The LTN, Air Pollution and Climate Emergency in Lewisham

The justification for the Low Traffic Neighbourhood (LTN) scheme in Lewisham was spelled out by Mayor Damien Egan in his webinar on the 22ndOctober (see to watch a recording).

He said that the reasons the LTN was proposed was to a) Improve Air Quality; b) Making streets safer by reducing car journeys; and c) Making it easier to walk and cycle. He also said “road traffic is the number one cause of toxic air and toxic air kills”. Unfortunately he is wrong in several respects.

Toxic air is usually judged to be based on the level of particulates (dust) in the air and the level of nitrous oxides (NOX), although there is some debate as to whether NOX (mainly NO2) is actually damaging to health. Particulates, namely PM 2.5, are the major concern and to quote from the report in Reference 1 below “Road transport accounts for around a quarter of PM2.5 in London, with a large proportion also coming from construction, wood burning and commercial cooking”.

The ABD covered the issue of the contribution of vehicles to air quality in a report we published two years ago – see Reference 2. The Conclusion in that report said this:

“In conclusion, let it be clear that the ABD is supportive of improving air quality in the UK, particularly in urban areas and on particular roads where transport is a major generator of emissions. But there is no public health crisis and measures to improve air quality should be both reasonable and moderate. According to a recent report from Defra, since 1970 NOx emissions have fallen by 72% and Particulates (PM2.5) by 79%. The hysteria about air pollution is wrongly being used to generate tax revenues to local government (e.g. the ULEZ in London and similar proposals for other UK cities) without any justification in terms of cost/benefits. The likely improvement in air quality that will result will be unlikely to be noticed by residents because it will simply be too small and it will have no significant long-term impact on health”.

Even if you consider NOX to be of concern as a lot of it does come from transport, in practice LTNs mainly affect car users while the majority of NOX comes from buses and commercial vehicles – only 33% comes from petrol or diesel cars – see Reference 3 for the data from 2013 and it’s probably considerably less now.

Does “toxic air” kill, as the Mayor said? In reality it is very unlikely that the level of air pollution in Lewisham kills anyone at all. If you live on one of the worst streets for air pollution such as on the “A” roads where there is heavy traffic (particularly HGVs and buses), it is possible that life expectancy might be shortened by a few days. But you are likely to experience more exposure to particulates from domestic cooking and heating than from road transport. The exposure of smokers is also many times worse. Your life expectancy is most dependent on your lifestyle, domestic and work environments, not on background air pollution.

The Mayor also suggested that the streets would be safer if car journeys were reduced but diverting the journeys to main roads as the LTN is doing is not going to help. The accidents will move also to roads where higher speeds may be present. There is no evidence that overall road casualties will reduce by such an approach. In practice LTNs do not reduce car journeys significantly if a wider area is considered – they just divert journeys to longer routes.

As regards the comment that the LTN will make it easier to walk and cycle, there is no obvious problem in using either of those modes in the LTN and reducing traffic will not assist.     

Another justification given in the webinar for the LTN was by CEO Kim Wright who said it supported the Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan adopted by the Borough – see Reference 4. Many Lewisham Councillors clearly believe they are helping to save the world from global warming by cutting CO2 emissions. Without getting into a debate on the science of global warming, you can see how futile that is in terms of actions possible by the London Borough of Lewisham by considering this data:

Lewisham emitted 805,000 tonnes of CO2 in 2017/2018 which is 0.2% of UK emissions of 354 million tonnes in 2019. The UK proportion of world emissions is about 1%, so Lewisham’s contribution to world emissions is 0.2% of 1%, i.e. 0.002%. The UK is taking vigorous actions to reduce overall emissions while countries such as China (28% of world emissions) are still building hundreds of coal-fired power plants. Any actions by Lewisham will have negligible impact on emissions in the UK let alone the world, and actions to tackle excessive CO2 emissions should be taken at a national level where it can be most effective.

In fact LTNs are unlikely to have any impact on CO2 emissions for another reason. Over 50% of CO2 emissions arise in housing – mainly domestic heating, and only 14.7% arise from cars.

In summary the main reason for the introduction of LTNs in Lewisham given by the Mayor of Lewisham simply do not stand up to scrutiny. The dogma about the need to reduce vehicles on our roads is not only unjustifiable on any cost/benefit analysis, it is simply unjustifiable full stop.

