Mayor of London wants a zero-emission transport system by 2050

Sadiq Khan has set out his vision for a cleaner, healthier city.

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Neil Hall / Reuters
Neil Hall / Reuters

London mayor Sadiq Khan has a wildly ambitious plan to make the English capital more environmentally friendly. In a draft "Transport Strategy," which is now subject to public consultation, he suggests making London's entire transport system zero emission by 2050. That deadline, of course, is a long way off, so Khan has outlined some stepping stones too. He wants all taxis and private hire vehicles to be zero emission "capable" by 2033, followed by buses in 2037 and all remaining road vehicles by 2040. "Transport emissions can blight the streets, harming human health and contributing to climate change now and in the future," he says.

These measures would help the mayor to establish a "zero emission zone" in central London by 2025, ahead of a larger "inner London" territory by 2040 and a city-wide zone by 2050. "London must meet legal pollution limits as soon as possible," Khan continues. "This requires an earlier introduction and expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone and making sure public services lead the way. Air quality and climate change are such pressing issues with such dire consequences that London should provide international leadership." Strong words, especially when the capital's population is expected to rise from 8.7 million to 10.5 million by 2041.

Khan has a larger vision, however, that involves the British public ditching automobiles altogether. He wants walking, cycling and public transport to make up 80 percent of London journeys by 2041. That's up from the current total of 64 percent and equates to 3 million fewer car journeys each day. Such a shift would help the public to lead healthier and greener lifestyles, he says, and reduce instances of heart disease and cancer. To aid that transition, Khan is proposing an expanded network of cycle lanes in the city and refreshed 'Legible London' maps for pedestrians.

That's the carrot — now here's the stick. The Mayor of London says he would keep the city's congestion charge "under review" and explore new ways to better penalise motorists in the city. One such method would be "new technology," developed by Transport for London, that could measure distance, time, emissions and road danger for each journey in the city. A single, per mile charge could then be calculated based on these metrics and how the driver has contributed to overall congestion and pollution. "We have to make not using your car the affordable, safest and most convenient option for Londoners going about their daily lives," he said.

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Other measures include "liveable neighbourhoods" and "healthy routes," which would provide safe, walkable spaces for citizens. The Transport Strategy also mentions car parking restrictions and expanded, secure cycle parking in all new buildings. It's a big dream, and one that will no doubt be tweaked and reworked in the coming years. Khan is, after all, highly unlikely to be the Mayor of London in 2050. When someone else takes his place, they'll likely arrive with new ideas about how the English capital can prosper. If you have any feedback about this particular vision, however, you can submit them as part of the consultation before October 2nd.

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