TfL Business Plan and Budget for the Next 5 Years – More of the Same

London Road

Transport for London (TfL) have published their Business Plan to cover the next 5 years and a Budget for the next year. The latter has already been approved by the London Assembly.

I shall pick out a few key points from these long documents which are certainly worth reading if you have the time – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/business-plan .  Bear in mind that as always, it’s money that drives the political and policy decisions – in this case the apparent desire of the Mayor to build a bigger empire and control more of our lives. So private transport will be discouraged and he wants more money from central Government and from Londoners to fix his self-inflicted budget problems caused by fare freezes, Crossrail delays and reckless expenditure on cycle infrastructure.

The delays to Crossrail and its rising cost run through the whole document like an albatross around the Mayor’s neck. Crossrail is now unlikely to open until 2021 which means £750 million in lost revenue as against that expected, hitting the TfL budget. In addition the delays and extra work means extra costs of up to £650 million and it’s not clear where that money will be coming from. There are very optimistic forecasts in the Business Plan for income from Crossrail – for example £884 million in 2023/24. Will it really be achieved?

Diesel Buses, one of the major sources of air pollution in the capital, are to be replaced to a large extent by 2,000 zero-emission buses by the end of the 5-year business plan period, but the whole fleet will not be zero-emission until 2037. However they will be at least Euro VI compliant soon. There is also a commitment to install 300 rapid Electric Chargers for other vehicles by the end of 2020.

Note that the London bus network has been reduced partly due to falling passenger numbers and income no doubt but there is also a reduction in central London offset by increases in outer London.

TfL Transport Commissioner Mike Brown reiterates the commitment to Vision Zero to reduce road casualties despite the fact that the policy has had negligible impact to date – see a previous blog post on that subject. He also commits to tripling the amount of “protected” Cycling space which will mean more underused cycle lanes. But he is also committing to make 73 junctions safer which may assist cyclists.

Despite cutting operating costs, one of the few good things reported, there will be deficits of £307m, £493m and £513m in TfL (after “capital renewals”) for this year and the two following ones and barely break-even in 2022/23. As a result the Mayor will have to substantially increase borrowing to cover that and large amounts of capital expenditure for both Crossrail and other network improvements. That includes £2.2 billion this year and next year, followed by £1.2 billion each year in subsequent years. Total borrowing will reach £12.3 billion within 2 years. None of this is being spent on the road network of course other than some maintenance.

So far as the road network is concerned, the maintenance of road surfaces including the repair of pot-holes has been reduced in the last two years which the documents concede has caused a deterioration in road assets. However there is a commitment to “gradually restore the condition of highway assets, with a focus on those that contribute more to walking, cycling and public transport” whatever that means. Does that mean they will fund repairs to bus lanes but not the rest of the road?

On Hammersmith Bridge whose closure is causing major problems in West London, the document only says that £25 million has been allocated to pay for preliminary work but no contract will be awarded to repair the bridge until Spring 2020 and it might take several years to complete the work. It is unclear where the money required will come from. The Rotherhithe Tunnel will be refurbished within the next 5 years – cost of around £140 million, and work done on the A40 Westway. Work on the Silvertown Tunnel should commence in 2020 and complete by 2025.

As regards the ULEZ, the Budget document finally discloses some financial figures. In 2018/19, the ULEZ will contribute most of the £215 million improvement in operating income in the current year, but with implementation costs of £58 million, i.e. a net £157 million which is somewhat more than previously forecast (see  https://tinyurl.com/y4w6pwuk ). As the Budget document only covers the year 2019/20 and no details are provide in the Business Plan the impact of the extension of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular is not apparent but the Mayor clearly intends to push ahead with that (assuming he gets re-elected).

The Business Plan indicates that fares income is expected to rise at around RPI which ignores the fact that Sadiq Khan has already promised to continue to freeze public transport fares if he gets re-elected, at least for 2020. So the Business Plan may be totally unrealistic.

In summary the Business Plan and Budget demonstrate an incompetent Mayor and senior management at TfL who wish to get us all cycling, walking or using public transport while the road network gets worse. This results in more traffic congestion and more air pollution which most Londoners would prefer them to fix. The persistent financial mismanagement by the Mayor will also come home to roost sooner or later.

A good example of the result of his policies is actually shown in a photograph of an east London street in the Business Plan document. A long queue of traffic in one lane with the bus lane unused and few cyclists in the cycle lane! See above.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Reporting a Road Incident to the Met

The Metropolitan Police have had a useful web site for reporting a crime or road accident for some time – see https://www.met.police.uk/ , where is not an emergency. It’s very easy to use and saves you having to visit a police station. They also now seem to have added a specific page to enable you to report a road incident and upload some dashcam footage – see:  https://www.met.police.uk/dashcam

But one person said on Twitter: “Can someone explain why I can film freely with a dashcam but to put a CCTV camera in a public space I have to jump through various legal hoops under the Surveillance Camera Code of Practice issued “to ensure that the use of cameras is only used in pursuit of a specified purpose”.

