A copy of this letter was sent to every elected member of the Greater London Authority, Mayor Livingstone, my MP (Mike Gapes MP) and every elected member (plus some senior officers) at the London Borough of Redbridge. To avoid delays in the postal system, as well as minimise costs, most letters were hand delivered to County Hall / Ilford Town Hall.
Every letter was personalised to the recipient, including on pages three and four where their correct job functions were mentioned. (Page numbers were not shown on the paper letters, but are visible here to assist with navigation through the letter).
Only some recipients had the courtesy to reply.
Perhaps the most amazing response came from the Office of Public Protection at LB Redbridge (in light of what they said maybe Office of Public UNProtection would be a better name) suggesting that the air pollution monitoring equipment had been ‘badly sited’ so the data was flawed. Of course that could also be read that the data was so horrific (because it meant that there really is a problem about which something needs to be done) that it was & still is more expedient to rubbish the data than react properly in a way which protects and enhances human life. The location was a pedestrian traffic island which is heavily used by local people crossing a road. So real people really are being required to breathe such heavily polluted air!
The "Advocating electric Transport for London" webpage looks at the need for electric street transports in London.
Trolleybuses, electric buses, air pollution and why so called "cleaner" diesel (aka "less dirty") buses could be worse that buses which give off visible smoke are looked at on the Electric Buses page from the "citytransport.info" website. To make life easier these links all open in new windows .
Note that since the above letter was written the pdf files have been relocated, so that the links detailed at the end of the letter no longer work. However in April 2008 it was found
that the reports can still be reached at the DEFRA website using the following url:
03 October 2004
Mayor of London
Greater London Authority
The Queen's Walk
London SE1 2AA
Dear Mr Livingstone,
I write with reference to a recent report entitled "Nitrogen Dioxide in the United Kingdom" issued by the Air Quality Expert Group (AQEG) for Defra (the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), the Scottish Executive, The National Assembly for Wales, and the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.
This report suggests that Ilford Broadway is the most polluted place for Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx) in Great Britain (its right at the top of the list) and that Fullwell Cross (also in the London Borough of Redbridge) is No.15 in the list plus there is at least one more location in Redbridge in the list!
In addition, a second list which details the number of instances when the pollution exceeded a trigger threshold also places Ilford Broadway right at the very top and includes Fullwell Cross at No.12!
Are you aware of this?
Do you not feel that it is an appalling situation that 50 years after the clean air acts saw the ending of coal sourced smogs the air that we breathe in our towns and cities is still heavily polluted and that people are continuing to suffer ill health (and even die) from it? To my mind the results of this survey makes me wonder why our predecessors bothered, only to be failed by future generations.
Are you also aware that there is a proven viable solution which uses tried, tested and proven viable technology which if implemented would result in very significant reductions in this urban air pollution - and as an elected representative the introduction of this solution is within your power? (see page 3, below)
According to an article in The Ilford Recorder a Redbridge Council spokesperson claims that the results from the Ilford Broadway site represents a "worst case" scenario. I beg to differ - after all the fact that several locations just a few miles apart in the same London borough were included in the “most polluted sites” list suggests that the air really is as polluted as the survey results tell us.
Amongst the conclusions drawn by the AQEG in its summary report are:-
The report also suggests / warns that NO2 should not be considered separately from other pollutants as when developing air pollution controls there may be trade-offs between different pollutants and gives as an example that some measures to reduce particle emissions from diesel vehicles can lead to increased primary emissions of NO2 and adds that reductions of NOx emissions in cities can lead to increases in ozone, because less ozone is used up in reactions with NO.
In its final conclusion the AQEG expresses its concerns that much of local air quality management at present is influenced by exceedences of one air quality objective – the annual average of 40 μg m-3 for NO2, - and that it feels that a more flexible and holistic approach to air quality management would create more effective control strategies.
As the conclusions above suggest, a very significant principle source of this NOx is diesel powered motor vehicles, and with 7000 diesel buses on London’s roads it stands to reason that these motor buses are a significant part of the problem - and in no way part of any solution.
Many transport experts will claim that as London’s buses now use low sulphur diesel and are equipped with continuously regenerating waste gas traps they are less polluting than they used to be but this only applies to the visible soot and particulates. As the AQEG report suggests, NOx forms a major component of diesel exhaust and poses significant health risks. Essentially NOx comprises of a mixture of Nitric Oxide and Nitrogen Dioxide. In combination with the moisture in the lungs, Nitric Oxide forms Nitric Acid which results in inflammation, leading to chronic respiratory problems. Eventually, all the Nitric Oxide in the atmosphere converts to Nitrogen Dioxide which is a corrosive and very poisonous gas - and at concentrations above 150 ppm leads to death.
