Combating traffic related pollution using electric vehicles

MQT on 2016-01-20
Session date: 
January 20, 2016
Question By: 
Valerie Shawcross
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Given the traffic related air pollution crisis facing London do you regret having failed in your manifesto pledges to extend the Tram network or to increase the number of electric vehicles in the GLA Fleet to 1,000?


Answer for Combating traffic related pollution using electric vehicles

Answer for Combating traffic related pollution using electric vehicles

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Taking the tram first and the extension of trams, we have massively increased the volume of passengers on the Croydon trams.  We have put in some new trams and have greatly expanded that network.  We have not yet done a big extension either to Sutton or to Crystal Palace.  That is perfectly true.  I would like to have done those projects.

In the end, the one that has the best business case is the Sutton extension but it does require a very considerable borough commitment to help us with the financing and to go for the big development that will be entailed to raise the cash.  At the moment, that is where we are.  Although people want the tram in principle, they are not yet happy, Val [Valerie Shawcross CBE AM], with the idea of the scale of development that would be involved.  It is a negotiation that is going on now between TfL and the borough.

I heard what Zac Goldsmith [Zac Goldsmith MP, Mayoral candidate] has said about it.  He has been very positive about it in his campaign and I perfectly understand that.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Sorry.  The question is about you, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  That is where I am.  That is as far as we have been able to get.

On the electric vehicles, yes, in an ideal world I would like to have had many more electric vehicles on the streets.  We do have a large number on the London streets, many more than there were before.  There are about 54,000 hybrid or electric vehicles on the streets of London now and that is a huge increase.  Pure electric has been slower to get off the ground than I would have liked, basically because they are still relatively expensive and people are still suffering from range anxiety.  We have a few of them in our various fleets.  It is the way to go and the ULEZ will drive it forward much faster.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  Thank you for that answer, Mr Mayor, and in particular that you are still supportive of the tram.

Specifically on the GLA fleet, I accept that there are difficulties around all of these issues but that is the bit that you do have control over.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  Yes.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  You did have a manifesto pledge to increase the number of zero‑emission electric vehicles in the various GLA fleets to 1,000.  In 2008 there were 81 electric vehicles in the fleet.  Last year the figure was 139.  If the next Mayor carries on at the same snail’s pace, we will not have 1,000 electric vehicles in the GLA fleet until 2139.  Is the issue about money or technology or did you just take your eye off the ball?

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  It is basically money.  They are considerably more expensive.  We are getting ‑‑

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  A Routemaster bus is considerably more expensive, Mr Mayor, and that is not very good.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  They are wonderful and I am delighted that you support that investment in hybrid technology.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  No, I do not.  I do not support the Routemaster buses.  However, we did support electric and so you could have bought a few.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  They are much more expensive.  The trouble is that for an electric bus, particularly for a double‑decker, you have to rely on it to do hundreds of miles a day and to not conk out.  You have to have a very efficient recharging system.  We are now in discussions with a Chinese company, as it happens, about a double‑decker electric vehicle.  It does look very promising but it would be very expensive.  I have to think about the cost to TfL of advancing very fast when changes in battery technology are bringing the costs down.  We have already, as I say, about 1,600 hybrid buses.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  OK.  Thank you, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  There are going to be 3,000 by 2020.  The first five pure electric double‑decker buses ‑‑

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  We have that data, thank you, Mr Mayor.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  ‑‑ are coming into service this year.  A great deal of progress has been made.  I just do not think Londoners would want us to be spending hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions of pounds, on every unit for Chinese‑made buses when the price is not yet affordable for Londoners.  The technology is not quite there yet.

Valerie Shawcross CBE AM:  I will have to leave it there, Mr Mayor.  Thank you.

Boris Johnson MP (Mayor of London):  We do have loads of electric cars with the London Fire Brigade, I am pleased to see, 57.