Opposition to London Plan on Parking Levels

A report in Local Transport Today (LTT) has highlighted how some London Boroughs are strongly opposed to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan which is currently the subject of a public consultation (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/london-plan-abd-submits-comments/ for background). The main concern is the proposed new controls on parking provision in new housing developments. These have been substantially reduced such that many developments in central London will have exactly zero provision for parking (and that would be legally enforced). Even outer London where public transport access is high (PTAL levels 5 and 6) would also be covered by the zero rule, and even where PTAL levels are much lower parking provision will be severely restricted.

This is of course part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to drive car usage out of London altogether. In addition he is reducing the ability of local Boroughs to make their own decisions on what is most appropriate for their boroughs, thus increasing the centralised dictatorship or the Mayor and TfL. This is what Lisa Fairmaner of L.B.Kingston had to say to councillors “[It is] a direct challenge to local government in London with the mayor taking over a detailed planning policy role that should be carried out by local authorities through their local plans”. She suggested the Mayor was exceeding his powers.

The Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Colin Smith, issued a statement in December which criticised the housing targets and impossibility of providing the necessary infrastructure to support many more residents. The maximum parking provision was also criticised by Bromley in the LTT report, including the inability of councils to set minimum parking provision standards.

It is surely no surprise that outer London boroughs, and their residents, are not happy with the Mayor’s proposals which are as usual developed with a mindset that cycling, walking and public transport are the only transport modes that should be used in London. This simply takes no account of the needs and desires of many residents, particularly the elderly and disabled of which there are enormous numbers in London. Restricting parking provision does not stop people owning cars but just causes the roads to be clogged up by parked vehicles with obstructive parking becoming commonplace. Parking provision should be dictated solely by market demand for it, as the ABD said in our submission to the London Plan consultation.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Enormous Numbers of Fines at the Dartford Crossing

Income reported by the operators of the Dartford Crossing on the M25 grew substantially last year. This was partly due to increased numbers of users, but also because of higher “enforcement” activity – chasing up people who fail to pay.

In fact the numbers who don’t pay are very large, and as a result the fines issued were 45% of the total income. There were 48,491,894 users in 2017 but 2,045,840 did not pay in advance. Even though first-time users who don’t pay are only issued with a warning letter and given more time to pay, this generates £92 million in enforcement income.

The numbers mean that about 5% fail to pay as required, although that is better than the 10% that applied in the first few months the free-flow system was in operation. Bearing in mind that such systems are likely to be used for new Thames crossings at Blackwall (the Silvertown Tunnel) and further down river, it is necessary to consider whether it is fair and reasonable to operate such systems.

There also seems to be a particular problem with non-UK registered vehicles where the compliance rate was only 82%. There was also £50 million in charges and penalties that had to be written off as uncollectable, many of whom were no doubt foreign drivers.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, was quoted in publication LTT as saying: “No one using the Dartford Crossing looks back with nostalgia at the days when payment involved throwing coins into a basket. Users of the crossing might well question the eye-wateringly large sums coming in as penalty charges resulting from enforcement action – at £92m that’s more than the total paid by account holders, and is up by 50% over 2015/16.

Looked at as management information, such a high level of enforcement action suggests something is going very wrong with the message to road users, many of whom may well think the prominently displayed congestion charge ‘C’ signs relate to the nearby London scheme rather than the crossing itself.

While the cognoscenti readership of Local Transport Today might recognise the fine distinction between a charge and a toll, perhaps it is time for Highways England to revert to the latter as terminology most drivers – domestic and international – would understand.”

One cannot but agree with him, but I don’t think improving the signage would assist. People expect the road network to be free to use, and quite rightly. How can someone from France, or the North of England, be expected to know about this system?

The tolls should be removed as was promised by the Government years ago, just like they have been on the Severn Crossing and on others.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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TfL to Lose £1 billion per Year

 “TfL expects £1bn deficit by next year”. That was the headline in an article in today’s Financial Times. Apparently they have seen an internal email written by finance director Patrick Doig that the organisation faced an operating loss of £968 million in 2018/19 which he said was “clearly not a sustainable position…”. The deficit in the current financial year is expected to be £785 million this year which shows how rapidly its position is being eroded.

There are several reasons given for this erosion in their financial position – the Mayor freezing public transport fares (estimated cost £640m) did not help, but the big problem is falling revenue from users. Both bus and underground journey numbers have been unexpectedly falling.

