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According to the report, London was able to reduce road pollution at a quicker rate than the rest of the UK with the assistance of Ulez.
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According to the report, London was able to reduce road pollution at a quicker rate than the rest of the UK with the assistance of Ulez.

The mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has praised the significant improvements in air quality during his time in office. A recent study revealed that levels of pollutants near roads have decreased at a faster rate in London compared to other parts of the UK.

The GLA and TfL released a report stating that a significant portion of the improvement can be attributed to the expansion of the Ulez to all London boroughs in the previous summer.

The expansion of the clean air zone, which mandates a daily fee of £12.50 for older, high-polluting vehicles, faced strong resistance from the Conservative national government. Even Keir Starmer, leader of the Labour party, urged Khan to reconsider the decision.

The mayor from the Labour party is eager to showcase his commitment to the environment before running for re-election in May for a third time. This comes amid concerns that his main infrastructure project, the Silvertown road tunnel that crosses the Thames, may have negative effects on air quality.

The GLA/TfL report will be useful evidence for Khan and Labour to advocate for the expanded Ulez. Khan’s Conservative rival, Susan Hall, has promised to overturn it if she is elected.


The study found that the amount of NO2 near roads is high.2

The amount of pollutants decreased by 49% between 2016 and 2023, and last year they were even lower than in 2020, a time when there were longer periods of lockdown due to the Covid pandemic.

According to the report, the decline occurred even though London’s population grew by over one million residents. This was a larger drop than the rest of England, with decreases of 35% in Scotland, 39% in Wales, and 27% in Northern Ireland.

2 levels exceeding European recommendations

“The amount of air quality monitoring locations in the city indicating NO2 levels that surpass European standards.” 2

The number of levels over the UK’s yearly legal maximum decreased from 56 in 2016 to five in 2023.

Air pollution levels have decreased by 65% in central London since 2016, with inner London seeing a 53% decline and outer London experiencing a 45% decrease.

The benefits of the Ulez, implemented in central London in 2019 and expanded in 2021 and last summer, have greatly contributed to the improvements. Additionally, the increase in electric and hybrid buses and the overall transition towards electric or lower-polluting private vehicles has also played a role in these positive changes, aided by the Ulez.

Along with the report, Khan’s office has declared extra initiatives for improving air quality, acknowledging that pollution levels in the city are expected to surpass the guidelines set by the World Health Organization by 2030.

A budget of £5.3 million has been allocated to 17 different boroughs in order to address emissions from canal and river boats and to discourage commercial vehicles from idling their engines while parked.

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The report does not mention the potential effects of the Silvertown tunnel, which will be the first new road connection over the Thames in three decades. It will run between Greenwich and Newham in east London.

Advocates claim that it will exacerbate contamination in one of the most polluted areas of the city. The city government asserts that the toll crossing will improve bus transportation and decrease pollution by alleviating traffic.

Khan said: “Every Londoner should be proud of the remarkable progress we’ve made in improving our air quality since 2016. Together we’ve cut roadside nitrogen dioxide pollution in half and achieved the lowest annual levels on record.

“London is setting an example by rapidly improving the quality of our air compared to the rest of the UK. This is crucial for numerous reasons, such as prolonging children’s life expectancy, decreasing the number of hospital admissions for asthma and other serious lung diseases, and promoting longer and healthier lives for individuals.”

According to Henry Gregg, a representative from Asthma and Lung UK, while there have been some advancements in the public transportation system in London, there is still a need for further measures to address the issue of high levels of harmful air pollutants in many areas, particularly in the outer boroughs.

Source: theguardian.com