Mayor’s Transport Strategy – An Attack on Private Transport with Dubious Economics

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy (MTS) on the 21st June. We gave some initial comments previously but we have now published a more detailed analysis – see below.

Here’s a brief summary:

The Mayor is concerned about “car dependency”, an emotive phrase used to describe people’s preference for private vehicle transport in some circumstances. He plans to fix that by making the use of cars more and more difficult over the next few years. 

He is also going to fix our health problem (he claims) by getting people out of their cars and walking or cycling instead. Or if they can’t do that, by getting them to use public transport even though he admits that underground and surface rail is often grossly overcrowded and cannot be fixed in the short term. Or of course you can travel by bus even though bus ridership has been falling as it is slow and unreliable (and getting worse).

The Mayor even suggests that the elderly and disabled are too dependent on car use, so they will have to face the same treatment.

Even Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are subject to attack on the basis that they have made congestion worse due to their increase. The Mayor proposes to limit their numbers, and/or remove their exemption from the Congestion Charge.

As in the Livingstone era, we now have a Mayor who clearly hates cars – even zero emission ones. His target is to reduce car use and increase public transport use (the latter is currently 64% of all journeys in London, but his target is 80%). Indeed, if you are not using public transport he will be encouraging you to walk or cycle. And there will be more vehicle free zones and car-free days.

To further restrict car use, parking provision will be restricted in new developments or even be “car-free”. Yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking. In addition, access to kerb space (on street parking including permit parking) may be restricted or usage discouraged by pricing.

There is a target of a zero-emission transport system by 2050. But he wants to have zero emission zones in central London and the suburban town centres by 2025. This means that unless you have an electric vehicle, it may be prohibitively expensive to drive around much of London in just a few years’ time. That’s much sooner than the vehicle population will change.

Pay-per-mile road pricing (as recently advocated by the EU) will be considered. Effectively replacing and extending the current “Congestion Tax” and emission taxes such as the ULEZ. He will also allow local boroughs (there are 32 in London) to introduce congestion charging schemes so we could end up with a horrendous patchwork of restricted zones. The Mayor repeats the claim that the Congestion Charge was a success in reducing congestion which is simply wrong – as the ABD has repeatedly said. The evidence is here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Congestion.htm.

How much will a new system cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask.

There will be more “bus priority measures” to improve bus journey times and reliability – that means more bus lanes. But the Mayor seems not to recognise that bus lanes are already present on most key routes and are an inefficient use of valuable road space.

What is the cost of the proposed strategy? The Mayor does not say, but it will be clearly very expensive. Transport for London (TfL) have been evading even answering simple questions on the finances of the ULEZ scheme, and there is no cost/benefit analysis provided on the Mayor’s latest proposals, as with so many recent TfL schemes.

The Mayor even goes so far as to claim in the MTS document that public transport fare payers subsidise motorists. This is simply a lie. It is both inaccurate and grossly misleading. Public transport fare payers do not subsidise anyone.

They are subsidised themselves from local and national taxation. Motorists pay much more in taxes than is spent on the provision of roads. On a national basis, and in London, they subsidise public transport users, not the other way around.

It is very obvious from the contents of the MTS and the result of past promises by the Mayor (partly to help get elected no doubt) that TfL faces major budget problems. The Mayor proposes how to fix that though. He is asking for:

  • Revenue raising powers. (Note: the Congestion Charge and ULEZ proposals are not technically revenue raising regulations even though they have turned into a tax on motorists. In practice they have been distorted to perform that function). The Mayor is asking for more powers to raise tax than they alone provide.
  • A development rights auction model on major infrastructure projects. This expands the ability to obtain funding from developers (at present only covered by Section 106 agreements).
  • In addition, he is asking that revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) be “devolved to TfL”. That would include “powers to change how VED is levied” which means the Mayor could set the charge rate for London residents presumably, or charge it in a different way to an annual fee, i.e. based on a new road pricing model. 

Needless to point out that these proposals would give the Mayor the ability to build a financial empire and dictate the lives of Londoners much more extensively than at present. Such wide ranging and sweeping financial powers for someone who, once elected, has dictatorial powers is surely inappropriate.

However one looks at this, the financial plans to underpin the MTS look likely to be very dubious indeed. That hole can only be fixed by more taxation on Londoners as it seems unlikely central Government would wish to help.

Many of the London’s transport problems are being caused by the rapid growth in population, which the Mayor is happy to let continue – indeed to promote. But such growth increases air pollution.

MTS GraphicIt is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of the Mayor’s vision (see example above). Barely a private car in sight, and no LGVs, with roads just full of cyclists and buses. And no congestion of course which we all know is totally unrealistic bearing in mind the projected population growth.

He expects more people to move to public transport when he concedes 71% of London Underground will be overcrowded in future in the rush hour and national rail and buses will not be much better, unless action is taken. The document reports that there is already severe overcrowding on some tube lines, as users know.

As usual, the advocates of public transport simply ignore the unpleasantness and overcrowding of public transport even though the Mayor concedes that is a problem. Anyone who has travelled on it in London in the recent hot weather will know just how obnoxious it is. Until air-conditioning, larger seats and capacity to avoid standing is provided (an impossible dream cost-wise of course), I for one will be ignoring the Mayor’s exhortations unless they are unavoidable.

In summary, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy contains not only a number of glaring defects, but is yet another missed opportunity to develop an integrated transport strategy. London has needed an improved road transport network for many years, but there is nothing in the document to support that. It is mainly about attacks on private vehicle owners and users (including PHVs).

This is of course a common approach by Mayors, and their advisory staff in TfL, who live and work in central London. They simply do not understand the problems faced by residents of the outer London boroughs.

The Mayor also seems keen to bully us into living a healthier life style. But that should be a matter of personal choice and it is not at all obvious how moving people onto overcrowded public transport will significantly assist. To get Londoners to be more active should be more about education than dictatorship. The freedom of individuals to choose their transport mode should not be constrained.

The ABD’s full analysis of the MTS is present here:

http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Analysis-of-Mayors-Transport-Strategy.pdf

Make sure you respond to the public consultation here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

Roger Lawson

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6 thoughts on “Mayor’s Transport Strategy – An Attack on Private Transport with Dubious Economics

  1. Pingback: Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) London

  2. Pingback: Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) London

  3. London will grind to a halt. it cannot possibly operate with such drastic systems. How are goods and services going to survive.

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  4. If local boroughs impose their own congestion charge will those funds be ring fenced for road improvement or put in the coffers for some other ideological money wasting idea? The strategy is not sound.

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    • Very unlikely that any funds from local congestion charges will be used to finance road improvements. More likely to fill holes in council budgets or to support the Mayor’s policies such as more bus lanes and cycle lanes. Expect there to be a token support of “transport improvements” mentioned though.

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