Crossrail Delay and Sadiq Khan Balloon

It has been announced that the opening of Crossrail is to be delayed until Autumn 2019. It was scheduled to open in December this year. This a major blow to transport plans for London as it was intended to provide a major improvement to public transport capacity across London, and provide correspondingly large revenue increases to Transport for London (TfL).

This could blow an even bigger hole in Mayor Sadiq Khan’s transport budget which was already heading for a deficit of £1 billion pounds in the current year. Crossrail was expected to contribute substantial revenue to TfL in the next financial year but that will now be much reduced. Falling passenger numbers, particularly on buses, and Khan’s inept promise to freeze London transport fares two years ago are the main causes of his budget problems. The promise on fares was a big factor in his election.

The Conservative party have suggested that there were no delays to the ten-year Crossrail project when they ran City Hall.

Mr Khan has also been under attack for his failure to tackle knife crime in London. The latest symptom of this was the launch of a balloon showing Khan in a bikini which emulated the one flown of Donald Trump in Parliament Square. Many people complained that Khan should not have given permission for that as there should have been respect for a foreign head of state and that dabbling in the affairs of other countries was not the role of the Mayor of London.

The latest balloon seems to also be a complaint about other aspects of Khan’s regime and his record on free speech. The organiser was Yanny Bruere who raised £60,000 in a crowdfunding campaign and apparently intends to continue to promote that Khan should be removed. See https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/giant-sadiq-khan-baby-balloon-to-fly-over-london for more information or if you wish to comment.

Note that the ABD has been very critical of Khan’s policies and in particular his “Mayor’s Transport Strategy” – see our campaign on that here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

It is undoubtedly the case that the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and his tax raising ULEZ proposals will not be changed unless he is removed from office by the electorate so supporting this initiative is surely worthwhile. Ridicule is a good a way as any of getting the message across that many people think Sadiq Kahn has demonstrated that he is the worst Mayor of London that we have yet had – and his predecessors were pretty poor. From car-hating Ken Livingstone to cycling fanatic Boris Johnson, none have shown much wisdom.

Directly elected Mayors in London have proved to be very dubious and the extent of their powers means that they have dictatorial control in effect. They are also impossible to remove. The current Mayor even wants to extend his powers over vehicle taxation, the surface rail network and in the planning area. Surely time to reconsider the governance structure in London and for the Government to take more direct control. Mrs Thatcher went so far as to abolish the previous left-wing dominated Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986. That got rid of Ken Livingstone but only temporarily. We now have another populist Mayor in Sadiq Khan who makes promises he cannot keep to win elections – just like Livingstone did. Perhaps you will recall the promise he made to solve traffic congestion with a “Congestion Charge” which naturally did not work. We get similar “gestures” from Sadiq Khan such as the ULEZ proposals which will not cure London’s air pollution problems but will impose very major costs on Londoners.

Time for central Government to intervene and ensure that whoever runs London is more representative of the overall electorate in the metropolis. No more dictators please. And time for Sadiq Khan to go!

Roger Lawson

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More on Air Pollution from the BBC and Closure of Beech Street

The latest piece of air pollution propaganda from the BBC was a television report that air pollution may affect your brain. This was based on a recently published Chinese study that long-term exposure to air pollution “could be linked to cognitive performance” (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-45326598 for the written version of the BBC’s report).

As is common with air pollution studies, this is based on an epidemiological study that showed that people who have lived in heavily polluted areas for a long time show less cognitive function on simple tests of math and verbal skills. It also suggests that there are differences in the impact between sex, age and education of the study participants which seems unexpected but they explain that as being affecting mostly men who have worked outside for long periods. The study was done in China where air pollution is of course a serious problem – for example Beijing has much worse air pollution that western cities such as London. The paper was published by the US National Academy of Sciences.

There is of course no evidence linking the possible causes to the effect and it could simply be that the selected participants suffer from the work they did, or the lack of mental exercise they took (cognitive functions decline if not used).

In summary, the scientific paper is just that and it is wrong to extrapolate it to suggest people in London or other cities are likely to be affected. Or is the report explained by BBC reporters spending too much time standing on College Green near Parliament Square, where they like to do interviews, and breathing in too much hot air? It certainly seems to be the case that talking about air pollution too much damages your brain.

Beech Street Closure

The City of London Corporation is still keen to tackle the problem of air pollution in Beech Street – this is the road that runs underneath the Barbican in a tunnel and is a key east-west route within the City. The only other alternative routes are via Old Street or City Wall which are both heavily congested. But Beech Street is one of the most heavily polluted roads in London for NOX emissions.