That’s a good question. A quick review tells me that this is a complex area of regulations. The use of video cameras is governed by two bodies – the Information Commissioner (ICO) who lays down guidelines, and the Surveillance Commissioner who regulates Police Forces and Local Authorities but their guidance is only advisory for other organisations so far as I can see.

But the ICO barely seems to be keeping up with technology. For example they say “The ICO recommends that users of drones with cameras should operate them in a responsible way to respect the privacy of others” and not much more.

In essence I conclude that a dashboard camera (dashcam) is no different to using any other kind of camera in a public place and hence is not subject to regulation except that any photographs that may contain personal information need to be stored securely and other data protection rules apply.

But a fixed video camera that covers a public place (e.g. a street outside your house) is subject to guidelines issued by the ICO and unless there is a justifiable purpose a complaint against it might be upheld.

There is clearly a general privacy issue here. Dashcams are obviously very useful if an accident has occurred or a potential crime. That has to be counterbalanced against the pervasive surveillance of the population that now happens in all locations and at all times. In London this has reached astonishing proportions. One estimate is that there are 500,000 video cameras in London and the Police have access to the Congestion Charge and ULEZ cameras and others that will soon cover most of London. That’s in addition to all the commercial and domestic cameras. In essence privacy has disappeared if you live in London!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Leon Daniels Promotion of Cycling, and Vision Zero Failing

OnLondon have published a very interesting talk by Leon Daniels  – see link below. He was the former Managing Director of Surface Transport for TfL and “acted extraordinarily quickly” to implement the Cycle Superhighways. Indeed he suggests that he might have barged them through without properly considering the views of all interested parties and assessing the outcomes properly.

The reason he gives for their implementation was to cut the number of cyclist deaths on London’s roads and to tackle the air quality issue by encouraging more cycling. But he concedes that the cycling infrastructure has had a negative effect on bus speeds and “indeed for all traffic”.

His solution to end the war between different kinds of road users is a “self-healing” city although it’s not totally clear what he means by that.

Comment: Cycle superhighways and other cycling infrastructure have not cut cycling deaths and cycling is still very much the interest of a small minority so the reallocation of road space to them has had negligible impact on traffic. Indeed it has caused more traffic congestion and hence more air pollution. It was clearly a poorly thought through policy with unintended consequences.

You can read Mr Daniel’s talk here:

https://www.onlondon.co.uk/leon-daniels-london-cycling-and-the-self-healing-city/

Vision Zero is one of the policies being pursued by TfL to reduce road casualties. It promotes traffic speed reduction among other things. We have commented previously on how ineffective it has proved to be – see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/07/29/mayors-vision-zero-strategy-failing/

Now there is similar evidence from the USA. Vision Zero is aimed at reducing deaths and serious injuries to zero, but in major US cities who have adopted the strategy they are far from achieving their target. In fact cyclist and pedestrian casualties in the USA have been increasing and the figures for individual cities show there are very mixed result. See https://www.citylab.com/newsletter-editions/2019/11/citylab-daily/602455/ and here  https://www.motorists.org/blog/do-vision-zero-programs-equal-more-traffic-accidents/ for details.

Vision Zero was a policy invented in Sweden in 1997. To quote from an OECD report on accident figures in Sweden: “The longer-term trend for road deaths in Sweden has been downwards trending. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of annual road fatalities fell by 45%. However, the trend in the decline of traffic fatalities has stagnated since 2010. The road fatalities total for 2018 is actually a 21.8% increase on 2010’s total”. It would seem that the policy is failing in Sweden also now.

Comment: Vision Zero is probably failing because it is like all simplistic road safety policies pursued by well-meaning but ignorant politicians. Having an objective which is widely publicised without a clear view on what measures will actually achieve it in the long-term is not helpful. Vision Zero seems to be diverting road safety resources from what is known to work to policies that don’t.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

 

More Air Pollution Scaremongering from the British Heart Foundation

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) have issued a press release which claims that heart attack and stroke deaths related to air pollution could exceed 160,000 by 2030. The charity says air pollution presents a major public health emergency which the Government must urgently address.

What is the basis for this claim? It relies on an “estimate” of deaths attributable to particulate air pollution and on research they have funded. One of those research studies looked at how nanoparticles of gold were absorbed into the blood after inhalation and were retained for some time. They claim this is analogous to PM2.5 particulates in vehicle emissions. But they don’t prove any link to actual heart disease or deaths. Other studies of the impact of small particulates have failed to show any impact on health or life expectancy.

The BHF is a typical large charity that raised £138 million last year. Only 72% of the money raised was actually spent on medical research or other charitable activities. The rest was spent on fund raising. It is a very professionally run organisation with a well-designed web site. The CEO got paid £211,105 in 2108-19.

They are effectively using such scare-mongering to raise funds for the charity by running a “toxic air campaign” if you look at their web site. In other words, they have a direct financial incentive to promote this idea and exaggerate the impact of air pollution on health. They have jumped on the bandwagon of all the air pollution scaremongers.

Vehicles will no doubt get the blame for these scares, but in reality air pollution from vehicles has negligible impact on people’s health or life expectancy. See https://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-vehicles-truth/ for the evidence.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

 

How to Rack up a £11,970 Bill at the Dartford Crossing

Below is an email we have received from a user of the Dartford Crossing. We have removed the sender’s name for reasons that will become apparent.