This virtue signalling by Lewisham councillors is imposing enormous inconvenience and costs on Lewisham residents that cannot be justified. Journey times have increased enormously, while air pollution on roads that already had high levels has clearly worsened.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods do not solve anything and are based on irrational opposition to the use of vehicles which the world has come to rely on.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Air Pollution Monitoring Data in London:

Reference 2: Air Quality and Vehicles: The Truth:

Reference 3: Lewisham Air Quality Action Plan (2016-2021):

Reference 4; Lewisham Climate Emergency Strategic Action Plan:


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Does Closing Roads Reduce Air Pollution and Improve Health?

The Alliance of British Drivers has long argued that there is way too much scaremongering about the impact on people’s health of air pollution. We published a paper two years ago (see Reference 1 below) that in summary said that we believe it is not a major health crisis but simply a major health scare fed to a gullible public by a few politicians and by journalists wanting a story. We also criticised the relative contribution of vehicles to existing air pollution. Most air pollution arises from home and office heating, building and industrial activities and from home activities such as cooking and smoking.

Is there actually a public health crisis? The simple answer is NO. The evidence does not support such claims. In reality air quality has been steadily improving and will continue to do so from technical improvements to heating and vehicles. Meanwhile life expectancy has been increasing. There is no public health crisis!

The Covid-19 epidemic has given a great opportunity to see the likely impact of removing cars and other vehicles from the roads as businesses closed down and home working spread like wildfire.

The Daily Mail (see Reference 2) has reported on a study by Stirling University with the headlines: “Decline in vehicle use in lockdown had no impact on reducing toxic particle emissions and suggests traffic is ‘not a key contributor to air pollution” and “It found no significant fall in harmful toxic particulate matter – known as PM2.5” based on roadside measurements. That was despite a 65% fall in traffic.

Particulates are more dangerous than NOX and as people spent more time at home, they may have increased their exposure to them. But it is clear that removing vehicles from the roads does not cut particulate emissions.  Although NO2 levels fell, which mainly come from transport, the Mail article suggests that might cut attributable deaths but in reality there is no certainty about the impact of NOX emissions on life expectancy and it may be a totally spurious claim.

The ABD also recently debunked the alleged claim linking asthma to NOX emissions. There are a number of possible causes for asthma and very poor air conditions (worse than generally experienced) can trigger or exacerbate attacks, but one has to be very careful about a specific linkage – see Reference 3.

Life expectancy data tells us that there is no air pollution health crisis – see another article published by the ABD in Reference 4. But London boroughs such as Lewisham argue we have to remove vehicles from our streets as a matter of urgency – see Reference 5 for Lewisham air quality data.

A lot of published data on air quality and sources of air pollution are out of date as road transport has rapidly changed as vehicles are replaced. Less than 50% of air pollution in London now comes from vehicles and stopping private cars will have minimal impact as most vehicle emissions come from buses and goods vehicles.

Another problem is that much of London’s air pollution blows in from outside the metropolis. According to London Councils (see the report in Reference 6), 75% of particulates actually originate from elsewhere.

In summary, closing roads to reduce vehicles in London generally, and in boroughs such as Lewisham specifically, based on a claimed need to reduce vehicle emission makes no sense at the present time. The recent epidemic impact when vehicles were much reduced shows that there was nil or minimal impact on air quality so it would be a pointless exercise.

In reality the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham has diverted traffic onto main roads and created more traffic congestion. It also means longer routes have to be driven and traffic piles up on residential roads (see photo of Horncastle Road above). Overall air quality has surely been made worse as is clear from residents’ comments on the impact. These “experiments” to cut traffic should be abandoned now!

Reference 1: Air Quality and Vehicles – The Truth:

Reference 2: Daily Mail article:

Reference 3: Epidemiological Fallacy on Asthma and Nitrogen Dioxide:

Reference 4: Life expectancy data:

Refence 5: Lewisham air quality data:

Reference 6: London Council’s Report “Demystifying Air Pollution in London”:


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Air Pollution in Lewisham

One of the justifications given for the “Healthy Neighbourhoods” schemes in Lee Green and Lewisham is that it will cut air pollution. It has even been suggested that it will contribute to saving the world from climate change (Lewisham Council has declared a “climate emergency”) when in reality any reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK will have negligible impact on total world emissions. The UK only produces 1% of CO2 emissions with China and the US being by far the biggest producers. That’s even assuming that CO2 is the major determinant of climate change which many people do not accept.

