cut in nitrogen oxide gases in outer London.

It would generate about £200m a year in fees and penalties for Transport for London. But expanding the Ulez infrastructure would cost £185m, primarily on more enforcement cameras. This excludes the potential £100m cost of a vehicle scrappage scheme.

About 92 per cent of vehicles in the current zone – which is bounded by the North and South Circular Roads – already comply with the exhaust emission rules, meaning they do not have to pay the levy.