There are several options being considered. That includes restricting the road to Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) only, closing the road in both directions (but leaving access to the Barbican car parks) or just closing in the East-West or West-East directions. Traffic modelling of the possible closures is being considered but it would require building a large new model of traffic flows.

But the impact of a full closure is already known because in March 2018 the road was closed for 5 days. Average journey times on the roads north and south of Beech Street increased by 23%.

The report on this subject which is being considered by Corporation Committees in early September notes the likely objections from many City business and residents to any closure though.

Comment: It would be unfortunate if yet another key road in the City is closed to traffic. The road network in the City of London has been degraded substantially in recent years by road closures such as that of Bank Junction. Could the air pollution in Beech Street not be tackled by a forced ventilation system? But there is no mention of that being considered in the Corporation’s report.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Public Consultation on Cycling Offences

The Government have announced a review of cycling offences and a public consultation on what they propose to change. This follows an increase in the apparent numbers of cyclists who ride “furiously” and cause harm to pedestrians or other cyclists.

The Department for Transport (DfT) have reported that in the last five years (to 2016) there were 2,491 accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists with no other vehicle involved which resulted in 20 fatal pedestrian casualties and 546 serious injuries. It is clearly not a trivial problem (source: LTT).

A particular concern was the recent case of Charlie Alliston who killed Mrs Kim Briggs on Old Street in London. He was acquitted of manslaughter but convicted of the Victorian offence of causing bodily harm by “wanton and furious driving” for which he received a sentence of 18 months in prison. The maximum sentence for that offence is 2 years. It was realised that there is no equivalent to the offence of “causing death by dangerous driving” that vehicle users face. There is effectively a gap in the law as regards cyclists.

The Government’s proposal is to introduce “parity” of sentencing options where the outcome is death or serious injury. They are also proposing other minor changes – for example to make cycling offences apply to any public area, not just roads. That might cover car parks and pedestrianised precincts.

Comment: In principle it would seem to make sense to introduce parity as a deterrent to bad behaviour by cyclists. This seems to be a particular problem in London where cyclists often travel at high speed on their commute to/from work and don’t like to slow down at all. They often seem to try to emulate their racing cycle heroes and record their journey times on the web. See the past articles on this topic in the links given below. It is becoming a serious problem in London which many people have commented upon in the media articles written on this subject.

Whether introducing parity in offences will actually improve the behaviour of cyclists seems questionable however. The immediate reaction of Cycling UK spokesperson Duncan Dollimore was to dismiss the proposals with the comment that “Adding one or two new offences specific to cyclists would be merely tinkering around the edges”. He called for a wider review of road traffic offences. Olympic medallist Chris Boardman said “That says it all really. Wow, just wow. I genuinely thought this was a bad joke, had to check it was a real account” and called for other cyclists to complain. Cyclists seem to hate being subject to regulation so it seems likely that cyclists will oppose the proposed changes.

As the consultation on this issue points out, cyclists are not subject to licensing and do not have to carry insurance. They are not subject to points totting up, nor of disqualification from cycling, although they can be disqualified from driving vehicles.

One concern is that cyclists are silent and are no longer required to have bells to warn of their approach (they were before 2011). When they persist in riding on pavements many people are concerned about them being hit from behind without warning. It is interesting to note that the DfT will soon be mandating noise generators for electric vehicles to protect pedestrians so why not introduce the same rule for cycles?

There may be other ways to improve cyclists’ behaviour such as cycle speed limits or controls on the type of cycles that can be used, but a change in attitude is really what is required. More consideration for others and less libido.

The ABD will probably respond to the formal consultation on this subject so please let us have your comments. Or of course you can submit your own comments directly. The consultation is here: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-cycling-offences-causing-death-or-serious-injury-when-cycling

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Past articles:

More Pedestrian Deaths Caused by or to Cyclists: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/more-pedestrian-deaths-caused-by-or-to-cyclists/

Cyclist Convicted in Pedestrian Death Case: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/24/cyclist-convicted-in-pedestrian-death-case/

Cyclist Faces Manslaughter Charge: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/08/16/549/

Banker Fined for Dangerous Cycling: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/banker-fined-for-dangerous-cycling/

London Divided and Cycling Accident Rates: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/04/03/london-divided-and-cycling-accident-rates/

Are Cyclists Racing on London Streets: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2015/12/29/are-cyclists-racing-on-londons-streets/

Fighting For Air – Another Piece of Air Pollution Propaganda from the BBC

Last night the BBC broadcast a programme on air pollution entitled Fighting for Air (BBC2 on 19/8/2018). It was presented by Dr. Xand van Tulleken in a populist and dramatic style.

