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7 Dec 2009

London residents will be in a state of shock after reading the latest statement of the Mayor of London Boris Johnson. There is no denying the fact that London has the highest levels of nitrogen oxide pollutants amongst all the European capitals. Estimates by ‘campaign for clean air’ suggests that 8000 Londoners died in 2005 owing to high levels of air pollution. While the issue of increased air pollution in London is pretty well known across the UK, the potential solution has been eluding the Department of Transport and the Government for sometime now.

So, Johnson has come out with a suggestion to ban the movement of cars and HGVs on some of the busiest roads in London. He suggests doing so temporarily on days when the air pollution goes beyond prescribed limits. Johnson attaches considerable significance to the fact that airborne pollution in London requires an immediate action plan and a strategy to arrest its further growth.

Given the zeal and commitment of Johnson to work towards cleaner air in London, the move to affect a temporary ban on movement of vehicles has pros and cons. The biggest pro is that it will check air pollution levels on an immediate basis. But the cons look too alarming as well. This step or strategy can limit the business movement and business growth and has the potential to add to confusion for business owners and fleet owners. The biggest question mark is on who will define the action days when vehicles are banned on busiest roads? And who will identify the busiest roads and on what basis?

And any step that goes to curtail free and fair movement of people and business is fraught with risks and long-term impact on growth of business and industry.

Rather than giving a knee-jerk reaction to a problem that is very well known, I think business’ and industries should come together and take steps  towards how effective they can be in reducing the air pollution not only in London but also in other parts of the UK. It may be London today and Manchester tomorrow. The last thing anyone wants is a HGV  to be stopped in London and denied entry  to Manchester because the 2 cities were in the middle of ‘action days’ that disallow movement of HGVs on that day.It will be a loss to the National Exchequer and the impact will trickle down to the common man very soon.

At the Fuelcard Company we hope that constructive efforts and plans are thought of to bring the rising pollution under check.

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