Sadiq’s Khan launched a key aspect of his air quality plan for London today as he announced 51 electric buses, to all be on the roads by the end of the year. These new additions mean two of London’s bus routes (507 and 521) will now run entirely on electric buses. The routes already had 22 electric buses and though critics will say it would be better to spread the electric vehicles to alleviate pollution on other routes around more central areas, today remains a win for air quality in the capital.
However there is still a long way to go. Central London has 300 single decker buses, all of which are planned to be replaced with zero carbon buses by 2020. London’s 3,100 double decker buses are also planned to be all hybrid by 2019.
Changes to buses are only one part of the Mayor’s wider air quality plan. He also plans to drastically enlarge the ultra low emission zone and increase the fees for diesel cars which disproportionately contribute to air pollution. Today, Sadiq said “It’s vital that we act now to clean-up our capital’s toxic air and do everything we can to help prevent the thousands of deaths it causes each year. I’ve set out a comprehensive plan to improve our air, and the transformation of London’s bus fleet will play a key role in making our transport cleaner and heathier.”
However the mayor is facing criticism for not going far enough and not making his plans adequately progressive. For example, though he opposes city air port and a third runway at Heathrow, he is in favour of expansion at Gatwick which could be damaging for local air quality as well as general climate change. In addition, his congestion charge plans mean that dirtier vehicles are not banned, but just pay a higher price, which will have a limited impact on rich polluters but disproportionately affect poor polluters.
The electric buses are a great step forward, and it is key that the government matches the Mayor’s work by committing to decarbonising the power supply that these buses will run on to ensure they are truly clean. But there is still much for the mayor to achieve to have a fuller and fairer air quality, and climate policy.