He first did a simple test by “cleansing” his system by donning a chemical weapons suit followed by 3 hours of deliberately breathing in traffic fumes. He did blood pressure tests, analysed blood composition and checked for brain function before and after. This unscientific and uncontrolled test apparently showed a slight increase in blood pressure and blood clotting and possibly a very small change in cognitive function. No actual data was given. Bearing in mind that such tests as blood pressure can vary significantly from hour to hour, and the other tests likewise, this proves nothing at all. Note that there have been a number of scientific studies of a possible link between blood coagulation and air pollution but no clear conclusions about which pollutants are relevant and no specific link to heart disease or stroke risk identified. That did not stop Dr van Tulleken alleging such a link.

He then moved to Kings Heath High Street near Birmingham. This road exceeds national legal limits for NOX apparently by a small amount at some times. It is used by a large number of diesel buses (no hybrids or electrics), and by significant numbers of HGVs. Traffic is stop/start with high congestion because of traffic lights that are not linked and road side parking as people move in and out of the parking spaces.

Dr van Tulleken persuaded the local council to suspend the parking bays for a day (filled with bay trees instead) and to synchronise the traffic flights to provide a “green wave” and he also persuaded the bus company to offer free tickets. The result was the volume of traffic remained the same, but NO2 fell by 10%. It is not clear to what extent any adjustment was made for other factors such as weather changes although mention was made that the changes were measured against wider area changes.

Local shopkeepers were not happy particularly a butcher who had traded in the road for 50 years.

Comment: In summary all this programme showed is that smoothing traffic flows may significantly reduce some emissions from vehicles. We already knew that, for example from studies of speed hump schemes. Replacing road side parking by off-street parking is clearly something that councils should look at. I only wish that removing such parking be done in my local High Street (Chislehurst in the London Borough of Bromley) which has been proposed in the past but never progressed (there is already plenty of off-street parking). It would both reduce the air pollution and reduce congestion by improving the flow of traffic.

What the programme did not demonstrate was that air pollution is a major health hazard or a public health emergency as the Doctor disclaimed. Indeed the High Street Butcher demonstrated how much cleaner his shop is than it used to be suggesting particulate emissions were lower than a few years ago.

In conclusion, another disappointing and hysterical programme on air pollution rather than a truly balanced study of the issues.

Roger Lawson

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Dartford Crossing Tolls Increasing

Toll charges at the Dartford Crossing on the M25 are increasing from the 1st October. The charge for cars for those who are pre-registered will rise to £2.00 from £1.50. The justification given for this change is that the Government is spending £10 million to reduce congestion at or around the Dartford Crossing and that it will provide a more “equitable rate between different vehicle classes”.

Pre-registering is of course very worthwhile because apart from the discount you get, it avoids you having to remember to pay the toll. But the discount is now reduced.

Many people who regularly use the crossing are very annoyed about this increase. One of them, Jayne Phillips, has created a petition against the increase. See https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/dartford-crossing-price-increase

Note that when the charges were first imposed on the Dartford Crossing to pay for the new bridge the Government promised that the tolls would be removed after the bridge had been paid for. That has never happened and charges have been going up instead. Don’t trust any Government to keep their promises!

The Dartford Crossing is one of the few major bridges or tunnels that are tolled in the UK. The tolls should be removed. Please sign the petition.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Hackney Generating Cash From Road Closure

The London Borough of Hackney has provided another example of how councils are extracting cash from motorists by putting in timed road closures. Other examples were in Croydon around schools and in the City of London at Bank Junction – covered in previous blog posts. In Hackney it is the banning of a left turn off Mare Street into Richmond Road but only during busy times of day. Many drivers have failed to notice the signs and the result has been that 6,500 fines were issued in one month. More information available from the Hackney Gazette here: http://www.hackneygazette.co.uk/news/hackney-council-issues-6-500-fines-in-one-month-to-drivers-after-mare-street-left-turn-ban-1-5646504

The intention was to reduce traffic past a school and reduce congestion, but such closures are a nightmare for drivers as Satnavs typically are not aware of the timing restrictions. The signs are very easy to miss.

Comment: I suggest that the Government needs to lay down some rules on such closures so as to stop this corruption of the road network. It is clearly a very strong financial incentive for councils to generate money in this way knowing how stretched their budgets are at present. One solution would be to legislate to ensure that councils could not retain the revenue from fines imposed by automated camera enforcement of such restrictions. In the meantime, local residents and drivers who get caught by such arrangements need to kick up a stink, and vote off the councillors who support such schemes.

