National, and London Infrastructure, Both Deplorable

Just to emphasise how bad the transport infrastructure is in this country, and particularly in London, here are some recent comments from Lord Adonis, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (a think-tank set up by the Government to advise it).

He said traffic speeds in London had fallen dramatically over the past five years and in much of the City were lower than in 1914. In addition, between 2012 and 2015, speeds on inner London roads fell by up to 9% (and that’s before the full impact of the Cycle Superhighways).

Another example is that overcrowding on rail services in London was up by 45% between 2011 and 2016.

He especially pressed the need to address “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all” and reach a firm decision on expanding Heathrow Airport – an issue yet to be resolved 13 years after the initial statement of policy for a third runway.

He effectively suggested that without action the UK faced gridlock accompanied by worsening air quality and that “we’ve got to get real about tackling congestion and with it, air pollution….”.

Comment: There are two things that are required to solve these problems: a) Government commitment and real action rather than more debate; b) sensible plans that might improve matters rather than political gestures that talk about making “London’s streets places for active travel and social interaction….” which is the key foundation of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Transport Strategy. That has little to do with improving the transport network for the efficient movement of goods and people which is what it should really be for.

Roger Lawson

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Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Campaign Report

The formal consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) is over but responses to our campaign against it are still coming in. Thanks to all those who have submitted objections to TfL or the Mayor or have helped in other ways. Here is a summary of what has been achieved. More information on our campaign is present here: AGAINST-MTS

The campaign hasn’t been an easy one. The public consultation on this very important issue was launched in the Summer months and with minimal publicity by Mayor Sadiq Khan. As a result, media coverage was low. In addition lots of information about the proposals was concealed and requests under the Freedom of Information Act frustrated. In summary, a defective public consultation both legally and morally.

Myself and Brian Mooney put in a lot of work on social media, getting circulation on email lists and delivering tens of thousands of leaflets (with the assistance of other volunteers) so as to raise awareness of what Sadiq Khan is planning – effectively an attack on all private transport modes using the “healthy streets” concept and environmental scare stories in support. One way or another, we reached into all 32 London boroughs, despite working against the clock. We got positive responses in support from all parts of London and all sections of the community. You can read some of the comments received here: PUBLIC-COMMENTS

We will wait to see the results of the public consultation in the next few weeks and let you know what is published. But the Mayor may well ignore public criticisms of his plans (he can do that as he is effectively a dictator in London), so we will have to continue to fight on the individual proposals as they are progressed.

For example, allowing local boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans may provide further battlegrounds and there will be Borough elections in May next year where you can express your opinions. The Mayor has admitted that he is in discussion with unnamed boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans. This will not just create problems in an individual borough because to avoid being charged traffic will divert into neighbouring boroughs and create pressure for charging in that borough too. This disastrous domino effect has already been shown with CPZs. A similar pattern could occur if boroughs are forced to remove parking spaces.

It is important to communicate your views on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to your local borough councillors, London Assembly Members and even your local Members of Parliament over the next few months. If you don’t know who they are, contact us for assistance (go to CONTACT ).

But we do need more financial support if we are to continue this fight (the campaign has already cost the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) several thousands of pounds and we could have done a lot more with more resources.

PLEASE DO MAKE A DONATION NOW HERE: DONATE

THE ABOVE IS VERY IMPORTANT. TO PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WE NEED BETTER FINANCIAL SUPPORT AS WELL AS ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEERS!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Exhibition Road Accident

Exhibition Road 1.JPGEleven people were injured yesterday in Exhibition Road, London, in what was at first thought to be a terrorist incident with a police response accordingly. But it now seems very likely to simply have been a road traffic accident.

Exhibition Road is a “share space” scheme where the pedestrianised part of the road is indistinguishable from the vehicular carriageway. This is particularly problematic for a road where there are many tourists present who may not be familiar with traffic direction in London, or the road.

It is worth repeating an article that we published back in 2012 on the dangers of this road design:

Exhibition Road Shared Space Scheme

There was recently a demonstration against the shared space scheme in Exhibition Road, Kensington, organised by Gordon Taylor. This took place very near the spot where a 71 year old pensioner was struck by a vehicle and suffered severe head injuries.

You can see the problem with this road in the above photograph. The pedestrian section is to the left, and the vehicular road is to the right, but you can see there is no clear demarcation.

