Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Feedback

We have received a lot of comments from the general public on our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Many were not aware of what was proposed and those particularly concerned were the elderly and disabled. This is a typical example recently received:

“I’ve just received your leaflet re the above and I’m aghast at the mayor’s proposals you’ve listed.  I rarely use my car to pop to the local shops, preferring to walk, for the exercise.  However, it’s much more convenient and quicker to drive to the nearest swimming pool (for more exercise!) than it is to get the bus (which I know I could do).  I also do the weekly shop once a week after swimming and this would not be possible without using my car.  I know I could do it online but I prefer to choose my own products – and anyway it still requires a vehicle to do the delivery! 

I certainly don’t see why I should pay more than I already do for this!  

We also get frequent visits from carers who help look after my wife – a lot of them use the bus but some of them use cars and I think it would be unfair for them to have to pay more. 

Perhaps you would be kind enough to send me the link to the relevant detail and proposed timetable for implementation and also details on how to object please.”

There are of course enormous numbers of elderly and disabled people living in London who often rely on cars and PHVs (minicabs) for day to day transport. Suggesting most of them can walk or cycle is simply nonsense and even using buses can be impractical for them due to the instability of such vehicles.

In addition, there are large numbers of ladies who feel insecure walking the streets at night and using public transport can be seen as risky.

Another group of objectors are those running small businesses who have to transport goods and those with large families who do a “bulk” shop at a supermarket once per week. The load that results is too large to carry other than in a vehicle.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy focuses on the young and healthy who have office jobs in central London to which they commute via public transport, or those fit enough and willing to cycle in all weathers, while it ignores a very large proportion of the population. It needs to be scrapped and a new plan put forward!

Roger Lawson

 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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Press Release: TfL Forced to Disclose ULEZ Costs

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has issued the following press release:

Back in April 2017 the ABD responded to a public consultation on the proposed extension of the ULEZ. However we criticised the lack of information on the cost/benefit of the scheme, indeed of any information on costs and likely revenues at all, which made making an informed response to the consultation difficult.

As Transport for London (TfL) refused to provide such information when requested we submitted a Freedom of Information Act request. TfL refused the request on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality” so we asked for a review and subsequently appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

They have upheld our complaint and so we should get the requested information after all (unless they appeal to the First Tier Tribunal). But is it not disgraceful that TfL can obstruct and delay this legitimate need for such information?

TfL claimed it was commercially sensitive because they were already talking to possible suppliers but the ICO judged that there was insufficient evidence that such disclosure would result in specific harm to TfL that would justify refusal.

In our view the ULEZ proposals are out of proportion to the benefit to be obtained. The fact that TfL are apparently reluctant to disclose the financial budgets for this scheme suggests to us that it is more about tax raising than simply tackling the air pollution health issue.

In addition the costs of the scheme may be so high that even with the additional taxes raised from vehicle users, it may be unaffordable. BUT WE DON’T KNOW BECAUSE TFL REFUSED TO TELL US.

It is unfortunately typical of late for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to issue public consultations in his name that are biased polemics of the benefits of his proposals while not disclosing the facts. Democracy is undermined when a public authority acts in this way.

It is further undermined when TfL refuse to disclose information and by doing so delay its release past the consultation due date when they know any appeal process will take many months.

There is great public concern about the costs imposed on London residents by the ULEZ proposals, often on the poorest residents. It needs to be clear that the benefits are justified by the costs and that more cost effective solutions to tackle London’s poor air quality cannot be found.

More information will be published when we get the requested data; in the meantime you can read the ICO’s decision notice here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ICO-Decision-ULEZ-Request.pdf

More Information

The ULEZ proposals are part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which the ABD is vigorously campaigning against – see this web page for more information: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

There is also an attack on vehicle usage and parking provision in the “London Plan” which the ABD is also opposing on the grounds of irrationally and the use of emotive phrases such as “car dependency” to describe people’s rational choice of transport mode. See the above web page for our recent submission to the public consultation on the London Plan.

For more information on this issue, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.

