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Environment

This World-Famous London Street Could Be Traffic-Free by Christmas 2018

Large parts of London’s iconic Oxford Street could be pedestrianised in time to welcome next year’s Christmas shoppers, as part of a new plan unveiled by Mayor Sadiq Khan. 

Half a mile of the world-famous shopping street — which is visited by more than 4 million people each week — could be transformed into a “traffic-free pedestrian boulevard” between Oxford Circus and Orchard Street, according to the plan. 

Khan described it as a “hugely exciting moment for the capital.”

“Whether you’re a local resident, a business, or shop in some of the area’s famous stores, our plans will make the area substantially cleaner and safer for everyone, creating one of the finest public spaces in the world,” he said in a statement. 

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Proponents of the plan hope that in addition to tackling growing air quality concerns, the £60 million plan would cut down on high accident and collision rates, and congestion at peak travel times.

All east-west traffic on the street would be stopped, although some north-south routes would be maintained. And an 800m-long work of public art could also be commissioned as part of the plans, which would coincide with the launch of the Elizabeth Underground Line in central London.

The New West End Company, which represents some 600 retailers in the area, is backing the plans. 

“Removing the wall of red buses from Oxford Street will reduce congestion and improve air quality,” said the New West End Company’s chief executive Jane Tyrrell. 

Read more: London’s Mayor Just Promised to Make the City Zero-Carbon and 50% Green by 2050

Khan has previously warned that air pollution is one of most significant environmental challenges faced by London — and in September he triggered the city’s emergency air quality alert for the seventh time in 13 months.

In August, Khan announced his strategy to make the UK capital a world leader in clean energy by making the city “zero-carbon” by 2050. 

“More than 9,000 Londoners die prematurely every year as a direct consequence of our air, which is so dirty it repeatedly breaches legal limits,” said Khan when launching the plans.

“Air pollution has been linked to asthma, strokes, heart disease, and dementia — and is also to blame for children in parts of our city growing up with underdeveloped lungs. Indeed, some of the worst pollution hotspots are around schools.” 

Read more: ‘Stop Killing Londoners’: Anti-Pollution Activists Shut Down Busy Road During Rush Hour

Khan has also called for a ban on wood-burning stoves, and introduced air quality audits across London’s most polluted schools. 

Meanwhile, an anti-pollution activist group blocked Marylebone Road , near Baker Street in central London, during rush hour last week, in an attempt to draw attention to Britain’s growing air pollution crisis. 

The plans on pedestrianising Oxford Street are open to public comment until Dec. 17. 

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