'Filthy air and gridlocked roads' could cause health crisis in London, mayor warns

11 January 2022, 00:10 | Updated: 11 January 2022, 06:27

The Mayor of London has warned London faces a crisis of "filthy air and gridlocked roads"
The Mayor of London has warned London faces a crisis of "filthy air and gridlocked roads". Picture: Alamy

By Megan Hinton

The Mayor of London has issued a stark warning, amid concerns congestion in the capital could cause a public health crisis.

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Sadiq Khan spoken out about the danger of "filthy air and gridlocked roads" as he called for a focus on "greener means of travel".

Bemoaning the economic and health costs of congestion a Mr Khan cited a study which found that London became the world's most congested city last year.

Recent figures published by the traffic information supplier Inrix, which stated that last year congestion cost London's economy £5.1 billion, and an average of £1,211 per driver.

Public transport ridership in the capital is significantly behind pre-pandemic levels, with buses at 70 per cent and Tube travel at 55 per cent.

Meanwhile, car use has nearly recovered to 100 per cent of normal despite the introduction of the Unltra-Low Emission Zone.

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Mr Khan said: "Whilst we have made huge strides in increasing walking and cycling in London throughout the pandemic, car use has remained consistently high.

"If we do not double down on our efforts to deliver a greener, more sustainable future, we will replace one public health crisis with another - caused by filthy air and gridlocked roads.

"The cost to both Londoners and the capital (should not) be underestimated, with days wasted stuck in traffic, billions lost to the economy and increased road danger and health impacts.

"Most traffic is caused simply by there being too great a demand for limited street space, meaning the only long-term solution can be to significantly reduce car use in favour of greener means of travel."

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It comes as Transport for London has announced that it intends to make its trial of 24-hour bus lanes permanent, after findings showed journey times were cut on London's busiest roads.

TfL hopes the improvements in bus journey times will make bus use more attractive and help encourage more Londoners onto buses.The extended bus lane hours are also expected to benefit cyclists as they can ride in bus lanes without traffic.

Speaking about the changes, Heidi Alexander, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said: "It's vital that buses remain a reliable, attractive option for travelling around the capital to help prevent increased congestion and worsening air quality.

"The extension of bus lane hours to 24 hours on London's busiest roads received a lot of support, and these changes will reduce bus journey times and help service reliability, helping people get around the city easily and sustainably."