Smart Transport

London in lockdown sees air quality improve by up to 50%

New research has found rush hour pollution levels have dropped considerably in London during the pandemic lockdown.

They fell up to a 50% during rush hour near Park Lane and double digit improvements in other commuter hotspots in London.

Borough High Street, at the base of London Bridge, saw a 37% reduction in the morning and 47% drop in the evening.

Cowcross Street, near Farringdon Train Station, saw a fall of 38% in the morning and 43% in the evening.

South Street, next to busy Park Lane, saw reductions of 32% and 50% for the morning and then the evening.

The research was carried out by Environmental Defence Fund Europe (EDFE) and Global Action Plan.

EDFE analysed pollution data from the Breathe London monitoring network during morning (8-11am) and evening (5-8pm) commuting hours in the first four weeks of lockdown.

These three sites were also in the top five of overall NO2 pollution reduction locations for the Breathe London network.

NO2 is a toxic pollutant produced when fossil fuels such as diesel, petrol or natural gas are burned. 

In order to keep air pollution down, particularly during rush hour, Global Action Plan is calling on businesses to offer remote working to employees to ease pressure during peak travel times.

Additional research also shows that Londoners are more concerned about the air pollution since lockdown and are keen for it to stay low.

A recent survey by Global Action Plan, commissioned by urban health foundation Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, finds: 

  • 72% of Londoners noticed cleaner air during lockdown
  • 70% of Londoners want government and local authorities to tackle air pollution and traffic more urgently than before the coronavirus outbreak
  • 40% of Londoners are more concerned about air pollution since the coronavirus outbreak
  • 80% of Londoners would like to work remotely after lockdown to some extent
  • 73% of Londoners are happier not dealing with rush hour

Global Action Plan’s Build Back Cleaner Air project with Guy’s and St. Thomas’s Charity is offering free support to help businesses prioritise the most impactful ways to cut air pollution and make a green recovery post lockdown.

Companies can sign up for free, here:

Oliver Lord, EDFE head of policy and campaigns, said: “Last year, the Breathe London network recorded seriously elevated levels of nitrogen dioxide pollution at some in the busiest commuter areas during rush hour.

“Lockdown has made a huge difference. It has shown how much it is in our hands to 'build back better'.”

Watch now: Connecting Policy To Solutions Virtual Conference 2021

Smart Transport Conference returned on June 8th & 9th, to facilitate pivotal discussions on the future of transport. 

The UK’s most senior public and private sector transport leaders discussed the impact of Covid-19, achieving the Government’s decarbonisation ambitions, the need for more efficient living and better health, and much more.

Keynote speakers included: 

Kwasi Kwarteng, secretary of state at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), who spoke on BEIS's approach to decarbonising transport, particularly the electrification of the vehicle industry

Keith Williams, co-author of the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, who spoke on rail’s role in integrated transport, decarbonisation and innovation.

Rachel Maclean, parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for Transport, who discussed the future of transport and its pivotal role in a ‘green recovery’ from the pandemic.


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