Silent Killer Must Be Tackled

Air pollution

In the midst of London’s latest smog episode, the Mayor of London has been criticised for failing to act on the city’s silent killer. Each year poor air quality kills over 4,000 Londoners, yet the Mayor’s Ultra Low Emission Zone will not be introduced until after he has left City Hall. The Mayor also prioritised purchasing a few hundred of his new ‘RouteMaster’ buses, rather than retrofitting the entire fleet of over 8,000 London buses to make them less polluting. 

The Mayor’s own Air Quality Strategy states that buses contribute significantly to pollution in London. During this year’s City Hall budget setting process, the Mayor was presented with a fully costed plan to establish a £25m fund to make London’s entire bus fleet less polluting and meet the Euro VI standard. This programme would have seen the fleet retrofitted by December 2015, however, the Mayor rejected this plan. By the time his Ultra Low Emission Zone is introduced in 2020, approximately 51,000 Londoners would have died as a result of air pollution since he was elected in 2008. 

Murad Qureshi AM, London Assembly Labour Group Environment spokesperson, said:

“This latest smog episode should act as a wake up call to our Mayor, whilst sand blown in from the Sahara is a contributing factor, the fact is Boris has not taken decisive action to tackle local air pollution. In the last six years he has prioritised cars over public transport, and where he has invested he has wasted money on his new RouteMaster instead of cleaning up the entire bus fleet.

“A major factor contributing to London’s air pollution is particulate matter from diesel engines. Boris needs to take action and show real leadership on this issue, that is what Mayors are there for. He needs to play his part in tackling our city’s silent killer which causes over 4,000 deaths a year. He should bring forward his Ultra Low Emission Zone and retro-fit the entire London bus fleet to make them less polluting.”



  1. Murad Qureshi is a Labour member of the London Assembly.
  2. Calculated estimated deaths from 2008-2020 based on 4,267 figure here.
  3. The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy says: “Across Greater London, buses are estimated to contribute 21 per cent of road transport emissions in 2008, and just under 30 per cent in 2015. However, when looking at road transport emissions within central London, buses become the most significant source of NOx emissions at around 40 per cent in 2008, growing to just below 50 per cent in 2015.” (The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy p.44)
  4. In November 2013, the Department for Health published the Public Health Indicator for the fraction of mortality attributable to human-made dangerous airborne particles PM2.5 in 2011. The research which was publicised by the Clean Air in London Campaign noted that PM2.5 killed more people in 15 London boroughs in 2011 than 2010 and far more than 10 times the number dying from road traffic accidents Latest National and Local Death Rates for Air Pollution.

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