OPINION - The Standard View: Ulez expansion is a proud day for our city

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

Cleaner air has come to a street, a school and a workplace near you. The Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez) has expanded across all boroughs, meaning that each and every Londoner will be able to breathe a little easier.

The project has not been without its detractors, particularly in government. It is a pity that the cross-party consensus on air quality and wider climate policies has started to fray. Indeed, those with longer memories will rightly recall it was the Conservatives who first announced the Ulez, when Boris Johnson was Mayor of London. And we believe in giving credit where credit is due.

Yet the party’s current standard-bearer in the capital, Susan Hall, is a fierce opponent to the extension. Hall’s anti-Ulez stance is perhaps her only known view, apart from her support for Donald Trump. Such a platform will no doubt win her votes, but can it deliver the mayoralty?

Only today, Transport Secretary Mark Harper suggested he would stop Ulez if he could. This is pure political posturing. First, because the Government’s own policy — and legal obligation — is to cut air pollution. And second, because ministers must come to terms with devolution, something they used to champion.

Clearly, some motorists have opposed Ulez. But the reality is that the vast majority of cars in outer boroughs are already Ulez-compliant. Those that are not can access the scrappage scheme, a pot of money that could have been far more generous had central government chosen to help Londoners. Instead, it opted to score political points.

Air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of thousands of Londoners each year, in both inner and outer boroughs. That is why the Evening Standard has for years campaigned to clean up the capital’s toxic air, and for the Ulez. This is therefore a proud day for our city.

Fix this travel chaos

Air traffic control is not simply the means by which we go on holiday — it is critical UK infrastructure. Its meltdown yesterday was not an isolated incident. Earlier this year, the e-gates system for people entering the country fell over, leading to widespread delays. Outages also appear commonplace for airline computer systems.

The impact is always vast. There were further delays and cancellations today with more into the week, as aircraft find themselves in the wrong part of the world and pilots and crew go beyond their legal hours. This will impact many more thousands of people and businesses.

One outage like this is one too many. The Government must investigate not only how it happened, but why back-ups systems beyond manual inputting aren’t in place to ensure we have a more resilient system.