But the argument goes that removing vehicles from the roads of Lee Green will reduce atmospheric pollution significantly. The reality is very different. Let’s look at the facts.

A recent publication by Lewisham Council said “Domestic gas and electricity accounted for more than half of the boroughs carbon emissions”. Most domestic heating and that for offices, shops and schools is gas central heating which are major sources. In reality diesel and petrol cars contribute only 12% and 6% respectively of all emissions in London and they are falling rapidly – see the ABD’s full report on the subject here: . There are many other sources such as cooking, wood burning stoves and industrial processes apart from emissions from larger vehicles such as HGVs which are not present on most roads in Lee Green due to width and other restrictions.

There is also a very busy train line that runs through the area via Hither Green station which undoubtedly contributes to particulate pollution. The whole area is also covered by speed humps on all the minor roads which is well known to increase air pollution very substantially – see for details.

Air pollution in Lewisham has probably increased in recent years because of the growing population and “densification” of the borough. More people means more emissions of all kinds because human activity generates them. Cutting out road vehicles alone will not reduce them significantly and the proposed scheme will not reduce vehicle numbers – residents who own cars will just be taking longer routes to go anywhere thus generating more emissions to offset the small numbers who choose to walk or cycle more.

The proposals for Healthy Neighbourhoods in Lee Green and Lewisham will have negligible impact on air pollution or CO2 emissions and might actually increase them, particularly on certain roads. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn. If the Council really wanted to reduce air pollution, they would take other steps and adopt other policies.

I have asked Lewisham Council for the data to substantiate their claims about the impact of the Healthy Neighbourhood proposals and the current air pollution sources but have yet to receive an answer.

Roger Lawson


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The Population Growth Problem and Trump at Davos

7.7 Billion and Growing. That was the subtitle of a BBC TV Horizon programme last night on population. Chris Packham was the presenter. He said the world’s population was 5 million 10,000 years ago but by 2050 it is forecast to be 10 billion. He showed the impact of excessive population on biodiversity and on rubbish generation with lots of other negative impacts on the environment. It is surely one of the most important things to think about at present, and will have major economic impacts if not tackled.

The big growth is coming in countries such as Brazil and Nigeria. Sao Paolo is now 5 times the size of London and it’s running out of water. So are many other major cities including London. The growth in population is being driven by better healthcare, people living longer but mainly via procreation. A stable population requires 2.1 babies per family, but it is currently 2.4. In Nigeria it’s 5!

In some countries it is lower than that. It’s 1.7 in the UK (but population is growing from immigration) and it’s 1.4 in Japan where an ageing population is creating social and economic problems.

The FT ran an editorial on the 14th of January suggesting population in Europe needed to be boosted but it received a good rebuke in a letter published today from Lord Hodgson. He said “Global warming comes about as a result of human activity, and the more humans the more activity.  This is before counting the additional costs of the destruction of the natural world and the depletion of the world’s resources. In these circumstances suggesting there is a need for more people seems irresponsible”.

I completely agree with Lord Hodgson and the concerns of Chris Packham. The latter is a patron of a campaigning charity to restrain the growth in population called Population Matters (see ). Making a donation or becoming a member might assist.

For a slightly different view in Davos President Trump made a speech decrying the alarmist climate views and saying “This is a time for optimism, to reject the perennial prophets of doom and their predictions of the apocalypse”. He was followed by a 17-year old with limited education who said just that and got more coverage in some of the media. I believe Trump and moderate environmental writers like Matt Ridley who suggest we can handle rises in world temperature and that the future is still rosy. But we surely do need to tackle the problem of a growing world population.

Too much population has a direct impact on air pollution and traffic congestion in London and the rest of the UK. More people means more vehicles – not just cars and buses but for delivery of goods.

Chris Packham reported how population reduction was done somewhat too aggressively in India and China but there are other ways to do it via education and financial incentives. Just ensuring enough economic growth in poorer countries will reduce population growth to the minimum. Let’s get on with it!

Roger Lawson

(Twitter:  ).

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More Air Pollution Scaremongering from the British Heart Foundation

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) have issued a press release which claims that heart attack and stroke deaths related to air pollution could exceed 160,000 by 2030. The charity says air pollution presents a major public health emergency which the Government must urgently address.

