A radical scheme to drive the most polluting diesel-engine vehicles off the streets of London was proposed on Sunday by mayor Sadiq Khan.

The British capital’s mayor has called on the national government to hand motorists up to 3,500 pounds ($4,400) to persuade them to send their old diesel cars and vans to the breaker’s yard, and replace them with cleaner vehicles, Xinhua news agency reported.

It has been estimated that paying owners of the worst polluting diesel vehicles off the roads of London could cost the government over half a billion pounds ($625 billion).

An estimated 70,000 polluting van and minibuses as well as 130,000 cars could be taken off the streets of London as part of the ambitious scheme. It could cut nitrogen oxide emissions by 40 per cent, said the mayor’s office.

Khan said the nitrogen dioxide emitted by diesel cars is a key contributor to London’s poor air quality.

Just 24 hours earlier, Khan issued a pollution alert across London, warning the people, especially elderly, with certain health conditions to avoid strenuous activities.

In an interview in the Observer newspaper on Sunday, Khan said: “The toxic state of our air leaves us with no choice but to rid our city of the most polluting diesel vehicles. It is shocking that nearly half of new car sales in the UK are still diesel vehicles and the national system of vehicle excise duty still incentivises motorists to buy these polluting cars.”

“I’m urging government to immediately review this policy,” the mayor said, adding that he on Sunday delivered a detailed report on how the government can deliver an effective national diesel scrappage fund.

Khan has already announced plans for an ultra-low emission zone that he hopes to extend out as far as peripheral roads around London. But he said he does not have the powers to take more radical action.

“The government needs to help us clean up the dangerous air in London,” said Khan.

Khan has delivered his proposals to Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond and other ministers in Prime Minister Theresa May’s government.

Under Khan’s scrappage scheme, van drivers in London would be given 3,500 pounds towards the cost of a cleaner model, and low-income households could receive a credit worth 2,000 pounds ($2,500) that they could use on alternative transport, such as joining a car pool, or on a new vehicle.

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