Campaigners present Thames crossing air quality findings

Results of ‘citizen science’ air quality monitoring presented at London’s City Hall show pollution already high close to planned Silvertown tunnel road river crossing

Pollution in areas around planned Thames road river crossings and City Airport developments are already in breach of legal limits for nitrogen dioxide but could get worse, according to tests by air quality campaigners.

At a meeting at City Hall this morning (October 4), campaigners presented the results of a ‘citizen science’ air monitoring project, which saw 36 nitrogen dioxide-reading diffusion tubes placed for one month over the summer on roads close to Gallions Reach and City Airport in East London.

Map showing the 'citizen science' results of NO2 diffusion tube tests carried out in East London (red circles show exceedences of EU legal limit)

Map showing the ‘citizen science’ results of NO2 diffusion tube tests carried out in East London (red circles show exceedences of EU legal limit)

The tests were carried out in response to Transport for London (TfL) proposals to construct a tunnel under the Thames at Silvertown and to further develop City Airport — plans which campaigners say will increase traffic and add to air pollution in areas that already suffer from poor air quality (see story).

The results show that the roundabout at which Newham Way (A13), North Circular Road (A406), Alfred’s Way (A13) and Royal Docks Road (A1020) meet has nitrogen dioxide levels of 61.01 micrograms per cubic metre (mg3).

The EU legal limit for annual average levels of nitrogen dioxide is 40 micrograms per cubic metre and according to campaigners, some monitoring tubes were places in areas where there was currently no other monitoring taking place.

Meanwhile, nitrogen dioxide readings reached 54.95mg3 on the Newham Way, Woolwich Manor Way and High Street South (A117) roundabout and the roundabout next to Gallions Reach DLR station showed readings of 42mg3.

But, campaigners said, similar tubes at Gallions roundabout used by Newham council had been showing levels below the EU legal limit.

Furthermore, the area around City Airport private Jet Centre, close to where another entrance to the airport is planned, showed nitrogen dioxide levels of 45mg3.

Public transport

The findings were presented at a meeting in London’s City Hall this morning by Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates, who called on the Mayor and local authorities to improve public transport instead of extending and building roads.

Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates presented the results at City Hall in London

Friends of the Earth campaigner Jenny Bates presented the results at City Hall in London

She said: “Allowing any new road river crossing or City Airport development as proposed would be a traffic-generating, congestion-worsening, air quality-deteriorating disaster, and is no way to help East and South East London and support London’s development.

“The government, Mayor Boris Johnson and Newham and Greenwich councils must all take the urgent and bold action necessary to ensure air pollution is brought within EU legal limits by the dates required.

“Instead a package of non-road alternatives such as DLR extensions, ferries and cheaper bridges for walkers and cyclists must be considered, which would free up existing roads for necessary vehicle journeys.”


The meeting was chaired by London Assembly Green Party member Darren Johnson and also featured speakers on air quality such as Clean Air in London campaigner Simon Birkett, King’s College professor Dr Ian Mudway and independent transport consultant John Elliott.

Speaking at the meeting, Mr Elliot said that traffic had not really grown very much in London over the last 20 years despite the growth in infrastructure and population, adding that evidence tended to show that building or extending roads attracted more traffic.

He also said that people needed to be encouraged to use alternatives to driving their cars, suggesting initiatives such as congestion charge and park and ride schemes for the M25.

Mr Elliott said: “London can only exist by being a bit nasty to the motor car. You cannot exist without doing that — no city can. With 10 million or more people it is just impossible. You have to help people so that they don’t have to use their cars.”

Also speaking this morning, Assembly Member Darren Johnson said the Mayor’s work on air quality had not had a strong enough impact.

He said: “Sadly it has been a recipe of dither and delay. Some of the initiatives have not delivered the changes promised and all the time we have an absolute crisis in terms of air pollution. We need to gear up on this — the days of dither and delay have got to stop.”


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