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Scrapping congestion extension could breach European air quality laws

The Mayor of London’s proposal to remove the Western Extension of the Congestion Charging Zone (WEZ) is condemned by air quality, transport and environment groups saying it would increase air pollution and could result in breaking European air quality laws.

Transport for London (TfL) has admitted that levels of two of the worst air pollutants, dangerous airborne particles (PM10) and oxides of nitrogen (NOX), would increase, on average across the whole WEZ area, by some 3.5% and 2.5% respectively.

TfL admits also that transport emissions of the climate change gas, carbon dioxide, would go up in the WEZ area by around 5%, on average, if the WEZ is abolished. Abolition would also mean the loss of £55M of net income to TfL now used to support public transport, road safety, walking and cycling schemes. The introduction of the WEZ led to a reduction of about 30,000 in the number of motor vehicles entering the zone each day and this is likely to be reversed as are increases in the number of people travelling by bus, on foot and by bicycle.

In several parts of west London, air quality standards are either being breached or only just being met, so any measures which would lead to a deterioration in air quality must be accompanied by full mitigation measures to avoid further breaches of European air-quality laws. The groups argue that the measures proposed by the Mayor are inadequate.

“The Mayor should scrap the proposal to abolish the WEZ. This will save lives and help protect London’s hard-won, world-wide reputation for progressive transport policies,” said Campaign for Better Transport’s Richard Bourn.

“London is consistently breaching legal limits on air pollution, which seriously affects Londoners’ health,” added ClientEarth health and environment lawyer Alan Andrews. “If the mayor removes the WEZ, he will leave himself with a mountain to climb if he is to bring London’s air pollution under control.”

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