Note that the ABD does make formal objections to such schemes when we become aware of them in London, but sometimes we do not know about them until it is too late. Please let us know if you discover plans for such schemes as soon as possible.

Roger Lawson

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Ealing’s Hypocrisy over its Controlled Parking Zones

Ealing Council is the latest London local authority to announce plans to charge residents living in Controlled Parking Zones a sliding scale of permit prices based on CO2 emissions, a move that has provoked outrage across the borough.

The Labour administration, which increased its majority in May’s local elections, approved a new Transport Policy in June which will see most residents permit charges rise, some by as much as 60 per cent. Diesel owners will face an automatic £50 surcharge, while homes where more than one vehicle is registered will also see financial punishment. The Council estimates that its new scheme will raise an extra £700,000 a year on top of an already sizeable surplus from parking schemes.

Ealing Council says the aim is to reduce car usage among residents, a so-called ‘modal shift’ to ‘incentivise residents to use other, more sustainable modes of transport’. However, opponents of the scheme claim it is yet another stealth tax, and one that cannot be defended on environmental grounds since the Council is rolling out ‘shared use’ bays in CPZs across the borough to encourage commuters to drive in and park for just £4.50 a day.

Local resident Simon Hayes organised a petition calling for the Transport Strategy to be withdrawn and the proposed extension of shared use bays to be scrapped. More than 2,800 residents across the borough supported the petition but the demands were rejected by the Council at a meeting on July 24.

“This transport strategy is a total nonsense,” said Mr Hayes. “It is clearly a revenue raising exercise and there are two prongs to the fork they are poking in the eyes of every car owner in an Ealing CPZ. What makes it worse is Labour didn’t even campaign on this policy in May because they knew it would be a vote loser, but are simply imposing it without consultation”.

“The Council is punishing residents because they own a particular type of car which they may not be able to afford to change. We are told not to drive, but the council fails to recognise that most journeys residents make are essential, whether for work or family reasons or simply because alternative modes of transport just aren’t available. Many people in this borough are getting by and can ill-afford another financial burden.”

“But then the Council is actively encouraging non-residents to park in CPZs for just £4.50 a day. That’s almost the amount it costs to park for one hour in many of the borough’s car parks, so clearly it’s inadequate.”

“There will be no regulation of the vehicles that drive in, so even the most polluting commuter vehicle will be entitled to add to congestion and pollution without sanction. It will also cut the number of spaces available to residents, in roads where parking is already tight.”

Mr Hayes also challenged the Council’s claim that this transport strategy is pollution fighting measure. He said: “This will do nothing to tackle pollution problems in Ealing. It is targeted at a relatively small area of the borough, mainly central and south Ealing, Acton and Chiswick, which Labour itself has identified as the “affluent” areas.”

“There are no proposals to encourage ‘modal shift’ in the parts of the borough where CPZs are not in force. Those areas contribute equally, if not more, to pollution and congestion since they are often poorly served by public transport. There’s not even a proposal to encourage such a shift among those residents in CPZs who enjoy off-street parking and thus don’t pay for a permit.”

“The real causes of pollution in Ealing are the heavily used arterial routes, including the A40 and North Circular Road, running through it. Poor road layout and eternal roadworks create numerous pinch points that slow down traffic and increase the levels of pollution. Council leader Julian Bell – a notorious car-hater – starred in an online video last year alongside the A40 in Acton highlighting the pollution problems there. But even he can’t stick a toll booth on that road to charge the HGVs, vans and other far more polluting vehicles from passing through.”

Ealing Council has defended its policy and claims the law is on its side. Head of Legal Services, Helen Harris said: “I remain happy that Ealing Council’s Transport Strategy is lawful and in compliance with the legal principles set out in the Barnet case.  Revenue generation formed no part of the justification for the Strategy.”

Ms Harris has yet to respond to requests about the failure to consult residents on the proposed changes to the permit charges or the failure to consult on the expansion of the shared use bay schemes or the legal grounds on which it can impose a charge on certain residents but not others.

Mr Hayes has vowed to continue to fight the proposed plans.

He said: “There is a great deal of anger about this right across the borough. Even Labour voters are aghast at the arrogance of the Council. It may take a judicial review, but there is something seriously wrong if Council’s are allowed to set arbitrary taxes such as this without challenge. For too long now local authorities, particularly in London, have been allowed to get away with these stealth taxes. We’re all for improving air quality, but targeting only certain road users is the wrong way to go about this.”

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