Thinktank calls for better transport technology to clean London’s air


London mayor Sadiq Khan has been urged to adopt the latest transport technology as a means of ensuring London has a transport future based on sustainability and reduced pollution.

The IPPR thinktank has argued the capital’s infrastructure is now at a crossroads between two possible futures, with one being that of integration, high technology and well-planned sustainability, or an alternative of increasing congestion, cost and pollution.

It has argued that a real opportunity to bring about the first of these two alternatives is now there, but it will require a genuine commitment to this by Mr Khan to make it happen.

The IPPR report said there is already evidence available showing technology could help with transport planning and integration. Citing the private hire technology used by Uber and digital delivery planning used by Amazon as just the first ways in which a smarter approach to transport can be made possible by technology, it pointed to a number of future possibilities. These include Mobility as Service platforms and autonomous vehicles – the so-called ‘driverless cars‘.

Among these are car clubs, which can be established through agreements between operators, Transport for London (TfL) and individual boroughs. Flexible car clubs can also be included in a new “flexible framework” of new travel markets that also includes on-demand taxis. Targets can also be set for sustainability using more technology and TfL can help with this by acting as the main hub of data for London to help establish and target the areas where more efficient transport is needed.

To do all this, the report recommends, a chief digital officer should be appointed who can take hold of new technologies as they arise and plan ways in which they can be used to improve the London transport system.

IPPR research fellow Laurie Laybourn-Langton remarked: “London is on the cusp of major changes to the way people move around the city. Shared transport and digital technology have the potential to drive positive transport outcomes and overcome London’s transport difficulties, thereby improving the city’s spaces and Londoner’s lives.

“Public intervention is required to realise these ends, and a window of opportunity currently exists in which action can and must be taken by London’s government. When this window closes, it will significantly increase the chances of a negative path dependence upon which technology will worsen existing problems, such as air pollution and congestion, and create new ones.”

He added that by making digital technology central to his future transport policy, Mr Khan will be able to pave the way to a “sustainable, accessible and active” transport system for the capital.

The digital element may be the next phase in seeking to solve London’s transport problems, following a wide array of other initiatives.

Congestion charging has been one of these, albeit with the western extension to the changing zone being axed, while increasing public transport provision remains a key theme of future developments, through Crossrail, the possible Crossrail 2, the extension of the Northern Line to Nine Elms and the proposed extension of the Bakerloo line to Lewisham. More river crossings in the east of the capital are also proposed, along with new rail developments such as the London Overground spur and new station being built to serve the new Barking Riverside development.

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