A23 clean air bus corridor improves Brixton air quality by less than 5% - Green Party slams council inaction

19 April 2018

Following reports from Transport for London that air pollution levels on Brixton Road have fallen by less than 5% following the introduction of cleaner buses on the A23 corridor through Brixton and Streatham, Lambeth Green Party has criticised Lambeth Council’s complacency in dealing with the public health emergency facing the borough. 

Responding to a Freedom of Information request from campaign group Mums For Lungs, TfL said average concentrations of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) during February and January 2018 were 102 ug/m3 - compared with an average of 107 ug/m3 d during the same months in 2018 - a drop of 4.67%. The legal limit is 40 ug/m3.

The number of instances in which the hourly concentration levels of nitrogen dioxide exceeded 200 ug/m3 fell from 34 in Jan-Feb 2017 to 30 in the first two months of 2018, a reduction of 11%. The legal annual limit is 18 in one year. [1]

TfL ended use of older, more polluting Euro standard buses in December 2017 [2], creating a so-called ‘clean air bus corridor’ on the A23 through Brixton and Streatham, a route which was notorious for dangerously polluted air. [3] In its FoI response it states that buses were thought to be contributing around 50% of nitrogen dioxide emissions at the Brixton air monitoring site.

It said that factors such as low temperatures and wind direction may have affected the NO2 levels in January and February this year and and direct comparisons for short term periods of time should be treated with caution.

The response states: “We know that the first two months of 2018 has seen some extremely cold weather and this will influence the ability of pollutants to disperse and can lead to a build-up of high pollution. However, on a like-for-like basis, the concentrations over the first two months of the year are showing a general reduction compared to 2017, and are significantly lower than for previous years. However, it is vital that we continue to reduce these concentrations.”

Green Party councillor Scott Ainslie (St Leonard’s ward) said the latest data should act as a wake-up call to Lambeth Council, which was complacent about the public health emergency being caused by dangerously polluted air in the borough.

Cllr Ainslie said: “There is a long history of Lambeth Council failing to take pollution seriously. It removed itself from the London Air Quality Network, switched off pollution monitors and failed to maintain them in 2012 and 2013, creating the impression that pollution clearly wasn’t high on their agenda.[4]

“When they were switched on again, they showed critical breaches of NO2 levels and Lambeth being branded London’s dirtiest borough and the A23 London’s most polluted road. [5] 

“This latest data suggests that the new clean Bus Corridor is not enough to tackle the urgent health crisis affecting families throughout London. So much more has to be done, and we support the recommendations of the pressure group Mums for Lungs, who have rightly pointed out that the £31,000 budget put aside to combat this issue in Lambeth is woefully inadequate.”

He said all 61 Green Party candidates in forthcoming local council elections were happy to sign Mums For Lungs’ four pledges on air pollution and he urged candidates from other parties to do the same. [6]

(article continues below photo)

In its FoI repsonse to Mums For Lungs, TfL said it hoped that the roll-out of less polluting Euro VI buses across the whole of the London bus network by 2020 will reduce nitrogen dioxide emissions from buses by over 80%.


It states: “However, we recognise that reducing emissions from all vehicle types plays an important role in improving concentrations, and that is why the Mayor has put forward his proposals for expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone out to the whole of London for buses, coaches, and HGVs, and to the north –south circular for cars and vans – which incorporates Brixton. Together, these measures, plus TfL leading the way with one of the cleanest bus fleets of any major world city, will help to improve air quality across London and in Brixton, and help us to meet our air quality targets.”




[1]  Data supplied in FOI TfL Ref: FOI-4658-1718 to Mums For Lungs 16th April 2018




Nitrogen dioxide recorded at Brixton Rd air quality
monitoring site during Jan-Feb











Number of Hourly
>200 ug/m3










Average NO2 level











[2] Launch of clean air bus corridor: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-brixton-clean-bus-zone-to-tackle-toxic-air


[3] In 2017 the air pollution monitor showed that the annual safety breaches had been reached in just 5 days: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-38529928


[4] Lambeth withdraws from London Air Quality Network:



[5] The Mayor’s 2017 air quality report judged Lambeth the second worst borough in London for action to tackle air pollution:  https://lambeth.greenparty.org.uk/news/2017/11/14/lambeth-the-second-worst-borough-in-london-for-air-pollution/


[6] Mums For Lungs council candidate pledges: https://www.facebook.com/MumsforLungs/ 

1.     Lambeth council will ensure that air pollutants (at least NO2) in the ‘Lambeth Air Quality focus areas’ will drop by at least by 5% per year, as a result of measures developed and implemented by the council.

2.     The council will have a cabinet member with “clean air” or “air quality” in their title and the budget dedicated to tackling air pollution will be increased significantly.

3.     The council will increase its engagement with and around schools to reduce air pollution and protect all children.

4.     The council will implement effective measures against illegal idlin


[7] Legal limits on NO2 explained here: https://uk-air.defra.gov.uk/assets/documents/reports/aqeg/nd-summary.pdf


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