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 every 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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City Corporation Response to Draft Transport Strategy

I have covered the City of London’s draft Transport Strategy before – see https://tinyurl.com/yd3qne6c . I called it a stinker because it is an aggressive attack on most forms of road transport with a 15-mph speed limit proposed across the Square Mile, a zero-emission standard for all vehicles and road closures.

The ABD has now submitted a formal response to the public consultation which covers our objections in detail – see https://tinyurl.com/y8o23l9u

It’s a good example of how the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy is being followed in the local boroughs and how it is corrupting London’s road transport network. The policies promoted are simply irrational, will not work and fail to cope with the increasing population and business activity in the City.

You can still respond to the public consultation which closes on the 13th January. Go here to do so: https://www.citystreets.london/ or send an email to strategic.transportation@cityoflondon.gov.uk

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More Tax Raising by Sadiq Khan – Changes to the Congestion Charge

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has decided to proceed with his proposed changes to the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax). Private hire vehicles (PHVs – minicabs including Uber vehicles) will no longer be exempt from the Charge from April 2019.

This change is justified on the basis that congestion will be reduced after the number of vehicles, particularly PHVs has increased substantially in recent years. Now only 50% of vehicles entering the central zone pay the Charge. But how much will the number of vehicles be reduced – about 1% according to TfL.

The fact that taxis (registered black cabs) will continue to be exempt but PHVs will not be is a most peculiar anomaly. A legal challenge may well be mounted over that issue. But taxi drivers are also unhappy with the latest announcement because the Mayor is going to limit the age of such vehicles to 12 years when the current maximum is 15 years.

Another change is that the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) from the Congestion Charge for low emission vehicles is being scrapped and replaced by a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD). The latter discount will only be available to zero emission (i.e. electric vehicles) from 2021 to 2025 after which no discounts at all will apply.

These changes are going to mean substantial extra revenue to the Mayor and TfL and are surely more about tax raising than the claimed objectives. These changes are simply irrational and will have no impact on either air pollution or congestion in central London.

The ABD has pointed out before that the London Congestion Charge is a totally ineffective solution to traffic congestion and has just turned into a revenue raising scam. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm

The ABD, along with many other organisations, submitted objections to the changes which have simply been ignored. See this web page for a more details and a link to the consultation responses: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/private-hire-charge-exemption/

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National Press Waking Up to ULEZ Impact

The Daily Mail ran a story on the 9th December spelling out the enormous impact that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will have on drivers in London. They suggest a million motorists will be paying £12.50 every day once the ULEZ zone is expanded to within the North/South Circular. This could generate as much as £700 million to £1.5 billion a year in revenues for Transport for London (TfL) they also suggested. See the Mail story here (it was also covered by the Sun and the Times newspapers): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-6476639/Londons-new-ultra-low-emission-zone-force-million-motorists-pay-12-50-day.html

But their figures probably do not take into the real impact because TfL have been misleading people about which vehicles will be exempt – see our previous blog article here on that: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/12/07/press-release-uk-drivers-sleepwalking-into-macron-style-taxes-on-eco-hatchbacks/

Roger Lawson

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Press Release: UK Drivers Sleepwalking Into Macron Style Taxes On Eco Hatchbacks

The ABD reveals that modest three years old ‘eco branded’ family hatchbacks will soon be effectively banned from inside the London North and South Circular roads. That approach will likely be copied in cities and towns across the UK:

Owners of many just over three years old top selling diesel hatchbacks branded ‘eco’ or ‘blue’ will soon wake up to a shock as huge charges will effectively ban cars from towns and cities including some 2015 registered ‘Eco’ or ‘Blue’ branded Fiestas, Focus, Golfs, Corsas, Astras etc (see list below). When these charges are imposed owners will see their cars plummet in value.

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries comments: “Many people think that as they don’t drive in London, or that they drive newish ‘eco’ cars, this won’t affect them.  They are wrong. The UK Government have given powers to local authorities to introduce emissions-based charges pretty much at their whim and with no justification.

Councils all over the UK are looking to copy Sadiq Khan’s lead, Manchester being well advanced in its plan.  Values of the many affected cars, and even some that are not currently affected, will fall due to fear of future charges long before they even happen. If the government wish to avoid ‘Yellow Vest’ style protests they need to act now, remove such powers from local authorities and ban all such schemes.”

The ABD searched the London ULEZ site (applying within the congestion charge zone from 2019 and spreading beyond from 2021) using genuine registration numbers of a number of modern family hatchbacks taken from online car sales websites.

