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Tower Hamlets GP unveils a new idea to tackle London's air pollution

PUBLISHED: 17:00 21 March 2019 | UPDATED: 17:35 21 March 2019

Sir Sam Everington thinks Londoners should be given a week's free travel.  Picture: Mike Brooke

Sir Sam Everington thinks Londoners should be given a week's free travel. Picture: Mike Brooke

Mike Brooke

A leader doctor based in Tower Hamlets believes a new innovative programme could tackle toxic air pollution in the capital.

Sir Sam Everington, who is a GP and the chairman of the London Clinical Commissioning Council, wants all Londoners to get free travel “taster” passes for a week so they can leave their cars at home.

He said a “try before you buy” public transport pass would encourage commuters to change their habits and refrain from driving to work.

London has suffered from illegal levels of air pollution since 2010.

Traffic is to blame for most of the capital’s dirty air, with particularly high levels of nitrogen dioxide released by vehicle exhausts. Central London, Kensington and Chelsea and Tower Hamlets have recorded some of the highest level of the toxic gas in the UK.

“When I turned 60 I got a free Oyster card and it completely changed the way I travelled,” Sir Sam told an east London health and wellbeing board.

“If we could provide people with free travel for just a week this would change the way they see the London public transport network.

“This sort of approach, where we say ‘try before you buy, it’s free’ will, I believe, help enormously in tackling air pollution and other health problems. It will help change people’s mindsets.”

Councils and health authorities have been taking tougher steps to tackle pollution in recent years.

Borough’s where air quality is at its lowest, including Kensington and Chelsea, Tower Hamlets, City of London and Southwark, are enforcing £20 “idling fines” for drivers who leave their engines running while parked.

Next month will also see the introduction of the 24-hour Ultra Low Emissions Zone, which will see more heavily polluting vehicles face a £12.50-a-day charge.

A TfL spkesman said: “We offer a range of discounted or free fares, but currently have no plans to introduce additional free travel concessions. Since 2016 all TfL fares have been frozen, while the Mayor’s Hopper fare allows unlimited journeys on buses and trams within an hour for just £1.50, which making sustainable travel more affordable for all Londoners.

“We are tackling London’s toxic air with one of the world’s most ambitious air quality programmes. The ULEZ will nearly halve road-based NOx emissions in central London within a year of its launch and will expand to the North and South Circulars in 2021. “We have delivered seven Low Emission Bus Zone, which are expected to reduce NOx emissions by on average 90 per cent, at some of the capital’s worst polluted hotspots and five more will be created this year. ”

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