More outer London buses planned as City Hall challenges claims ULEZ will “hit poorest hardest”

More outer London buses planned as City Hall challenges claims ULEZ will “hit poorest hardest”

Transport for London have launched plans for an additional 400,000 kilometres of bus routes in outer London, as Sadiq Khan again locked horns again with opponents claiming that his planned further expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover the whole of the city would “hit the poorest the hardest”.

Consultation is now underway on plans for improvements to bus services in Barnet, Brent, Havering and Wandsworth, with more plans promised in the coming weeks – all part of Khan’s promise of a “million further kilometres” of bus routes alongside the ULEZ expansion, which is scheduled to come into effect on 29 August.

Meanwhile new analysis from City Hall takes issue with claims that the poorest Londoners will suffer most from the scheme, which are now being made by Chelsea & Fulham MP Greg Hands, the recently-appointed new Conservative Party national chairman.

Data from the 2021 Census and deprivation statistics show that the poorest residents of outer London are in fact significantly less likely to own a car than better-off residents, with 46 per cent of the worst-off not owning one or a van, according to the Mayor’s team, compared with just 16 per cent of the best-off who don’t own one.

“What this data from the Census shows is that not only are people from deprived backgrounds exposed to higher levels of air pollution, but they’re much less likely to drive a car and therefore contribute to emissions. That’s just unfair and unjust,” the Mayor commented. “Tackling air pollution and addressing the climate crisis is important for every Londoner, but it would be completely wrong to sit back and let those Londoners who contribute least to our toxic air suffer the very worst consequences. It’s a matter of social justice.”

Better buses are seen by TfL as a key part of encouraging a shift to “active travel” – categorised as such because passengers walk to and from bus stops – which is a further objective of the ULEZ expansion. “More frequent, direct and usable services will help make buses the natural choice across the city, which is especially important as we tackle economically damaging congestion, health-damaging toxic air and climate damaging carbon,” said TfL’s public transport service planning chief Geoff Hobbs.

A range of other improvements are also in hand, including more real-time information signage at bus stops and “hundreds” of new or upgraded shelters. And TfL boss Andy Lord suggested at a TfL committee last week that “live conversations” were underway to bring forward more improvements. His comments came after board member Lynn Sloman suggested it was important to show “that ULEZ is part of a wider package which is about improving the public transport and active transport offer in outer London”.

Such provision can be seen as a recognition for outer Londoners of what think tank Centre for London recently described as a “lack of other practical transport options that pushes them towards cars”. The centre’s own analysis of census data finds that, while the poorest do not drive, 69 per cent of outer London households have access to or own at least one car or van, compared to 42 per cent in inner London.

TfL estimates that 85 per cent of vehicles driven in the expanded zone area are already compliant with emission standards, and expects City Hall’s scrappage scheme to help reduce the number of non-compliant vehicles relatively quickly. The £12,50 a day charge for driving a non-compliant vehicle in the ULEZ, controversial as it is, could be a step on the road to sustainability in the face of climate change.

The consultations on the various bus changes are as follows:

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