Check your car here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/vrm-checker-ulez

Here are just some of the cars falling foul of ULEZ charges:

2015 Citroen C3 Edition 1.6 Bluehdi 100 Edition 5dr 90bhp
2015 Citroen C4 1.6 e-HDi Airdream VTR+ Hatchback 5dr Diesel 115bhp
2015 Ford Fiesta 1.6 TDCi ECOnetic Style 5dr  94bhp
2015 Ford Focus 1.6 TDCi 115 Zetec 5dr  113bhp
2015 Fiat Panda 1.2 MULTIJET POP 5d 75 BHP
2015 Fiat 500 Lounge1.3  Multijet 3dr 95bhp
2015 Nissan Juke 1.5 ACENTA DCi 5 DOOR 110 BHP
2015 Renault Clio 1.5 dCi ECO Expression + 5dr 90bhp
2015 Toyota Auris 1.4 D-4D Excel (s/s) 5dr 90bhp
2015 Vauxhall Corsa 1.3CDTi Ecoflex Design 94BHP
2015 Vauxhall Astra 2.0 CDTi Ecoflex Elite 163 bhp
2015 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 CDTi 16V Ecoflex Design 5dr 108bhp
2014 VW Golf 1.6tdi estate 89 bhp and 108 bhp
2015 VW Golf hatch 1.6tdi Bluemotion tech S 104bhp
2015 VW Golf Bluemotion 1.6tdi estate 108bhp

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Unblock the Embankment and City Transport Strategy

A campaign named “Unblock the Embankment” (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ) have published a report that says the Cycle Superhighway on the Embankment is costing the capital £5.3 million per year. The Embankment was reduced from two lanes to one on some stretches to accommodate the Superhighway (CS3) in 2016. Not only did that create enormous traffic congestion due to the necessary road works, but ever since there has been increased congestion on that route which has added very substantially to journey times on this key East-West route. The increased congestion has also made air pollution on that route substantially worse when Upper/Lower Thames Street was already one of the worst pollution hot-spots (which of course cyclists have to breathe).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There are few viable alternative routes for the many commercial vehicle users which affects thousands of businesses. The route is used by cyclists but their numbers are only significant during rush hours and alternative routes could have been devised for them. This was one of the most damaging changes to the road network in London ever devised. But Sadiq Khan thinks it’s a great success which just shows you how misinformed he is.

Please support the “Unblock” campaign.

The Unblock campaign has also pointed out that the City of London’s Transport Strategy which aims to reduce traffic within the City will cause more vehicles to use this key East-West route through the City. I attended a meeting in the City on Friday 30/11/2018 to complain that the Corporation’s officers do not seem to be listening to our objections to their proposals. They still refused to listen on the basis that many respondents to their consultations supported their proposals. Indeed the audience present was hardly typical of the hundreds of thousands of people who work in the City, or those who have to service them. There is an on-line consultation which you can respond to here: https://www.citystreets.london/questionnaire/age-check but bearing in mind the way such surveys are designed to get the intended answers, it may be better, and simpler, to just send your comments directly to this email address: strategic.transportation@cityoflondon.gov.uk

But will the consultation results be honest? It is possible to submit multiple responses to this consultation from the same IP address so it is likely to be manipulated by pressure groups. Likewise multiple emails could be sent to the above email address (many people have more than one).

Here are suggestions for submissions on the “Key Proposals” (focussed on the consultation survey questions):

Proposal 2. There should be no prioritisation of transport modes. All road users are equal and provision for different modes should be based on rational cost/benefit analysis and the demands of different users, i.e. provision for pedestrians should not automatically take priority over other road users.

Proposal 11. There should be no general policy to reduce road traffic which is essential to the working of the City and for the convenience of the public. Road traffic is already quite low in the City during most of the day due to past restrictions on access. It is not necessary to reduce it further.

Proposal 14. I am opposed to reduction in parking. Parking provision is essential for many vehicle users and reducing it just causes them to drive around looking for a space creating more congestion and air pollution.

Proposal 17. Keeping pavements free of obstructions is a laudable aim but does drinking outside pubs really cause a problem when it is a long tradition in the City?

Proposal 20. Vision Zero sound like a good objective but in reality is unlikely to be achievable. Limiting vehicle speeds to 15 mph is particularly objectionable as it is both impractical and won’t be adhered to. Even if enforced it will be no more effective than the 20-mph limit has been. It will also slow traffic and increase journey times. There is no cost/benefit justification for such a proposal.

Proposal 24. Too much money is already been spent on cycling provision as opposed to the needs of other road users (e.g. vehicles and pedestrians).

Proposal 29. I am opposed to a Zero Emission zone as it will impose enormous costs on vehicle owners and have very little benefit in terms of reducing air pollution. It is also impractical for some vehicle owners to purchase such vehicles, e.g. for HGVs because they are simply not available.

Proposal 38. Reducing freight vehicles is not possible without imposing very high costs on businesses. Where is the cost/benefit analysis? Where are the practical alternatives? Cargo bikes are not a practical solution for most purposes.

Proposal 41. Reducing the impact of construction is a laudable objective but this has been proposed in the past with no great result.

MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND TO THE CITY’S CONSULTATION NOW!

Roger Lawson

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