London Plan – ABD Submits Comments

We made some initial comments on the “London Plan” in December. That is a document that spells out how Mayor Sadiq Khan intends to plan your life – at least so far as residents of London are concerned or those who have to use the transport system in the capital.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The London Plan spells out how he intends to enforce “modal shift”, i.e. force you to use public transport or walk/cycle and ensure you take more exercise to improve your health. He intends to turn roads whose essential purpose is the movement of goods and people into places for “social interaction”.

Cars and other private transport modes will be discouraged by such means as reducing parking provision to zero, thus forcing us back into the Victorian era if not further.

He wants to fix his budget problems arising from financial incompetence and promises he made to get elected, now called a “funding gap”, by raising taxes including taking control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED).

Some of this is covered in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy of course which we have encouraged people to respond to. But the important point is that unlike that where the Mayor will decide on the outcome, the London Plan is the subject of an inquiry led by a Planning Inspector, i.e. it’s an independent review.

You can see what the ABD has submitted to the inquiry on the London Plan here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/London-Plan-ABD-Comments-Submitted.pdf

You can also submit your own comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so. The more comments that are received, the better.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Hammersmith Flyunder Going Nowhere

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has made it clear that the proposed scheme favoured by Boris Johnson to replace part of the Hammersmith (A4) flyover with a tunnel is going nowhere. This would have improved the local environment and enabled buildings to be constructed on the land thereby made available, helping to pay for the scheme. It would also have been linked to remodelling the Hammersmith gyratory and got the strong support of the local council. But the Mayor has made it clear that he will not support it financially.

This is what he said in response to a question on the subject:

“TfL completed a feasibility study for the Hammersmith flyunder in 2015. The scheme looks to address issues of congestion, mitigate against noise and air pollution from traffic, provide space for new housing and make the area more appealing for walking and cycling. The study indicated that it would be technically feasible to build a tunnel to replace the flyover and provide opportunities to regenerate Hammersmith town centre.

The likely construction and operational costs of the scheme were found to be significant and could not be covered through local sources and from proceeds from associated development in the town centre. As this is primarily a regeneration scheme, it is being considered further by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham who are developing a Supplementary Planning Document for the town centre.

While I am supportive in principle of schemes such as the proposed Hammersmith flyunder, any such schemes need to be fully funded by development in the local area. TfL will work closely with the Council, but the scheme has to demonstrate that it can deliver the benefits and meet the key challenges before I can fully support it.” 

In effect he is saying that the Mayor and Transport for London are not going to help fund any projects to improve the road network. That’s despite the fact that they have spent enormous amounts of money on new cycle superhighways, cycle lanes, quietways and pedestrian schemes.

Comment: Bearing in mind that the A4 elevated section is now very aged and was closed recently for emergency repairs that cost £100 million, this seems to be a very-short sighted decision. The flyover is also an ugly blot on the landscape. The proposed scheme (along with other similar flyunders in London) was an innovative approach to improving the road network which we desperately require.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Air Pollution and Asthma

The Financial Times reported this morning (23/12/2017) that the Government is going to launch a consultation on tighter restrictions on wood burning stoves. Particulates (e.g. PM2.5) as well as NOX emissions are seen as one of the reasons to reduce diesel vehicle usage but according to the FT, forty percent of particulate emissions in the UK come from burning wood and coal in homes – more than double that from diesel cars. Sadiq Khan in London is particularly concerned about the growth in the numbers of wood-burning stoves. For some reason they don’t seem to be covered by the Clean Air Acts that stopped the burning of coal in most UK cities.

Comment: it would certainly seem wise to tackle this problem. One of my local pubs recently installed such a fire in their restaurant. It may feel good to have a roaring wood fire near you over dinner, but it’s not good for air pollution or public health.

Meanwhile Private Eye published this report following the revelation that a number of top racing cyclists are taking medication: “The NHS is urging parents to look for signs of asthma in their children, which could include heavy wheezing, shortness of breath and winning the Tour de France. Another tell-tale sign your child could be asthmatic is that they’ve just signed to ride with Team Sky”.