Is this because more people are not travelling, e.g. doing internet shopping and working from home? Or is it because they have chosen to travel by bike (usage is growing), or find it is as cheap and a lot more comfortable to call Uber? Or perhaps it’s because some London residents are selling up and moving to the country with house prices peaking in London, or returning to homes in the rest of Europe. Perhaps those French, Polish, Romanian and other residents are worried about their future after Brexit? Perhaps they just got tired of life in London, unlike Dr Johnson who did not have to suffer the mediocre standards in TfL’s public transport provision.

The Mayor has only recently published his Business Plan for the years to 2022/23 (see this article: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/17/tfl-business-plan-mayor-sadiq-khan-wants-more-money/ ). But you can see exactly why the Mayor is so keen to raise as much as £300 million from Londoners via the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges. As we have said before, the ULEZ is about money, not about improving the health of the population or cleaning up London’s air.

A comment in the FT article was by Gareth Bacon, London Assembly Conservative Members, who said there was now “serious cause for concern” about Mr Khan’s “cavalier” financial stewardship of TfL.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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City of London Wants Your Views

The City of London Corporation, who control the streets in the City, want your views on their transport strategy. They have mounted an exhibition that runs until the end of March and there are some “drop-in” sessions also where you can talk to their staff. In addition they would like you to complete a survey.

See that and more information here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/Pages/transport-strategy.aspx

If you work in the City or travel there on business, please make sure you complete the survey.

You might wish to state you oppose road closures, and you will also find the survey requires you to indicate a hierarchy of priorities for road usage – cars, PHVs, buses versus cyclists and pedestrians. This is a very divisive approach. It should be a question of what is an appropriate balance in different locations and at different times.

The transport strategy is still being developed but it’s interesting to look at the proposed Strategy Board Members. It’s dominated by City Corporation staff, GLA representatives, and by representatives of financial institutions (what do the latter know about transport issues?). There is not a single representative of road users such as taxi drivers, PHV drivers, private motorists (the ABD has certainly not been invited), freight owners or even cyclists. See this document for details: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s90399/TS%20Strategy%20Board%20Report%20LP%20Sub%20260118%20FINAL.pdf

Regretably this is a typical example of how the City Corporation is biased and staff in the relevant department seem to want to close down all the roads if they could.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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More Money For Cycling

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced a commitment to spend £142 million on new cycle routes. He claims this will benefit cyclists and pedestrians, but why the latter is not clear.

These are the routes where money will be spent:

  • Lea Bridge to Dalston – This 3km route would link the City and Waltham Forest by filling the gap between Lea Bridge Road and Cycle Superhighway 1 at Dalston
  • Ilford to Barking Riverside – This 8km route would link two bustling outer London town centres and a major growth area with up to 10,800 new homes and a new London Overground connection – while enhancing access to the Elizabeth line and London Overground services
  • Hackney to the Isle of Dogs – This 8km route would stretch from Hackney to the Isle of Dogs via Canary Wharf, Mile End and Victoria Park
  • Rotherhithe to Peckham – This 4km route would link Peckham with key and growing destinations such as Canada Water and Surrey Quays, and connect up other cycling routes such as Quietway 1 and the proposed Cycle Superhighway 4
  • Tottenham Hale to Camden – This 8km route would connect major town centres and will cover seven junctions identified as being among the 73 with the worst safety records
  • Wembley to Willesden Junction – This 5km route would be north-west London’s first major cycle route, connecting Wembley, Stonebridge Park and Willesden Junction. Future sections will connect to planned infrastructure in west London such as CS9 and CS10.

The Mayor has also committed to providing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf for pedestrians and cyclists. Note that we commented on this project previously here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/new-thames-river-crossing-at-rotherhithe/ . It is surely a financially unjustifiable project, but needless to say the Mayor says the initial analysis of the consultation results shows substantial support – surely a case of folks voting in favour of something when they think they don’t have to bear the cost.

Note that the Mayor has committed to spend similar sums on cycling, if not more, over the next 5 years – an average of £169 million per year. Meanwhile budgets for road maintenance have been cut and projects put forward by local boroughs are being cut back. As usual these days, there is no cost/benefit justification provided for this expenditure.

It is not clear what the nature of these cycle routes will be. Will they be fully segregated as are the Cycle Superhighways or simply minor improvements such as blue paint and junction improvements. It seems some of the routes may be partly on “Quietways” (i.e. back roads with little traffic).

But one thing is for sure from past experience of similar projects. Road space will be removed from motorised traffic and traffic congestion will increase as a result.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Plan Meeting

I attended a meeting yesterday (1/2/2018) hosted by the GLA on the London Plan. It was in Bexley Civic Centre in Bexleyheath. The lead speaker was Jules Pipe, Deputy Mayor for planning, regeneration & skills. Someone later asked who elected him – nobody of course – he was appointed by Mayor Sadiq Khan. There were a number of other Greater London Authority staff present who had worked on the London Plan including Gareth Fairweather from Transport for London (TfL). I spoke to him later and gave him my views on the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy.

