We need electric buses in Hammersmith to improve air quality

I am pleased to see that more electric buses are being introduced given the serious issue of air pollution and the ill health that it causes. But so far none are planned for the bus routes for that run through Ravenscourt Park Ward – the 27, 220, 267 and 391.

Tony Devenish, the London Assembly member for London West Central, has raised this concern with Transport for London and got the following response:

“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will benefit from this initiative, with electric buses entering service on routes 70 and C1 in the first half of next year. We are also pioneering the use of double-deck electric buses on route 98 to push the market forward.

“The pace at which we convert the fleet is currently restrained by the early commercial development of the electric bus industry. Electric buses cannot travel as far on a single charge as conventional diesel buses, requiring either widespread supporting charging infrastructure or a significantly greater number of buses to allow some to charge while others operate in service. This makes electric bus technology very costly.

“When the contracts for routes 27, 220, 267 and 391 come up for renewal we will investigate the options available for replacing the vehicles with electric or hybrid technology. In the meantime, we are retrofitting and replacing conventional vehicles across the entire fleet to make them much cleaner, with the aim of raising all buses to the cleanest Euro VI engine emission standard or better by 2020.”

So it comes down to funding. But why doesn’t the Council assist with offering some Section 106 funds from property developers? After all one of the objections to the building of new homes comes from concerns about air quality – both the dust during the building works and the extra traffic once it has been completed. We keep hearing claims from the Council about vast Section 106 sums being negotiated. But where is the money?

There is a precedent. When under Conservative control the Council used Section 106 funds to help pay to set up Boris Bikes. Again that was about mitigating congestion and pollution. Why not extend the cycle hire scheme using a (modest) sum to set up new docking stations? For instance at Starch Green or near the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road. The Council refuses.

When it comes to clean air the Council is willing to issue press releases, pass motions and set up commissions. All we stress what a priority it is. On practical measures there is always rather more resistance….

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