Traders today said urgent action was needed to slash traffic levels after a report revealed Oxford Street has the highest levels of a toxic pollutant in the world.
The mayor is facing demands to reduce the build-up of the “wall of buses” after a monitor installed by scientists showed high levels of nitrogen dioxide – linked with asthma and heart attacks.
Levels peaked at 463 micrograms per cubic metre, while average day-and-night levels since the beginning of the year have been 135 – more than three times the EU’s safety limit.
Emissions scientist David Carslaw, from King’s College London, told the Sunday Times that the level of NO2, which is produced by diesel fumes that come from buses and taxis, was the highest in the world.
Richard Dickinson, chief executive of New West End Company which represents traders in Oxford Street, Regent Street and Bond Street, said a reduction in traffic was essential.
He added: “We are working closely with the relevant London authorities to look at longer term traffic reduction initiatives and we are keen to see ideas rapidly put in place. Businesses in the West End want action.”
City Hall hit said it has already cut the number of buses on Oxford Street by a fifth.
It called reports claiming that London’s overall air pollution levels are lower than in Hong Kong, Rio, Moscow and New York were “misleading”.
People working in Oxford Street’s shops and stalls said they were worried about pollution levels along Britain’s busiest shopping street.
Ayaz Sohail, a worker at Sweet Touch snack stall next to Oxford Circus tube station, said: “I am aware that pollution is high in this area.
“The mayor has to do something. I don’t think they’re doing much about it.”
Pedicab driver James Anderson, 39, said: “I’m definitely worried about it but I think the Mayor is taking steps to deal with, by cutting the number of buses and putting in hybrid engines.
“My family hales from India originally. I can’t believe that London is more polluted than the cities out there, Delhi for instance.”
Awais Muhammed, 25, a worker at Souvenirs and Luggage on Oxford Street, said: “Only some of the buses are hybrid [electricity and diesel powered] on this street. They should make all the buses on here hybrid as soon as possible.”
At the Argyll Arms, Dan and Morgan Ferry, 27 and 26, from Notting Hill, called for Boris to ban all vehicles on Oxford Street.
Morgan, a librarian, said: “It was amazing over Christmas when the area was traffic free – perhaps it should be like that all year round.”
Dan added: “Britain is getting fined millions for missing targets to cut greenhouse emissions so I think we need radical action.”
But trainee solicitor Maria Gkikas, 25, from Bushy, Herts, sitting outside Cafe Nero, said: “The fumes not really that noticeable. It’s just part of living in a big city.”
A spokesman for the Mayor of London said: “Contrary to any misleading claims, London’s levels of air pollution are lower than many world cities. We know this because we are serious about monitoring pollution levels.
“To prevent severe episodes that cities like Beijing experience, the Mayor has overseen an ambitious package of measures including a comprehensive monitoring network which specifically target our most polluted areas.
“These measurements have led to the mayor reducing the number of buses on some of London’s busiest streets with high traffic congestion, like Oxford Street, and taking the most polluting buses and taxis off the road.
“This approach has already halved the number of Londoners living in areas above nitrogen dioxide (NO2) limits.
“The mayor is clear more needs to be done, which is why he has announced an Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London from 2020 which will be a world first game changer for the capitals air quality.”
Source: London Evening Standard