ABD Directors Speak to the Express

Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here: https://tinyurl.com/y2p6qjpa

In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.

Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”

They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.

Roger Lawson

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Legal Action Against Mayor by Minicab Drivers

PHV (Minicab) drivers are incensed by the recent steps by the Mayor of London and TfL to make them pay the London Congestion Charge while licensed taxis will continue to receive an exemption. That and the proposed ULEZ charges will threaten the livelihoods of minicab drivers who are relatively poorly paid already. Many will have to give up and end up out of work.

They are supported by the Independent Works Union and have issued a “pre-action” letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan, prior to the launch of a judicial review.

They are also claiming that as most minicab drivers are BAME (black, coloured or from ethnic minorities) while most taxi drivers are white, this is indirect discrimination.

Comment: Such drivers are certainly incensed by this proposed change as I saw at a recent meeting I attended (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/cab-driver-protests-escalating/ ). There does not seem to be any rational reason for treating one set of cab drivers different to another, particularly as the likely impact on the number of PHV drivers in central London is not forecast to change much, which was the justification for the change. It will of course affect some drivers much more than others.

I wish them the best of luck with a judicial review although these are not easy legal proceedings (I have been involved in more than one), and depend on a lot more than the moral arguments.

Could it perhaps be about money rather than traffic congestion, or principles?

Roger Lawson

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The Most Congested Roads in the UK

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The BBC has reported on congested roads in the UK and rates the North Circular Road (A406) as the worst. Needless to say, other London roads such as the A23, Kingsway/Strand and the A1203 (The Highway) also rate highly.

The report is based on information from Inrix who estimated that London drivers lost about 227 hours each on average to congestion. London is by far the worst city in the country for traffic congestion. For example in Leeds only 143 hours are lost. Is it surprising that many companies have expanded operations in Leeds as opposed to London?

What have the current and past Mayor’s done about traffic congestion in London? Basically done nothing but make it worse. The Congestion Charge scheme has been an abysmal failure and the growth in PHV (minicab) use and internet deliveries have contributed more recently. Schemes such as cycle superhighways on the Embankment which reduced 2 lanes to 1 on a major east-west route have also made congestion worse – that is why The Highway is congested as traffic backs up from Lower/Upper Thames Street all the way there.

Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor Sadiq Khan think they can reduce congestion by encouraging modal shift – persuading people to cycle or use public transport – but that simply does not work. They need to rethink their approach. The current Mayor’s Transport Strategy is already proving to be an abject failure.

You can read the BBC report here: https://tinyurl.com/yyrv44cz

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cab Driver Protests Escalating

I attended a meeting of PHV (minicab) drivers in Hackney last night (members of the UPHD – see www.uphd.org) . They had just finished blocking Tower Bridge for an hour or so, have done other similar demontrationss and plan more. Everyone’s realised that blocking London bridges is exceedingly easy.

Black cab drivers have also done demos outside Parliament and at Bank in the City – about roads being closed to them (and of course all other vehicles except buses) at Aldwych, Tottenham Court Road, Bank Junction, etc.

I promoted the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ and emphasised it’s all about raising taxes to fix holes in the Mayor’s budget in in a brief speech at the UPHD meeting. PHV drivers are very unhappy about losing their exemption from the Congestion Charge and of course the new ULEZ charges also. This could destroy their livelihoods, particularly of smaller operators. They think the black cab drivers are being favoured but they are not happy either.

But the demos both groups of drivers are running are not having much impact. The BBC TV news and press media aren’t even covering them of late, despite the major disruption they cause to traffic. Perhaps they need to escalate the demonstrations and block the roads for longer and in a wider area to ensure Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Sadiq Khan pay attention!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor Sadiq Khan Refuses to Answer Questions

At a recent session of the Greater London Assembly where Sadiq Khan was supposed to answer questions, he repeatedly refused to answer simple questions about the ULEZ and his view on road pricing.

You can see the session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqCrWcZIF7I and it’s well worth watching to see just how bad is the current Mayor. He also grandstands to children who were in the audience and makes totally false allegations about the impact of air pollution.

The meeting was badly chaired by Tony Arbour but Sadiq Khan even abused him for being partial.

Bluster, pomposity and personal abuse is the approach of the Mayor to quite simple questions. I hope the general public will learn just what this man is like sooner or later.

Roger Lawson

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Profits from the ULEZ – Taxes, Taxes and More Taxes

I have covered previously the likely extra income from the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) scheme in London – see articles on this web page: https://tinyurl.com/y9sgwedh – particularly the one named “Cost of the ULEZ”.

Transport for London (TfL) tried to hide the likely income from the scheme and what figures they did eventually disclose grossly under-estimated the likely profits they would make. But the Guardian and the Times newspapers have recently published more information that is very revealing of the true facts.

The Guardian quote TfL as saying that “it projects that in 2019-20, the first year of the ULEZ, revenue will be £174m and costs £47m, producing a surplus of £127m. TfL are suggesting revenue will rise to £222m giving a profit of only £97m in 2021-22, after increased costs, when the ULEZ zone is greatly expanded to within the North/South Circular. That would seem to assume that a very large proportion of affected vehicle owners (e.g. those with older diesel or very old petrol ones) will have bought newer vehicles by then. It is a surprisingly low estimate given the very much larger number of vehicle owners who use them daily in the London suburbs as opposed to those who drive in central London. It again seems incredible.

As pointed out in the aforementioned article, apart from the approximately £200 million that will be taken out of the London economy and out of the pockets of London residents by the ULEZ charges every year for the next few years, there is also the cost incurred by those people who buy newer replacement vehicles. That is estimated at £203 million.