Transport experts may also proclaim the “benefits” of the continuously regenerating waste gas traps (CRT) which have been introduced in an effort to reduce the amount of particulate matter that diesels spew into the air we breathe. However, as the AQEG report suggests, use of the CRT devices actually leads to an increase in N02 in the atmosphere. Furthermore, some particulate is still released, albeit minute in size and invisible to the naked eye. (PM10 particles with mass less than 10 microgrammes). This quickly and easily penetrates the linings of the lungs. Most road vehicles (including motor buses) emit their waste gases at about the height of a child in a push chair and in 2000 studies found such particulate deeply imbedded in the lungs of very young children - almost certainly this explains why over the past 10 years the incidence of asthma in children under five has doubled in Britain. Particulates are also blamed for an increase in other lung disorders and have also been linked to heart disease. There is also strong evidence for a causal link to cancer; diesel exhaust particulate contains a polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) called 3-nitrobenzathrone, this being one of the strongest carcinogenic substances identified to date.
Mr Livingstone, no doubt you frequently receive letters from individuals and pressure groups complaining about the number of people who are killed and injured on our roads. Of course the writers are right to complain as the figure is far too high, but were
you aware that more people die from air pollution than in motor vehicle accidents? The total deaths from road traffic accidents (including pedestrians knocked down) in Britain is approx 3,500 (DfT figures, 2002) whilst according to a Government report issued by the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollutants air pollution hastens the deaths of between 12000 and 24000 British people a year and is associated with 14000 and 24000 hospital admissions and re-admissions - causing sufferers and their families untold amounts of misery and costing our health service & taxpayers £billions. Yet whilst motoring offences seem to be attracting ever more diligent attention by the various authorities the issue of air pollution only receives the metaphorical "lip service".
Incidentally, in addition to its effects on human health, air pollution makes things dirty, harms wildlife and corrodes buildings & structures.
Mr Livingstone, I suggested earlier that there is a proven viable technology which if introduced would result in very significant reductions in London’s urban air pollution - and that as an elected representative the introduction of this solution is within your power. I also pointed out that with 7000 fume belching diesel buses on London’s roads they are very much part of the urban air pollution problem.
Given that these buses are essential for London’s survival they cannot be “banned” because of the air pollution the cause - however they could be replaced with electric buses! Of the four different electric bus technologies which could be used only the trolleybus (which is a driver-steered bus powered via overhead wires) would be durable enough to meet London’s needs. Despite much improvement in battery technology this option still cannot power a large bus for a full day’s work and whilst maybe one day fuel-cell technology will achieve this at present it is still very much an experimental technology. Diesel electric bus systems (as will soon be trialed in London) are not really a solution because they still pollute their local environments.
A couple of years ago Transport For London (TfL) proposed using electric trolleybuses on their East London Transit (ELT) scheme which would travel through Ilford. The public consultations showed very strong public support for the trolleybuses and the financial projections showed that trolleybuses had the greatest cost benefit. TfL have now seen fit to ignore the people of Ilford & East London and plan to foist upon us the one option their survey showed we did NOT want ie: yet more polluting diesel motor buses! In effect all this means that not only are TfL working to increase diesel bus air pollution in my local area BUT their choice of dirty diesel could be seen to be financially imprudent.
Mr Livingstone, I am writing to ask that as Mayor of London you do something about this appalling air pollution - please use your influence to tell TfL that the people of Ilford & Redbridge are not at all happy about living in Britains’ most polluted locality and we want it resolving! Not only do we want the ELT scheme to use zero emission trolleybuses but since diesel buses are primarily to blame for the existing air pollution we want them removing from our streets and replacing with buses that do not pollute the air that we breathe. Every bus, on every route! I would even go so far as to suggest that the benefits would be such that this should become policy Londonwide - then we would all benefit, even you! I agree that such a policy would take a number of years to implement but if started now it could be completed well before the Olympic games, and its very “being underway” would send a strong symbol to the people who choose the locations for the games that Londoners and its local governments really care about the environment in which they live, and take it seriously.
Replacing diesel buses with trolleybuses will also help Britain meet its commitment to cutting carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010. I understand that at present the transport sector is actually seeing these emissions rising, not falling, but with so many buses in London their electrification could help reverse the upward trend. It would also help reduce road traffic as studies in some of the 350 conurbations globally which use trolleybuses have shown that they actually attract higher riderships (between 15%-20% higher) than diesel buses and attract car users who would not switch to a diesel bus. This is known as “the sparks effect” and similar was also seen with British railway electrification schemes.
Mr Livingstone, I realise that at 4 pages in length this letter is quite long. But the situation is both urgent and desperate. As an ordinary person I can only do so much myself, but as Mayor of London your voice is much stronger than mine...
Mr Livingstone, will you use your voice and speak up for clean air in Ilford / London?
Simon P Smiler
The summary of the AQEG report can be found at:
and the main website is at:
The list where Ilford Broadway is at the top and Fullwell Cross is No.15 can be found on page 41 of the the pdf document detailed below:
Table A4.1 Roadside and kerbside sites with measured annual mean NO2 concentration in 2001 exceeding 40 μg m-3 and ‘year factor’ projection of concentration for 2005 and 2010 (μg m-3)
The second list which also places Ilford Broadway at the top and places Fullwell Cross at No.12 can be found on page 44 of the same document.
Table A4.3 Sites with more than 18 exceedences of 200 μg m-3 hourly mean NO2 concentration in 2001 (number of hours above 200 μg m-3)
Since the above letter was written the pdf files have been relocated, so that the links detailed above no longer work. However in April 2008 it was found that the reports can still be reached at the DEFRA website using the following url:
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