This week the Mayor’s much publicised ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ) came into force, the first 24-hour pollution charge area in the world.
The move means drivers with older, polluting vehicles will be forced to shell out up to £12.50 a day on top of the congestion charge in the zone, which covers areas of Southwark.
While the charges are substantial, they will save lives.
This paper has reported extensively about poor-quality air in the capital which scientists estimate causes the premature deaths of 10,000 Londoners every year.
Children’s lung development is also stunted by the pollution, say experts.
TfL estimates the zone will reduce road transport emissions by 45 per cent in the first two years.
And action is required for climate change reasons too.
This week council bosses have announced a climate change summit to be held later in the year after declaring a ‘climate emergency’ and bidding to go carbon-neutral by 2030.
Southwark is especially affected, say town hall chiefs, as two-thirds of the borough’s residents live less than ten metres above sea level.
However, they added they cannot do it on their own: businesses and central government also have to play a part.
The city-wide zone is one of the ways authorities have played their part and has already encouraged some businesses to change the way they travel in inner-city London.
Team London Bridge has recently launched a push for more cargo bike deliveries in the area.
Guy’s and St Thomas’s are among those signed up, using pedal power to deliver vital medical supplies to its hospitals instead of polluting vehicles.
However, support is needed for hard-working businesses and charities which are less able to make the transition.
The Federation of Small Businesses says many of its members are worried about being able to meet the new stringent low emission demands.
UK Homes 4 Heroes is among those affected. A small charity, it delivers soup and clothes to homeless ex-veterans inside the low-emissions zone using a donated van which does not meet ULEZ standards.
It has said goodbye to the ‘Hero 4’ van but says the Mayor’s scrappage amount of £3,500 is not enough to purchase a new vehicle to continue the vital outreach work in central London.
After being contacted by the News, TfL vowed to get in contact with the charity to offer “further advice and support.”
The body says it has worked alongside many charities and small businesses to help them clean their fleets in time for the zone’s introduction.
This work must be proactive and continuous. Moves to clean up the capital’s air are welcome. But proper support for those most affected – such as UK Homes 4 Heroes – is vital.