The Times spelled out exactly how many vehicles are likely to be affected by the ULEZ this year. They reported that TfL said there were 1.5 million diesel cars registered before 2016 which entered the central zone last year, some 500,000 petrol cars registered before 2006, some 400,000 vans, 55,000 HGVs and 10,000 coaches.

You can see that these are really enormous numbers and explain why the Mayor is so keen on using the ULEZ to improve London’s air. His latest claim is for a reduction of 45% in NOX in central London and 40% in the surrounding area with further reductions when the ULEZ is expanded in 2021. But there is no clear evidence that NOX has a significant impact on health (even COMEAP seem uncertain).

I suggest the ULEZ scheme is a giant con to raise more taxes to fix the Mayor’s budget problems. There is no major public health crisis in London as he alleges. Just to remind you, the health benefit was valued in the original consultation document on the ULEZ as being £7.1 million over 5 years. Even if one accepts that estimate which is very dubious, how does that justify a total cost imposed on vehicle owners of as much as £1.2 billion over 5 years? It cannot be.

Roger Lawson

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London Travel Trends – Mayor’s Policies Failing Badly

London’s population is still growing rapidly, albeit the rate of growth has slackened slightly of late. That increases the demand for travel in London. A recently published report from Transport for London (TfL) highlights the trends in travel in different modes – see below for a link to the full report. Here’s some of the key points:

The average number of trips per day in 2017/18 was 2.1. That figure has been falling in recent years and is similar to national trends. It probably reflects the difficulties of travel in the UK and in London, the higher cost, the fact that the population is ageing and the increase in remote working and telecommuting.

From 2010 to 2017 the proportion of trips by walking, cycling and public transport in London increased only slightly from 62.6% to 62.7%. The trend to more “sustainable and active” travel modes has actually flattened out in the latest 2 years. In other words, the recent Mayoral policies to get people to change their travel modes to what he wants has been a dismal failure. But the Mayor is not giving up. The Mayor and TfL still believe there is a large scope for mode shift according to the report, but that is surely a figment of their imagination. Based on the data below, the Mayor will no doubt be focussed on getting those who live in outer London to change their ways – you have been warned!

Road traffic in London increased only slightly by 0.1% in 2017. There was no growth in car traffic but LGVs rose by 1.9% probably due to more internet shopping deliveries. The general trend in car traffic levels in London is shown in this chart:

car traffic levels 2017

This probably reflects improved public transport (e.g. more buses that have been heavily subsidised and more underground/rail/tram/DLR services) and the degradation of the road network with fewer and more expensive parking facilities, particularly in central London, in the last 20 years. But note the relatively lower decline in outer London and the fact that since 2013 the decline has ceased in all areas.

The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) in central London is not the cause of the reduction there because inner London has also shown sharp declines to which the Charge does not apply. It might have more to do with increased congestion and hence higher trip times in central and inner London for the reasons given above.

Both bus journeys and underground usage have been falling – bus trips down by 6.5% in 2017 since 2014, and underground trips fell by 1.1% in 2017 although that had grown in previous years. These figures reflect perhaps the high costs of public transport, the overcrowding on the underground and on some bus routes in rush hours and the fact that bus journey times have been slowing due to traffic congestion. It can simply be quicker to walk in central London!

Cycling figures suggest that numbers of trips were unchanged in 2017, but distances travelled were greater suggesting there are more long-distance cycling commuters and more trips in outer London. This might be the result of economic incentives to cycle as public transport fares increased (particularly national rail serving outer London) and more cycle superhighways. Cycle usage as a proportion of overall trips remains low at 2% however despite the massive investment in cycle infrastructure in recent years. Cycling is still relatively unpopular among the elderly, among females and those of a non-white or mixed- race background according to the report.

Walking trip rates have been in decline in London in recent years despite the Mayor’s policies. Young adult walk rates fell by 22% between 2011/12 and 2017/18 for example. The impact of “healthy streets” and “active travel” policies promoted by the Mayor are conspicuously absent from the data in TfL’s report. Free travel passes both for those in education and for the elderly have clearly had a negative impact on walking rates. If the Mayor is serious about encouraging more active travel, that’s surely one hand-out he should cancel.

As an aside, the recent introduction of 16-17 and 26-30 railcards has been promoted as a generous offering to help the young, but is it not just another way to charge less to more impecunious customers and more to the others? Anyone familiar with economics will know that this is a tactic to maximise profits. In the case of railcards, which have time of travel restrictions, it’s also a way to smooth out travel demand and fill those otherwise empty seats at off-peak times.

Another failing Mayoral policy has been that on improving road safety. In 2017 the number of fatalities actually increased to 131 – up 15 on 2016. There were marked increases in pedestrian and cyclist casualties. Overall KSIs also rose in 2017 (by 2%) although that figure might be distorted by changes in casualty reporting. The roll-out of wide area 20 mph zones financed with many millions of pounds of funding from TfL and which was supposed to have a major impact on pedestrian casualties has clearly been very ineffective.

In relation to improved public transport capacity to serve the growing population, that simply did not happen in 2017 – “place kilometres” remained unchanged. That’s surely another Mayoral policy failure and resulted in higher public transport overcrowding. But service reliability on buses and London underground plus DLR/trams did improve. Surface rail was patchy though.

The full London Travel Report Number 11 can be read here: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-11.pdf . It looks like it’s been written by public relations consultants as it presents a positive spin on the data when any detailed reading tells you a very different story.

But in summary it shows how the policies pursued by Transport for London, and by both the current and previous Mayors, have been a dismal failure. Lots of expenditure on the promotion of cycling and walking have not influenced travel behaviour much while expenditure on road safety has been misdirected with negative consequences. Improvements in public transport infrastructure have failed to cope with the increase in population which has been promoted rather than discouraged.

Roger Lawson

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