Blind people have particular concerns because there is minimal tactile demarcation between road and pavement and guide dogs may not differentiate and hence get confused.

(Note: The ABD is not in principle opposed to “shared space” schemes where traffic volumes are reasonably low and the design is done so as to avoid confusion to drivers and pedestrians. This is clearly not the case here. It looks pretty, but is in essence dangerous and dysfunctional. It is also enormously expensive in relation to the potential benefits when a simpler, cheaper scheme would have been more appropriate).

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Air Pollution from Small Particulates

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has released new research giving the emissions of toxic particles known as PM2.5. He claims most Londoners are exposed to levels that exceed WHO guidelines. Here’s a summary of the report:

The research, based on the latest updated London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory, shows that 7.9 million Londoners – nearly 95 per cent of the capital’s population – live in areas of London that exceed the guidelines by 50 per cent or more.

PM2.5 are small toxic air particles which are alleged to have the greatest impact on health with both short and long-term exposure increasing the likelihood of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases. Children are particularly affected and may develop reduced lung function and asthma.

Around half of PM2.5 emissions in London are from external sources outside the city, however, the main sources of PM2.5 emissions in London are from tyre and brake wear, construction and wood burning.

The Mayor is clear that he wants to reduce emissions from wood burning through improved education about the types of fuel that should be used and when they should be used. He also wants a stricter set of emission standards on future sales of wood burning stoves to tackle this problem.

Comment: Why anyone should be permitted to use a wood-burning stove in central London when most people think such usage was banned under the Clean Air Act rather surprises me. But a lot of the particulate emissions are from construction in London, or are blown in from outside – and much of those are from agriculture, or even pollution from other countries. It is not at all clear how the Mayor is going to tackle these, but dust from tyre and brake wear is more easily controlled. Whether this would have a significant impact overall, or are cost effective measures, is not obvious though. Unfortunately this looks like political posturing by the Mr Khan, using children as his cheer leaders in this campaign.

Regrettably such pollution is mainly a symptom of over population, which Mr Khan and his predecessors seem not to want to do anything about.

Roger Lawson

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New Cycle Superhighways

Transport for London (TfL) have published their proposed plans for two new Cycle Superhighways. These are:

Taking CS4 first, this will add substantially to journey times for both general traffic and buses. For example, up to 6 minutes extra journey time eastbound in the evening from Tooley Street to Surrey Quays Road (i.e. a 50% increase!) although there are some savings at other times and in other directions.

There will be increased traffic on Jamaica Road and more congestion at the Rotherhithe Roundabout (near the entrance to the Tunnel due to reconfiguation). However, TfL have already introduced an extra entrance lane northbound from the roundabout to the tunnel road which should assist.

But reduction in road space on Jamaica Road to accommodate a segregated dual flow cycle lane, plus the introduction of “bus bypasses” will surely cause all traffic to be slowed to that of buses. (Historic note: I objected to the introduction of bus lanes on Jamaica Road which were unnecessary and substantially increased traffic congeston. Jamaica Road became one street to avoid, and the latest proposals will make that even more true).

Anyone affected by these proposals should study them and respond to the public consultation as soon as possible, as the ABD will be doing.

Here’s one comment already received from a member of the public on this scheme: “Since when has Jamaica Road been free of traffic as they pretend to show in their consultation photos when in fact the traffic is pretty much stationary all along that road all day long? This is a major commuter route for people and businesses from the east and south east who use the Rotherhithe tunnel to cross the river – and they want more people to use bikes? Really do they expect people to cycle from Essex and Kent? Why not revert back to horse and carts or why not just pedestrianise the whole of London and open it to cyclists only? This is an utterly disgraceful proposal thought out by people at Tfl that clearly have never been down to Jamaica Road to see with their eyes the reality of the traffic”.  

There are also complementary changes to support CS4 to Tanner Street and Druid Street which there is a separate public consultation on – see: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/tanner-druid-street/?cid=tanner-druid-street

As regards CS9, TfL’s journey time modelling suggests less of an impact than the time increases on CS4, but again some journey times worsen while others improve. London residents affected by these changes should respond to the consultation as soon as possible, as the ABD will be doing. I also hope to publish more detail comments on this blog at a later date, but anyone who has any views on it should let me know please.