It seems “exercised induced asthma” (EIA) is now a well-known condition so you need to add that to the list of causes of asthma that I gave in a previous blog post (see: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/18/does-air-pollution-in-london-cause-asthma/ ).

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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TfL Will Have to Disclose ULEZ Costs After All

Back in April 2017 the ABD responded to a public consultation on the proposed extension of the ULEZ. However we criticised the lack of information on the cost/benefit of the scheme, indeed of any information on costs and likely revenues at all, which made making an informed response to the consultation difficult.

As Transport for London (TfL) refused to provide such information when requested I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of the ABD. TfL refused the request on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality” so I asked for a review and subsequently appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

They have upheld my complaint and so I should get the requested information after all (unless they appeal to the First Tier Tribunal). But is it not disgraceful that TfL can obstruct and delay this legitimate need for such information?

TfL claimed it was commercially sensitive because they were already talking to possible suppliers but the ICO judged that there was insufficient evidence that such disclosure would result in specific harm to TfL that would justify refusal.

As I said originally, in my view, these proposals are out of proportion to the benefit to be obtained. The fact that TfL are apparently reluctant to disclose the financial budgets for this scheme suggests to me that it is more about tax raising than simply tackling the air pollution health issue.

The costs of the scheme may be so high that even with the additional taxes raised from vehicle users, it may be unaffordable. BUT WE DON’T KNOW BECAUSE TFL REFUSED TO TELL US.

It is unfortunately typical of late for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to issue public consultations in his name that are biased polemics of the benefits of his proposals while not disclosing the facts. Democracy is undermined when a public authority acts in this way.

It is further undermined when TfL refuse to disclose information and by doing so delay its release past the consultation due date when they know any appeal process will take many months.

More information will follow when I get the requested data; in the meantime you can read the ICO’s decision notice here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ICO-Decision-ULEZ-Request.pdf

That was a welcome Christmas present from the ICO, and I wish all our readers a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Sadiq Khan Decides PCNs Will Increase

Back in September 2017 Transport for London (TfL) announced a consultation on proposed increases in the level of PCN charges. They proposed to increase the standard charge for not paying the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), and for red route and other infringements, to £160 from £130. That’s a 23% increase which is much higher than inflation of course.

As we said at the time, this looks like part of the Mayor’s strategy to make life more and more difficult for the average motorist as a very high proportion of infringements that result in PCNs are accidental or from ignorance by drivers rather than deliberate avoidance. In addition it will also help the Mayor’s budget which he continues to have problems with due to unwise past decisions.

Sadiq Khan has now decided to proceed with the proposals as they stand. The public consultation results show a lot of opposition (the full report on that is available here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/general/penalty-charge-notices/ ). There were 7,411 responses to the consultation (including one from the ABD of course). Many of them came from central London boroughs but there were a large number from outside London also.

TfL analysed the main issues raised by respondents and there were over 4,000 which criticised the proposals on various grounds. Only 265 responses were supportive of the increase, with another 325 making alternative suggestions. In reality that demonstrates there was widespread opposition to the change from the general public and even among “stakeholders” a number of concerns were expressed. The lack of data to support the proposal was also criticised.

But Sadiq Khan and TfL have rejected all these comments and are going ahead regardless. That’s how democracy works in London. The Mayor decides he needs some more money, does a token “consultation” and then does what he proposed in the first place. It’s called a dictatorship.

The Congestion Charge

One of the interesting comments in the report in response to criticism of Mr Khan’s motives for increasing the charge was that £1.9 billion in net revenue was generated by the Congestion Charge over the last fourteen years. This was fed into “on going investment in the Capital’s transport infrastructure” it says, but then goes on to say that £1.5 billion of that was spent on improvements to the bus network. In other words, the vast majority of the income surplus was used to subsidise the losses on London buses where usage continues to fall.

So motorists (and goods vehicle owners) are continuing to pay through the nose to subsidise public transport and other programmes from which they get no benefit. Instead of funding for road network improvements, all we get is funding to make it worse – such as the millions spent on cycle superhighways.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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