Press Release

Transport and Environment Experts Tell Mayor: Reduce Car Use in London to Tackle Pollution, Congestion and Health Challenges

An independent commission of transport and environment experts has put pressure on the Mayor of London to be bold on reducing car use across the capital, to tackle London’s chronic air pollution, congestion and health challenges.

The independent Commission on the Future of London’s Roads and Streets was convened by Centre for London, the capital’s dedicated think tank, and chaired by Sir Malcolm Grant, Chair of NHS England. The Commission’s aim was to develop new thinking on what London could do to manage the conflicting pressures on the capital’s surface transport system and public realm.

The Commission’s final report, published today, calls on the Mayor to make more efficient use of London’s finite road network by focusing his efforts on creating a transport system centred on public transport, walking and cycling, and making the most of new technology.

The report proposes an ambitious and innovative package of policy reforms, including:

  • Introducing a London Movement Code – to better guide the interaction between different road users, representing a transitional step to amending the UK Highway Code itself, to better respond to changes in UK cities.
  • Extending existing payment platforms (Oyster and Contactless) to incorporate new types of services like car clubs, cycle hire, taxis and cabs – and eventually road pricing to enable users to go on connected journeys – where they’re able to compare travel costs and switch between modes. This would also improve TfL’s ability to use price and travel credits to shape travel choices.
  • The Commission argues that new technologies and new intelligent mobility services like autonomous and connected vehicles, car clubs, and digital ‘Ride-Hailing’ services can help meet London’s challenges, but only if they are properly managed.
  • Targeting the most polluting vehicles by introducing a cashback scrappage scheme as part of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), benefiting motorists who pay ULEZ charges frequently.
  • Replacing the Congestion Charge with a pan-London, pre-pay smart road user pricing scheme, which reflects the internal and external costs, and environmental impacts of journeys, while being fair, as well as easy to understand and administer.
  • In the short term, reviewing the existing Congestion Charge scheme, including removing the exemption from private hire vehicles and incrementally reducing the resident discount.
  • Using a package of measures to encourage households to give up their parking permits including an end to subsidised residential parking and incentives such as Oyster or car club credits.
  • Enabling efficient, clean and safe freight and servicing to support London’s businesses through charging and other incentives.


While the Commission supports moves to promote electric over petrol and diesel vehicles, it warns that even ‘zero emission’ vehicles do in fact produce dangerous particles from brakes, tyres and roadware. It calls for more research and innovation, and a better policy framework to tackle non-tailpipe emissions.

The Commission recognises that public budgets are tight but argues that money raised through reform of parking and road user charges should be invested in improving London’s public realm and making it more walkable. It also calls for boroughs to take a ‘design-led’ approach to road maintenance and traffic engineering work, rather than seeing these as purely engineering challenges.

Malcolm Grant, Chair, NHS England, said:

“London’s healthcare system is under huge pressures, including supporting an ageing population with often a prolonged period of ill health later in life; the long term health consequences of obesity, especially childhood obesity; and respiratory problems from air pollution.

“Transforming London’s roads and streets into spaces where people of all ages and abilities can move and exercise healthily and safely can significantly ease these pressures.”

Ben Rogers, Director, Centre for London, said:

“London’s transport system is admired around the world and more and more Londoners are giving up private cars in favour of public transport, walking, cycling and a range of new mobility services.

“The Mayor’s draft Transport Strategy makes it clear he wants to see this trend continue. But he will need to introduce some brave and farsighted reforms if we are going to tackle London’s worsening congestion and air pollution, and create a healthier and more liveable city.
“With the help of the reforms proposed by the Commission, London could be admired across the world for the way it enables easy, pollution-free and affordable movement around the city, the vitality of its neighbourhoods, and the quality of its public realm.”

Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport, said:

“This is an important report which seeks to grapple with some of the biggest issues facing our city over the coming decades, outlining innovative ideas for tackling congestion and improving quality of life for Londoners.

“As the report recommends, it is essential that we encourage more people to cycle and walk as part of their everyday lives, and use public transport as an alternative to car use. Our draft Transport Strategy outlines our bold target of increasing the proportion of people walking, cycling and taking public transport to 80 per cent of journeys by 2041, including record investment in new cycling infrastructure.

“We have some of the most ambitious plans to reduce dangerous emissions of any city in the world, and we will continue to keep London’s existing and planned road charging schemes under review, ensuring they deliver the best outcomes for our city over the coming years.”

Scott Cain, Chief Business Officer, Future Cities Catapult, said

“The pulse of London’s streets play a big part in why it’s such a globally admired world city. Yet such vibrancy is not a given. A keen vision of place and the ability to test and validate new technologies, business models and policies against this vision is essential.

“The Commission has set out some bold answers to some of London’s toughest questions – not least air quality and congestion. Redesigning healthy activity back into the daily life for Londoners is increasingly vital. How we shape our cities now will shape us in return.”

Notes to editors:

The full list of commissioners included:

  • Professor Peter Bishop, Professor in Urban Design, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London
  • Patricia Brown, Director, Central
  • Dr Ellie Cosgrave, Lecturer in Urban Innovation at Policy, STEaPP City Leadership Lab, University College London
  • Sir Malcolm Grant, Chair, NHS England (Chair)
  • Professor Peter Jones, OBE, Professor of Transport and Sustainable Development, University College London
  • Professor Frank Kelly, Professor of Environmental Health, Kings College London
  • Nick Lester-Davis, Director, Nick Lester-David Consultancy, Vice Chair, ERTRAC
  • Tony Meehan, Transportation Consultancy, Practice Director, Atkins
  • Professor David Metz, Honorary Professor, Centre for Transport Studies, University College London