“I am in a serious situation financially that within the next month will probably see me lose my house and my family as this I have kept to myself for over a year and now I am at a tipping point with no way to escape.

Here goes…

I live in Kent and work in Essex, so have to go both ways most days using the Dartford Crossing, I was fortunate to have a company car for 3 years prior which was automatically paid for so I never had to worry or even think about paying the Toll, the journey was just the norm.

However personal Tax and Tax on my fuel card led me to no option but to ditch the company car and buy my own car. So I just carried on doing the journeys.

At this point I was also desperately trying to sell my house and purchase a new house, and I had not got a lot of money so was just living month to month.

Then the letters started coming through the door – a £2.50 charge was now £35, and a £5 a day one was now £70. When you get 3 or 4 at once you then all of a sudden get £280, then more and more come through, and that’s when you realise that you have not paid. After years of doing it naturally you just don’t think… I spoke to my company and they said they would put my car onto their auto pay account, but I don’t think they did that for a week or so, so more fines came through.

Now I was in a situation of not being able to pay, as I had so many fines. This is where it gets even more out of hand, as I could not afford to pay so it escalated and all of a sudden it was sent to the courts and ended up with Bailiff company (JBW) pursuing me. Each £2.50 crossing then became £197. The Bailiffs turned up at home so I started to find the money. I took out credit cards so that I could pay the debts as I was getting letters and texts everyday.

Things got even worse just after Christmas when the company removed all private cars off of the scheme, and didn’t tell us until a week later, so that meant more fines…

In total I had 67 crossings (about a month’s worth) not paid … all innocent mistakes as I just didn’t think at the start because I had never needed to pay…

It would have cost £167.50.

I am now having to pay off £11,970.59.

In which £6814.50 is the Dart Charge fees.

And £5156.50 are Bailiff fees.

I have currently paid £4,652.09, without my partner knowing, but because of the pressure this has meant I have fallen into arrears with Council Tax and my mortgage too…

I have to pay another £200 next week otherwise I will break my agreement but I can no longer cope with the pressure of hiding it, and I know I can’t pay it next week so the Bailiffs will be at my door…

To date I have now paid the equivalent of 1860 crossings. It was an innocent mistake now I will lose everything. I wrote to my local MP at the start of all the letters for help, and they only advised to make sure I pay the Bailiff on time.

I am only writing this to warn people that debt spirals, and pressure spirals”.

Comment: This is indeed a sad case and shows the problems that can arise with camera enforced payment systems which the ABD has consistently opposed because of the large numbers of accidental infringements that arise.  This is one good reason (there are several others), why tolls on such crossings should be removed. It is of course worth signing up for the Dart Charge Autopay system if you use the crossing regularly.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

 

Are You Suffering from London Throat?

An article in the Daily Telegraph today (9/1/2020) suggests that if you have a constant foggy feeling with repeated coughs and colds then you are suffering from a hitherto unknown disease called “London Throat”. The suggestion is that this condition arises from breathing in polluted air and very specifically inhaling brake dust that damages the immune system, thus preventing the cells called macrophages from clearing away bacteria.

The research on which this claim was based was carried out by Dr Liza Selley and published in the journal Metallomics. Apparently the concentration of tiny metal particles in brake dust is three times higher on roads with speed humps due to the repeated braking they induce.

Comment: If there is such a cause then those who live, work and travel in London are much more likely to have suffered from exposure to particulates on the London Underground where levels of dust pollution are very high and are known to have high concentrations of metal particles.

However, the removal of speed humps which the Telegraph article suggested as a solution, and has also been recommended by NICE to cut pollution, would certainly be a good idea. The ABD has consistently opposed speed humps on the grounds that they generate more air pollution but also for many other reasons. See this web page for a full analysis of how damaging and effective they are:  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps.htm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

RideLondon Event – Should it Continue?

The RideLondon event, sponsored by Prudential, is a fun day for cyclists which has been running since 2013 and has created enormous inconvenience for residents and businesses in Surrey and in South West and Central London. Roads are closed or rolling road blocks used, particularly on the route taken by professional riders. The number of amateur riders also effectively generates gridlock on the roads involved.

Numerous people have objected in the past and a petition has been organised on Change.org to oppose the event. See https://www.change.org/p/surrey-county-council-stop-surrey-being-turned-into-a-cycle-track

Now Surrey County Council have woken up to the concerns expressed and are undertaking a public consultation on whether to continue with it. See https://www.surreysays.co.uk/deputy-ceo/survey-on-prudential-ridelondon-surrey/

Note that the event has involved deaths in the past, and not just to riders. In 2017 a pedestrian was struck by a cyclist and later died. The roads are not closed to pedestrians and even many of the amateur cyclists consider it to be a race.  The ABD is opposed to all road closures for leisure or sporting events. They should be kept open for essential services and the general use of the public.

There is simply no justification for such road closures.

Make sure you respond to the Surrey Council Consultation!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.