Air quality alerts to warn Londoners about air pollution

04 August 2016

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, today announced he is introducing air quality alerts at bus stops, Tube stations and road-sides across the capital to notify Londoners during the worst incidents of air pollution.

 

Tackling London’s poor air quality is a priority for Sadiq Khan and he has just finished an initial consultation on a comprehensive package of measures to clean-up the capital’s filthy air.

 

Nearly 15,000 people responded to this consultation and 79 per cent of respondents stated that they wish to receive information when air pollution is high or very high so that they can take action to protect their health and reduce its impact.

 

Having listened to Londoners, the Mayor has taken swift and decisive action to implement a new programme of air quality advice and alerts for the public.

 

From Monday, August 15, during and on the day before high and very high air pollution days, air quality alerts will be displayed at:

 

  •          2,500 bus countdown signs and river pier signs across London.

 

  •          140 road-side dot matrix message signs on the busiest main roads into London, with instructions to switch engines off when stationary to reduce emissions.

 

  •          Electronic update signs in the entrances of all 270 London Underground stations.

 

Depending on the alert level and communication channel, different information and guidance will be provided including: advising people to walk, cycle or use public transport if possible to help improve air quality; to reduce strenuous activity if someone experiences symptoms; or advising asthma sufferers and other vulnerable groups that they may need to use their reliever inhaler more often.

 

This is the first step towards London putting in place a comprehensive air pollution incident plan, which will also provide critical information to emergency and support services similar to the existing heatwave plan for England. This will ensure improved coordination during the very worst air pollution incidents and that the most vulnerable Londoners are better prepared.

 

Figures revealed by Sadiq Khan during the first month of his mayoralty highlighted that the previous Mayor failed to take sufficient action on over a hundred occasions when air quality was moderate, high or very high in London during 2014, 2015 and 2016.

 

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Unlike my predecessor, I believe that Londoners have a right to know about the quality of the air that they breathe. These new alerts will allow them to take precautions and help them plan ahead to avoid the worst instances of air pollution.

 

“I am doing everything within my power as Mayor to put the health of Londoners first. I hope that these alerts will become less and less frequent as we take steps to make our already great city a cleaner place to live, work and study in.”

 

The alerts will use a three-day ahead forecast about air pollution levels provided by airTEXT. More vulnerable Londoners with particular health needs will continue to have access to the airTEXT service enabling them to get regular forecasts via text, voicemail, email, mobile app and online.

 

The Mayor will also use his Twitter account and other social media channels to make people aware of moderate air quality incidents, which occur around 40 times a year.

 

Leon Daniels, TfL’s Managing Director of Surface Transport, said: “We are working with the Mayor to deliver an ambitious and wide-ranging programme to improve air quality across the Capital.  An important part of this work is to raise awareness and provide advice to people on how they can personally contribute to this work.”

 

The first round of the Mayor’s Clean Air consultation, which closed on Friday, July 28, proposes a range of measures including new charges for the oldest most polluting vehicles entering central London from 2017, an expanded Ultra Low Emission Zone, and a diesel scrappage scheme. A further more detailed consultation will take place later this year and some measures could be implemented as early as 2017.

Notes to editors

  1.       Forecasts will be provided by airTEXT. airTEXT is a London borough-led free service for the public providing air quality alerts by SMS text message, email and voicemail and three-day forecasts of air quality, pollen, UV and temperature across Greater London. airTEXT is operated by Cambridge Environmental Research Consultants (CERC) Ltd in partnership with London boroughs, the GLA, Public Health England and the Environment Agency.
  2.       TfL is making existing air quality data more usable by making it available in an API format whereby third party app developers can use it. There will be a hackathon to support the development of new apps and innovative ways of using this data.