What is the basis for this claim? It relies on an “estimate” of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution and on research they have funded. One of those research studies looked at how nanoparticles of gold were absorbed into the blood after inhalation and were retained for some time. They claim this is analogous to PM2.5 particulates in vehicle emissions. But they don’t prove any link to actual heart disease or deaths. Other studies of the impact of small particulates have failed to show any impact on health or life expectancy.

The BHF is a typical large charity that raised £138 million last year. Only 72% of the money raised was actually spent on medical research or other charitable activities. The rest was spent on fund raising. It is a very professionally run organisation with a well-designed web site. The CEO got paid £211,105 in 2108-19.

They are effectively using such scare-mongering to raise funds for the charity by running a “toxic air campaign” if you look at their web site. In other words, they have a direct financial incentive to promote this idea and exaggerate the impact of air pollution on health. They have jumped on the bandwagon of all the air pollution scaremongers.

Vehicles will no doubt get the blame for these scares, but in reality air pollution from vehicles has negligible impact on people’s health or life expectancy. See for the evidence.


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Why Cost/Benefit Analysis Is So Important

The world is becoming full of irrationality. Political decisions seem to be driven more by emotion than by science of late and all we see on television news are human interest stories rather than facts and analysis.

This creates an atmosphere where those who shout loudest are listened to while quiet scientific analysis is dumped. Thus organisations such as Extinction Rebellion get lots of publicity and media personalities such as Greta Thunberg get massive coverage however wrong they are.

But emotions drive bad decisions.

Let’s consider the issue of road safety for example. Everyone recognises that there are still too many deaths and serious injuries on our roads, many or which might be avoided. But if we decide this is a major national priority on which money should be spent (i.e. from taxes), where do we spend it? A rational person would say “spend it on the most cost-effective proposals because that way we will save the most lives or injuries for a given amount of expenditure”. Bearing in mind there are limited financial resources in any Government, this has to be the best approach.

But there are various ways to reduce casualties, which includes:

  • Redesigning roads to make them safer, including tackling known blackspots.
  • Improved driver training and tougher tests for new drivers.
  • Improving in-car safety by better engineered vehicles.
  • Improving emergency medical treatment after an accident.
  • Cutting ambulance response times.
  • Reducing traffic speeds that might reduce casualty severity.
  • Exhortations to drivers to take more care with publicity campaigns.

You can probably think of some others that might help but the first four of the above have probably had the most impact in the last few years on casualty reduction. Where should the money be spent? What provides the best cost/benefit ratio is the answer.

At the lower level, if we decide that money spent on improving roads is worthwhile, then where do we spend it? The answer is again simple – on those locations where the money will save the most casualties. But many local councils ignore that approach and simply listen to local pressure groups.

Or at the higher level, should the Government spend money on road safety, on improving hospitals, or on improving home safety. For example about 1,700 people die in road accidents each year in the UK, but there are about 6,000 deaths each year from accidents in the home, and 40,000 deaths from cancer. The latter might be susceptible to more expenditure on treatment or research, while many home deaths are due to falls down stairs. Should the Government invest in lifts for all multi-storey homes or only allow bungalows to be built in future? Some 55% of injuries in the home are burns caused by cooking. Should the Government ban cooking?

You can see how this whole field is a minefield of conflicts of interest and instead of rational analysis people tend to spend money where they think it might help or based on traditional ideas. But the answer is to evaluate the cost versus the benefit on a simple uniform financial measure.

The benefit of saving a life, or a serious injury, can be valued and the Department for Transport regularly publishes their figures for those costs – currently it’s about £2 million for a fatality, £250,000 for a serious injury and £25,000 for a minor injury. One can dispute how it is calculated and how optimistic or pessimistic that figure is, but it does provide some basis for working out how much should be spent on saving a death. In addition there are many more minor accidents than KSIs (about 100 times the fatalities), and minor accidents are easier to value because you can simply add up the medical treatment costs, the lost employment time, the emergency services costs and then ask the victims how much they would have paid to avoid the injury. So the overall costs can be roughly estimated with some accuracy.

A similar calculation is made for many other purposes – for example, what is the benefit of treating a patient with a life saving drug versus its cost? Or how by how many years will their life be extended and how do you value an extension of life? Such calculations are a regular element in public policy decisions, although there are few hard guidelines on the subject at present.

