Although London's overall air quality is finally improving, the latest figures found that two million people in the capital are still living with illegal levels of air pollution. Mayor Sadiq Khan re-iterated his commitment to cleaning up the city's air when the figures were released last month, saying: "From the very outset I have been crystal clear that I would do everything in my power to tackle London’s toxic air crisis."
So it's encouraging to hear that Transport for London (TfL) has just ordered the world's first hydrogen double decker buses. These 20 new buses, which produce no pollution at all from their exhausts, will be introduced on routes 245, 7 and N7, taking passengers from Wembley Stadium and west London into the city centre.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said of the new, super-green bus fleet: "We all have a role to play in cleaning up London's toxic air and I've always said that TfL should lead from the front. Following the launch of the world-first Ultra Low Emission Zone last month I'm delighted that TfL has today signed a contract to bring 20 state-of-the-art, zero-emission hydrogen buses to London's streets.
"We are investing a record £85 million in cleaning up our bus fleet, and I am proud that London now has the largest zero-emission bus fleet in Europe."
The 20 new hydrogen double deckers join a further 165 zero-emission buses in operation in London. TfL has pledged that another 68 electric double deckers will be on the roads by the summer. London can already lay claim to the cleanest bus fleet in Europe, but TfL's Director of Bus Operations, Clare Mann, today acknowledged that "we know we need to go further and faster to tackle the public health emergency caused by dirty air".
Cleaning up London's toxic air is quite literally a matter of life and death. A 2015 study by King's College London found that nearly 9,500 people a year in the capital die due to long-term exposure to air pollution.
Dr Penny Woods, Chief Executive of the British Lung Foundation, also welcomed the new, greener buses, saying: "London's air is toxic, and it needs to change. We know air pollution is a threat to all our health, and children, the elderly and those with existing lung and heart problems are most at risk, so it's good to see the Mayor of London tackling the issue head on.
"This move to cleaner public transport, alongside the introduction of the ULEZ, shows London's leading the way in the fight to clean up the air we breathe and we look forward to seeing even more ambitious action from TfL."