London transport plan signals ‘unprecedented’ clean transport focus, zero emissions by 2050

The direction of travel is clear: privately owned cars and fossil fuelled fleets are now firmly out of the long-term picture for London.

Train leaving London with City skyline behind

By Michael Holder in Business Green, 1 March 2018

Mayor of London confirms strategy for next two decades towards ambition for transport in UK capital to be zero emission by 2050

The Mayor of London has unveiled an “unprecedented” focus on boosting cycling, walking and clean transport across the capital over the next two decades as part of his aim to deliver emission free public transport in the city by 2050.

Setting out London’s transport strategy for the next 25 years, Sadiq Khan confirmed his ambition for 80 percent of all journeys in the city to be taken on foot, bike or public transport by 2041, promising a raft of investment in cycling lanes, tube trains and new green buses and taxis.

As a previous draft of the strategy launched for consultation last year stated, such a target would reduce the average number of car journeys each day by three million, even as the city’s population is projected to climb from 8.7 million to 10.5 million over the next 25 years, according to the Mayor.

“I’ve been clear that we need to be bold in how our city operates as London’s population grows, and this means not only investing record amounts in new infrastructure like extensions to the tube, rail and Crossrail 2, but working with boroughs and local communities to reduce our reliance on car use across London,” said Khan in a statement. “With our unprecedented focus on walking, cycling and clean public transport, our ambitious transport strategy can act as a crucial driver for new homes and jobs, but also improve quality of life for everyone living in London.”

Published yesterday, the strategy brings together details on major transport schemes planned over the next two decades, including the Elizabeth line – set to open later this year – extensions to the Northern and Bakerloo lines in the 2020s and Crossrail 2, which is earmarked for completion in the early 2030s.

“Record breaking” investment across the tube and trams to modernise and deliver more frequent services, further extensions of the DLR and Overground, and proposals for a new West London Orbital rail line connecting Cricklewood and Hounslow also feature in the plan.

The Mayor said such rail and tram schemes would attract more people out of cars and onto public transport, delivering environmental benefits as well as creating “thousands of new jobs and homes”.

The strategy also complements the Mayor’s drive to reduce air pollution across the capital, bolstered by previously announced proposals to strengthen and expand the forthcoming ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), as well as bringing it into force sooner than the original 2020 kick-off date.

It sets out a phased approach to improving air quality, firstly by creating zero emission areas in town centres from 2020 and in central London from 2025, before setting up larger zero emission zones in inner London by 2040 and city-wide by 2050.

Moreover, Transport for London (TfL) will aim for all taxis and private hire vehicles to be zero emission capable by 2033, according to the plan, and for all buses to be zero emission by 2037.

It comes amid plummeting temperatures across London and the UK this week, prompting Khan to urge Londoners to avoid burning solid fuels such as wood and coal in their homes in order to keep warm, backed by £20,000 advertising campaign to encourage burning of cleaner fuels that emit less particle pollution.

Elsewhere, meanwhile, walking and cycling feature heavily in the Mayor’s ambitions for the UK capital, with the strategy promising more than £2bn of investment in delivering the TfL’s ‘Healthy Streets Approach’ across all London boroughs.

“This investment will help remove the need to travel by car, and make walking, cycling and taking public transport safer and easier, helping to promote healthier active lifestyles,” the plan explains. “This includes major transformation schemes at Oxford Street and Old Street in Central London, as well as hundreds of walking and cycling schemes across inner and outer London to help more journeys become active, efficient and sustainable.”

The draft strategy was praised as “ambitious” by green groups last year, but chair of the London Assembly’s transport committee, Keith Prince, said there was little in the way of additional detail in the final document yesterday.

“The target for 80 percent of journeys to be undertaken by walking, cycling or public transport by 2041 is all well and good – but we called for the overall target to be broken down by mode,” said Prince, a Conservative Party Assembly Member, in a statement. “The Mayor has added a reference in the new version to the anticipated mode share breakdown in 2041, but this is far too vague. According to the Mayor’s projections, the mode share of walking and cycling will increase by somewhere between 11 per cent and 48 per cent. This isn’t a meaningful target.”

Businesses operating in the capital, too, will certainly be awaiting further details and firmer dates for new public transport plans from the Mayor, but the direction of travel is clear: privately owned cars and fossil fuelled fleets are now firmly out of the long-term picture for London.

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