The above indicates how the benefits might be calculated. To offset those one has to work out the costs. That includes in the case of revised road schemes, the construction cost of course, but there are often costs (or savings) imposed on road users. For example, in the recently discussed case of the Chislehurst War Memorial Traffic Lights (see ) where it was proposed to install a Pelican Crossing, the costs are not just the construction cost but the on-going costs imposed on the road users by the extra delays and traffic queues of having a pedestrian phase in the lights. In addition there are the negative costs of more accidents on minor roads due to traffic diversion to avoid the jams, and more air pollution from the stationary queues of traffic. These can all be estimated.

On the subject of air pollution, we currently have a lot of debate about the impact of that and what should be done to improve it. But there is typically little cost/benefit analysis. In reality, even if all air pollution was removed (an impossible task as a lot of it comes from natural sources), it might only extend the average population life by a few days. Meanwhile in London alone hundreds of millions of pounds of costs are being imposed on residents in the name of solving the problem. The cost/benefit on the ABD’s calculations for the London ULEZ scheme is extremely negative – see for the figures. Even Birmingham Council produced a negative figure when trying to justify their CAZ scheme but they still decided to go ahead.

This is public policy making turned on its head. The fact that both such schemes will generate large amounts of revenue for the Mayor of London and Birmingham Council was perhaps a more important part of their considerations! These “taxes” are an irrational imposition on the public and are not even an efficient way of collecting taxes.

Transport for London (TfL) have even given up on publishing any cost/benefit analyses of most new road schemes mainly because the figures when calculated show that they are simply uneconomic. Or they publish figures that are distorted by not including all the costs – for example on their “Safer Speed” plans.

Public life is being corrupted by the approach of relying on emotion to make decisions or by other motives rather than on a proper cost/benefit analysis. We need more politicians who are better educated and understand these issues, and the general public also needs to become better informed on these matters.

Roger Lawson


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Press Release: How Do Politicians Create Taxable Air Pollution Scares?

Hardly a day goes by without a new study claiming to ‘link’ particulate matter (PM2.5) in outdoor air to deaths or diseases, even from short term exposure.

In short, the answer is ‘Epidemiology,’ which is the study of the distribution and determinants of diseases in populations. It works well when a disease has a single cause like a virus, for example, but it is unable to reliably attribute a single cause to a disease that has multiple potential causes. Air pollution studies do NOT measure the actual exposure of individuals to outside or indoor air. Indeed some studies do not even measure the level of air pollution, they model it instead. Epidemiology relies on statistics in order to try and correlate cause with effect, but one of the principle caveats of science is that ‘correlation isn’t necessarily causation.’ Indeed, margarine consumption in Maine produces a 99% correlation with divorce, but no one believes that margarine is linked to divorce (1).

The ignored ‘elephant in the room’ is the fact that a smoker inhales 10,000 to 40,000 microgrammes per cubic metre of PM2.5 from a single cigarette (2) in a few minutes, which is the equivalent to the PM2.5 inhaled over 50 to 200 days by a non-smoker from outdoor air. (A microgramme is a millionth of a gramme). Smoking cessation studies show that a pack-a-day smoker who gives up after 20 years will have the same 80-year life expectancy as a non-smoker and the same risk of cardiovascular disease at the age of 55 (3), despite inhaling 2kg of PM2.5 over the 20-year period compared to 60g for the 80-year lifetime of a non-smoker.  This challenges the claims of deaths from short-term exposure to PM2.5 as well as permanent damage.

ABD Environment spokesman Paul Biggs said: “The motorised transport-dependent economy is in danger of being further over-regulated and punitively taxed on the basis of soundbite headlines in the media, derived from epidemiological studies, that do not stand up to proper scientific scrutiny. Politicians are only too happy to parrot pseudo-scientific soundbites as justification for CAZ and ULEZ schemes, which massively fail any genuine cost-benefit analysis, taking tens of millions of pounds out of local economies for little or no health benefits in return. Let’s be clear; there is absolutely no scientific evidence linking levels of PM2.5 in outdoor air with deaths or diseases in the UK.”

600,000 people die in the UK each year from all causes, which are defined on death certificates and coroners reports. No one dies from air pollution. Since 1970, emissions of PM2.5 have fallen by 79% and Nitrogen dioxide by 72% (4).

A very large peer reviewed study (2017) on California air quality and acute deaths 2000 to 2012 found no association of acute deaths with levels of PM2.5 or ozone (5).

