Britain commits to zero carbon! Writing from Kings Cross, Central London, where we have campaigned for over 30 years against car pollution both in terms of air pollution and noise pollution, it is a tremendous national policy change for the better, with local implications. Sometimes it felt like we were radical unreasonable outposts talking about all of this.
I remember Transport for London consultants accusing us during a Kings Cross traffic-calming consultation only some ten years ago of “surely not wanting to stop business and transport only ten years ago.” No, we did not; we just wanted a change what the traffic did to our communities.
Writing as we speak, Kings Cross is still heavily polluted by above all car traffic though slowly it is changing. This week a bad diversion due to road-works pushed even more vehicles stagnantly through our streets (on which on both sides people live who need to breath). Changes should be implemented at Kings Cross with an absolute London priority because due to the main roads going through the area, its location in central London and due to the stations, people living and working here had to suffer particularly harmful pollution for decades.
Some of the main culprits, the Royal Mail and Black Cab Diesels are still very much part of the problem here, though both have at least begun to introduce electrics. Most TFL buses have cleaner engines now, though this is the area where battery and hydrogen buses should be running too. TFL should put some more funding into electric cab incentives, to make the acquisition of an e-cab no longer more expensive than the old Diesel models and create more charging points around the stations. There could be even new rules as to what cabs can pick up passengers at Kings Cross and St Pancras without surcharges, following the Heathrow model. Both stations, and in particular Kings Cross need also far more cycle-friendly infrastructure and facilities.
A cycle route is now complete West of St Pancras, and traffic further calmed and slowed down. However, we are still waiting for the long-awaited changes to the Kings Cross gyratory system promised even before Sadiq Khan became mayor and reassured by him.
Many landlords still are slow on changes to heating and electrical challenges. You can probably count the solar panels here on the one hand. The council and related bodies must not make the fact that there are many period homes an obstacle to changes here. Only two years ago, one of the major social landlords in Kings Cross, Clarion, changed all gas boilers in the Kings Cross area. Although these are more efficient than their predecessors, they were yet again fossil fuel gas boilers. Major landlords like them will have to rethink heating sources, consider centralised communal heating systems using new energy sources, installing solar energy panels and also providing safe parking spaces for bicycles, another matter so far not high on their priority list.
Councils like Camden alongside TFL will have to finally give way to reimagine space currently solely used for car parking. This is where more trees can be planted, community plots or flowering can occur and better and more inventive possibly underground local recycling points (Dutch model) could be installed, and cycle lanes constructed. Of course, some car parking needs to remain for people with disabilities and deliveries, and both of these must use the latest clean engines in their vehicles.
The funny things is, some of us imagined much of this 20-30 years ago. Some of us are now in our 50s and 60s. It says something about the generations of political and industrial leaders before us. One wonders if it had to be five minutes to midday for change to occur.
But let us not dwell on the past and change confidently and fast. Let Kings Cross be the centre of innovation and reimagination on green living and green economy. Not just the newly constructed North of Kings Cross, but also the older South of Kings Cross.