Roger Lawson

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National Accident Trends and Bus Accidents in London

Fatal accidents on Britain’s roads rose 4% to 1,792 last year. That’s the highest level since 2011 and is clear evidence that fatal accidents are not falling despite all the chest beating of politicians about excessive speeds, and millions of pounds spent on speed cameras, speed awareness courses and traffic calming.

The DfT say the change in fatalities are not statistically significant, but even more alarming is the KSI figure which was up 8% in 2016 over the previous year and which is more statistically significant. The slight injuries were only up 4% but that may have been particularly affected by a change in the reporting system and are notoriously senstive to “under-reporting”.

Explanations from the DfT are the impact of the weather, the fact that accidents tend to rise when the economy is bouyant, plus lots of other factors. Note that the growth in traffic is only a very minor possible factor, and more traffic congestion can actually reduce accidents.

So in summary, the UK road safety industry and its experts have been an abject failure since about 2011 when the accident figures started to flatline.

An example of political posturing that is irrelevant to tackling the real road safety problems is the ambition of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy to reduce injuries from bus collisions in London to zero. In reality data from TfL show the number of collisions have been rising – up from 22,676 in 2013 to 28,035 in 2016. The number of injuries also rose to 1,231 in 2016.

What might be the reasons for these increases? Possibly more cyclists on the roads, more pedestrians who cross the road without looking, many using their phones at the time, and lots of other factors. So the response of the Mayor is to look at speed limiting technology for buses and anti-collision sensors. Will they solve the problem? Nobody knows because there is no road accident investigation branch similar to those used for rail and aviation, as the ABD has repeatedly called for.

In my view, only when Government politicians, the Mayor and TfL stop looking for quick answers to complex problems will we get some sense back into the road safety debate. In the meantime, it’s just a disgrace that nobody in power seems to be facing up to the reality that the UK is going backwards in road safety.

Roger Lawson

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Uber Kicked Out of London

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that Uber’s licence to operate in London will not be renewed. That means their service will terminate in a few weeks and 40,000 drivers will be put out of work. There are as many as 3.5 million Uber users in London and a petition to reverse the decision has already been established on Change.org which has collected 450,000 signatures in about 24 hours – see https://www.change.org/p/save-your-uber-in-london-saveyouruber

TfL, supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, claim Uber is not a fit and proper organisation to hold a license due to its failure to report incidents, failures on vetting drivers and other grounds. Uber have 21 days in which to appeal, and no doubt there will be a legal challenge as well if TfL do not back down.

TfL previously announced that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license, so it is clear that the Mayor is attacking Uber via more than one channel. Why is he doing this? It is clear from the Mayor’s recently published Transport Strategy (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) that Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) such as Uber operate are contributing to traffic congestion in London in a big way. But it is also clear that the Mayor objects to all private vehicles whether you drive them or someone else drives them for you.

Are there alternatives to Uber? Lyft is a big similar operator in the USA but does not operate in London yet. Taxify launched in London recently but then had to suspend operations after TfL queried its license. There is a service called Hailo that operates to call conventional taxis (don’t bother trying to use it in outer London though in my experience), and numerous local PHV operators plus larger operators such as Addison Lee who have a ride hailing app.

Comment: I am not totally convinced that the allegations against Uber are serious enough to warrant refusal of a license. Perhaps Uber should up its game in several areas, but is it any worse than other PHV operators? As a relatively new service, with lots of new drivers, there are likely to be some teething problems. Other penalties could surely have been considered. For example, a grant of a new license for a limited period on certain conditions being met.

I have used Uber a few times and the service is both efficient and low cost (Uber loses money in a big way I understand). For example, I called Uber recently to take my wife home at 3.00 am in the morning from an outer London hospital. The driver arrived in about 3 minutes. Great service at very reasonable cost.

Many people will see this act by the Mayor for what it is. A simple attack on a service that the Mayor and those in TfL would like to put out of business so that people have to walk, cycle or use public transport (i.e. use many less safe alternatives) if you read his Transport Strategy. That is why the ABD is so opposed to it.

It is true that the number of PHVs is contributing to traffic congestion, but there are other ways to ration their numbers and usage (e.g. on price).

I recommend that you sign the petition, as I shall be doing.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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