Clean up your act! Westminster threatens to ban idling coaches

Conservative run Westminster is taking tough action to clean up our air, threatening to ban all tourist coaches from the city if drivers continue to leave their engines idling.

The council has made it clear to coach companies that if their drivers are now caught idling, they will remove their parking spaces and replace them with electric car charging points.

National Express, which runs countless buses in and out of London every week including from Victoria Coach Station, has already pledged to cut engine idling.

There are currently 68 coach parking spaces within Westminster. Many of them are next to some of the city’s busiest pedestrian areas, outside schools and next to people’s homes.

The council will consider replacing some of these spaces with small parklets, electric vehicle charging points, or cycle bays if coach drivers’ habits do not change.

Cllr Tim Mitchell, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Environment and City Management who authored the open letter commented:

“It’s fantastic that National Express have come on board and been incredibly supportive of our efforts to stop idling and improve air quality for Londoners – but we’re getting pretty fed up with the rest of the coach industry who simply haven’t engaged at all.

“Hundreds of coaches enter Westminster every day, delivering visitors and schoolchildren to some of our famous hotspots, so if we’re going to tackle air pollution in our city, then we need these companies to clean up their act.

“Our approach has always been to ask nicely but there has been little or no response from some of these coach companies, if coach drivers persistently engine idle, we’ll simply remove the bay and turn it into a parklet or similar– our residents would certainly prefer it.”

The Conservative Council’s latest action comes as part of its #DontBeIdle campaign. The campaign has been successful in encouraging drivers to switch off their engines while stopped. Several large businesses have already signed on to the Council’s pledge to reduce their vehicles idling, many of the biggest coach operators however are still to do so.

You can read the letter to coach operators below:

Dear Sir/Madam

Pay to Park coach parking bay and unwelcome hours of engine idling – Horseferry Road, Westminster

The City Council currently manages a number of Pay to Park and Charge Free bus and coach parking and waiting bays across Westminster as a concession to assist companies that bring in tourists, school groups and others that visit this great city.

However It is often the case that I receive complaints from residents about prolonged coach engine idling at some of these bay locations. And when such complaints are raised, we first despatch our Marshals to visit the site more regularly and task them to remind drivers to switch their engines off. 

Then, from time to time, we raise the concern with CPT and TfL Coaches colleagues to ask for their support and make contact with the operators, but it often turns out that the companies are not CPT members or the problem re-occurs again after a week or so. So in respect to the Horseferry Road coach bays in particular, apart from the National Express group management’s welcome attention to the problem, frankly raising evidenced complaints with the CPT and TfL Coaches has been futile in recent times.

So unfortunately our residents who have homes overlooking this bus bay on Horseferry Road continue to suffer the noise, poor air quality, air borne vibration this causes. So much so, one lady tells me that this even occurs during the early hours of the morning and she can no longer sleep during such events.

So given that the Marshal service cannot be despatched to this bus parking bay 24/7, that our ‘Switch off Engine Reduce Emissions’ signs are being ignored and our ‘#DontBeIdle’ https://www.westminster.gov.uk/dont-be-idle campaign has not fully registered with the coach industry yet, my next step is to now search for an alternative location for this bus bay that would not be near to other residents’ homes in another street, and if such a location cannot be found we will have no choice but to remove the site altogether.

So if this problem occurred outside your home regularly - what would you do?

Cllr Tim Mitchell

Cabinet Member for Environment & City Management