There were about 100 people in attendance, local councillors and the general public who could afford to spend three hours in the daytime to attend. After the initial presentations, which were somewhat boring although planning policies always are, there was plenty of time for comments and questions from the audience. It was clear there was wide opposition to the London Plan with particular concerns about the densification of the local borough (although there were also concerns about affordable housing provision), the restrictions on parking provision, the difficulty of accomodating more people and houses without more infrastructure (in schools, hospitals, etc), and the prejudice against the use of cars. Theresa O’Neill, Leader of Bexley Council, said they would be “sending back a robust response” to the consultation on the London Plan. Let us hope other London boroughs do the same. Another councillor said that Mayor Sadiq Khan does not understand outer London.

I asked a couple of questions:

1) Why does the London Plan (and the speakers at this event) talk about car dependency when using a car is simply a rational choice? It’s a prejudicial term and would not be used to describe people over-reliant on their cycles (as members of the panel might be)? Answer: it’s just a term to describe excessive emphasis on using cars when most trips can be done by walking, cycling and public transport (the Mayor’s target is 80%).

2) The main purpose of streets is surely to assist the movement of goods and people. While the London Plan and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy seems to want to turn them into places for social interaction and exercise. Please justify. Answer: Different roads have different purposes. Some might be used for movement while others might best be classed as “places”. Comment: George Orwell made it plain how changing the language can turn black into white. So defining a key road junction as a “place” (such as Bank junction in the City) enables closure of the road to traffic.

One speaker made a good comment on the provision of housing in Bexley. Apparently a former Planning Inspector decision suggested that only 450 new homes per annum could be built in Bexley due to limits on infrastructure. But the Mayor’s London Plan is ignoring that and insisting on 12,000 more homes.

Another speaker talked about the lack of hospital provision and other infrastructure. The nearest A&E if you live in Bexley is Woolwich or Dartford. They could be 30 minutes or more away. There was also a problem with water supply.

One particular vociferous Irishman suggested that cycling up hills in the borough would be exceedingly difficult.

Those attending were encouraged to submit responses to the public consultation on the London Plan. Go here for information on what the ABD has already submitted and how to do so yourself: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/07/london-plan-abd-submits-comments/

As the speaker from the GLA pointed out, there will be an independent review by a Planning Inspector so it’s possible notice will be taken of comments in the final version of the London Plan which will dictate policies in London for the next few years (unless Mayor Sadiq Khan is ejected when his re-election becomes due). He is surely not going to get much support from the residents of outer London boroughs if the meeting described is anything to go by.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London is Pampered while the Mayor Whinges about Lack of Money

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is repeatedly saying that he does not have enough money to support his transport plans and develop high quality public transport services. This is very clear from the last two articles posted on this blog – on the ULEZ finances and on the Mayor’s Business Plan for the next few years. But in reality, London gets more money than all other parts of the country.

Both ITN National news and the Sun covered a report by think tank IPPR North. They said that per person London gets twice as much as the North in terms of transport funding – £4,155 per person versus £1,600 as an average for all other regions. In some areas such as the North East and South West it is less than £1,000 per person.

Those “up north” in such major conurbations as Leeds and Manchester are complaining of gridlocked roads and very poor services on public transport which is the result of this lack of investment. A typical example of the bias is given as the decision by the Government to fund the Crossrail 2 scheme in London at a cost of £30 billion, while electrification projects in Wales, the Midlands and the North were scrapped or downgraded. The Government disputes the analysis by IPPR.

The breakdown by region according to IPPR is as follows (infrastructure spending from 2017/18 onwards per person):

London: £4,155

West Midlands: £3,029

North West: £2,439

South East: £1,307

East Midlands: £1,134

East of England: £1,134

South West: £984

North East: £855

Comment: Unfortunately this is the result of the London-centric political scene and the fact that the key decision makers (politicians and civil servants) tend to live in London and the South-East. Certainly the economics of Crossrail 2, and even Crossrail 1, in terms of the cost/benefit have been dubious in the extreme. HS2 shows the same effect – enormous expenditure just to enable a few business people to get from/to London somewhat quicker. But the road network in the South-East gets less investment than in the North, with most of the money going on train and underground schemes beloved by the central London intelligentsia. A more rational approach would make a lot of sense, but there is no sign on either major political party taking the lead on this subject. They are both stuck in past ways of thinking.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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