A 2019 peer reviewed paper exposes the bias and flaws in p-values and meta-analysis in papers linking short-term air pollution exposure to heart attacks (6).

25 peer reviewed publications 1995 to 2018 show no association between PM2.5 and mortality (7).

According to the British Heart Foundation, since 1961 the UK death rate from heart and circulatory disease has declined by more than 75%. Death rates have fallen more quickly than the actual number of deaths due to increased life expectancy.

The Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP, 2018) could not unanimously link NO2 to mortality (8).


Notes for Editors

(1) Spurious correlations: Margarine linked to divorce?

(2) National Research Council. Environmental tobacco smoke: measuring exposures and assessing health effects. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press; 1986.

(3) New smoking cessation study (2018) debunks EPA’s PM2.5 death claims:

(4) Emissions of air pollutants in the UK, 1970 to 2017:

(5) Air quality and acute deaths in California, 2000 – 2012:

(6) Evaluation of meta-analysis of air quality and heart attacks, a case study (2019):

(7) Negative studies on PM2.5 and mortality:

(8) COMEAP (2018):

London Congestion – It’s Only Going to Get Worse

London Population Trend

As anyone who has lived in London for more than a few years probably knows, the population of the metropolis has been rapidly rising. This has resulted in ever worse congestion not just on the roads but on public transport also. The roads are busier, rush hours have extended and London Underground cannot handle the numbers who wish to travel on some lines during peak hours. Even bus ridership has been declining as the service has declined in reliability and speed due to traffic jams.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has published some projections of future population numbers for the capital and the conclusion can only be that life is going to get worse for Londoners over the next few years.

The current population is about 8.8 million but is forecast to grow to 10.4 million by 2041, i.e. an 18% increase. This increase is driven primarily by the number of births and declining death rates. The relatively high numbers of births in comparison with what one might expect is because London has a relatively youthful population. One can guess this is the case because of the high numbers of migration from overseas which results in a net positive international migration figure while domestic migration to/from the rest of the UK is a net negative, i.e. Londoners are being replaced by immigrants.

But population increase in London does not have to be so. The chart above shows you the trend over the last 100 years and as you can see London has only recently reached the last peak set in 1939. During the 1960s to 1990s the population fell. What changed? In that period there was a policy to reduce overcrowding in London and associated poor housing conditions by encouraging relocation of people and businesses to “new towns”. But when Ken Livingstone took power he adopted policies of encouraging more growth. His successors have continued with those policies and have promoted immigration, e.g. with Sadiq Khan’s “London is Open” policy.

Many Londoners complain about the air pollution in the London conurbation without understanding that the growth in businesses and population have directly contributed to that problem. More people mean more home and office heating, more transport (mainly by HGVs and LGVs) to supply the goods they require, more emissions from cooking, and many other sources. The Mayor thinks he can solve the air pollution issues by attacking private car use and ensuring goods vehicles have lower emissions but he is grossly mistaken in that regard. The problem is simply too many people.

Building work also contributes to more emissions substantially so home and office building does not help. But the demand for new homes does not keep pace with the population growth resulting in many complaints that people have to live in cramped apartments or cannot find anywhere suitable to live at all. Likewise new public transport capacity does not keep pace with the increased demand. There is some more capacity on the Underground but only on some lines and not much while Crossrail which might have helped has been repeatedly delayed.

The economy of London is still buoyant.  But all the disadvantages of overcrowding in London mean that Londoners are poorer in many ways. Those who can move out by using long-distance commuting or relocating permanently thus leaving London to be occupied by young immigrants.

Any Mayor who had any sense would develop a new policy to discourage immigration, encourage birth control and encourage emigration to elsewhere in the UK or the Rest of the World. But I doubt Sadiq Khan will do so because a poorer population actually helps him to get elected.

If Sadiq Khan wanted Londoners to live in a greener, pleasanter city with a better quality of life then he would change direction. But I fear only intervention by central Government will result in any change. In the meantime those who live in London might like to tackle their potential MPs, Greater London Assembly Members and prospective Mayors for what they would do about the problems covered in this article.

Go here for more details of the GLA projections of London’s population:


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The Tube – The Dirtiest Place in London

The Financial Times ran a full-page article yesterday (6/11/2019) under the headline “The Dirtiest Place in London”. It covered the air pollution on the London Underground and the risks to health. It said “the Tube is by far the most polluted part of the City. Fine particles of dust, metal, skin and clothing fibre have built up in the tunnels over a century of use, leaving a toxic miasma that is stirred up by passenger trains and inhaled by passengers”.

