LONDON’s mayor has called for the government to adopt a diesel scrappage fund to tackle air pollution there. Sadiq Khan’s plans include £3,500 each for up to 70,000 polluting van and minibus drivers to buy cleaner vehicles in the voluntary scheme. He also wants a £2,000 credit scheme to help low-income families scrap up to 130,000 cars and £1,000 to help scrap the oldest taxis. The government said it would be updating its air quality plans soon. The total cost of the scheme would be £515m. It is estimated it would achieve a 40% reduction in London road transport nitrogen oxide emissions. Tackling air pollution is one of Mr Khan’s top priorities since he became mayor last May. The city was put on “high alert” for pollution last month under a new monitoring system.
A spokesman for the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said the industry was investing “billions” to reduce emissions and the latest diesel cars were the “cleanest in history”. But the mayor wants to make it difficult for diesel cars to be driven through the city. His plans include charging polluting cars an extra £10 for entering the congestion zone. He also wants to bring forward the introduction of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and expand it up to the North and South Circular Road. Mr Khan said: “The toxic state of our air leaves us with no choice but to rid our city of the most polluting diesel vehicles. “It is shocking that nearly half of new car sales in the UK are still diesel vehicles and the national system of vehicle excise duty still incentivises motorists to buy these polluting cars.” The government said it was “firmly committed” to improving the UK’s air quality.
“That’s why we have committed more than £2bn since 2011 to increase the uptake of ultra-low emissions vehicles, support greener transport schemes and set out how we will improve air quality through a new programme of Clean Air Zones. “In addition, in the Autumn Statement, we announced a further £290m to support electric vehicles, low emission buses and taxis, and alternative fuels.” Steve McNamara, general secretary of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA), said he welcomed the mayor’s efforts to secure additional funding to help “drivers meet the cost associated with decommissioning the oldest, most polluting vehicles”. Friends of the Earth air pollution campaigner Jenny Bates welcomed the initiative, but said money should not just be earmarked for buying new vehicles, but should also fund car club membership, rail season tickets and bicycles. In 2010, a year-long scrappage fund, which was introduced by the government to help the recession-hit motor industry cope with falling sales, came to an end.