The FT did a survey of some of the central tunnels and found air pollution levels exceeded World Health Organisation guidelines by as much as ten times. The deepest lines were the worst – namely the Central, Victoria and Northern lines. Particulate (PM2.5) levels can be many times that of roadside levels in London – up to 20 times for the Northern line.

This is not a new news as we covered this issue on our blog in January. But the FT article is well worth reading.

Is Mayor Sadiq Khan going to do anything about this soon? Apart from doing some more cleaning it seems not. So while he taxes allegedly polluting car drivers the dangers from other sources are downplayed with little action taken. Perhaps it’s because fixing the problem would cost TfL and the Mayor money whereas motorists are a source of taxation.


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Driverless Vehicles, Air Pollution Claims and Scrappage Scheme

Streetwise Vehicle Ed

Residents of the London Boroughs of Croydon and Bromley need to look out from today (24/10/2019) because for the first time, driverless cars will be present on their roads. These will be operated by company FiveAI and may carry passengers but will always have somebody at the wheel ready to take over. These are basically trials run by a consortium named Streetwise.

How will they cope with the problem that London’s roads are very unlike the West coast of the USA where most such trials have been conducted to date. Stan Boland, CEO of FiveAI said “We have lower lighting, higher rainfall and greater density of road users and we also have to deal with erratic, medieval street plans that are nothing like the grid systems of the US”. However these trials are not quite so revolutionary as first appears because they will actually be on a “fixed route” – see for more details.

Comment: Mr Boland did not even mention the occasional fog and snow. I remain sceptical of the general applicability of this technology when even my very intelligent TomTom satnav sometimes gets lost in central London. There are claims that it might save lives from reduced accidents, but Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research has recently acknowledged that driverless cars might actually kill people. They may reduce accidents overall by removing driver error which is the cause of many accidents, but it seems software errors may still be  problem.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has published claims that the ULEZ scheme in central London has reduced air pollution very substantially. He claims roadside NO2 pollution has fallen by 36% in the zone with no increase in the surrounding area. He attributes this to a large reduction in the number of older or polluting vehicles entering the central zone. This is hardly surprising as operators of older LGV vehicles will have found it financially wise to change their vehicles. But the ABD doubts the claims about the actual reductions in emissions which we believe are estimates based on vehicle numbers rather than actual air quality measurements. We have submitted an FOI Act request to obtain more information. There is likely of course to have been some reduction due to renewal of the vehicle fleet over time (newer vehicles generally have lower emissions) and specific changes in the bus fleet and a strong focus on higher polluting commercial vehicles such as HGVs. But many of the pollutants in the air come from other than road transport vehicle sources and much blows in from elsewhere in the central zone.

The Mayor has also announced a £25 million scrappage fund for low-income Londoners. This is aimed at helping them move to less polluting vehicles. Motorists will be able to get up to £2,000 for scrapping older, more polluting vehicles. How many people will be able to take advantage of this scheme? Only a minority in essence because only people who are receiving means-tested benefits or disability allowances will qualify and as the fund is limited in size it may be on a “first come, first served” basis. In addition it’s probably needless to point out that £2,000 does not buy you a new car, and not even a good second-hand one. The conclusion is only people on benefits with cash in the bank to help buy a new vehicle may find it helpful. It’s surely a token political gesture which is what we tend to see from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The latest scare story about air pollution is that on high pollution days in London it might cause an extra 87 cardiac arrests per year, an extra 144 strokes, and 74 children and 33 adults ending up in hospital with asthma-related issues. This is a claim made by researchers at King’s College London based on a study relating high pollution days to medical events.  NHS England boss Simon Stevens said it was evidence of “a health emergency”. But this is a very simplistic analysis of complex data. Such days might also be very hot ones which are known to trigger medical events. Even the claimed numbers are very small. In London. For every 100 cardiac arrest ambulance call-outs on low-pollution days, they would expect to see 102 on high-pollution days. It’s basically a statistical fraud derived from epidemiology.

Regrettably we seem to be suffering from air pollution hysteria at present. Few people look at the evidence from an unbiased scientific viewpoint and most of the claims made do not stand up to scrutiny by anyone with a scientific background.


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