Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Another Attack on Private Transport

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy yesterday. It is now open to public consultation – see:

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

Here’s a brief summary of its contents (a fuller report will be in our next newsletter):

  1. 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 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.
  2. Parking provision will be restricted in new developments – yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking.
  3. There is a target of a zero emission transport system by 2050 (helpful if you can live that long perhaps).
  4. 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. How much will it cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask?
  5. The target is to reduce freight traffic in the central London morning peak by 10 per cent on current levels by 2026, and to reduce total London traffic by 10-15 per cent by 2041.

It is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of this vision. 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 and will be suggesting an alternative strategy in response.

But Londoner’s might get what they voted for as after electing Mayor Khan they should not be surprised at this latest attack on personal liberty.

Roger Lawson

Party Manifestos and London

Yesterday (25/5/2017), UKIP published their General Election Manifesto. That completes the quartet of the main parties, so it seemed an opportune time to analyse and comment on them so far as they affect transport in London. That is of course the sole concern of this blog so any diversion into wider political issues will be avoided so far as is practical.

UKIP. Let’s start with UKIPs (subtitled “Britain Together”) as that contains more specifics than the other parties and has a separate Chapter on Transport. It suggests they would:

  • Scrap HS2 on the basis that it is unaffordable, will blight homes and will only save a few minutes on a London to Leeds trip.
  • End all road tolls on the basis that they are an unfair burden on the already highly taxed road user. That would presumably include scrapping the London Congestion Charge, the ULEZ and proposed tolls on the Dartford and Blackwall Crossings.
  • They oppose the proposed new Thames Crossing at Thurrock and would move it further east through Canvey Island.
  • They would encourage zero emission vehicles by providing more supporting infrastructure.
  • They would prevent diesel vehicle owners from being penalised through higher taxes and parking fines, but they support a diesel scrappage scheme and incentives for diesel vehicle owners to exchange them for electric or hybrid models.
  • They do not support the expansion of Heathrow Airport and would encourage the expansion of smaller regional airports (such as development of Manston in Kent).

In summary, it’s very much a “pro-motorist” transport agenda.

Another aspect of their manifesto is the commitment to “balance migration”, effectively reducing inward migration to zero over 5 years (and thereafter only a “one in, one out” policy as the media dubbed it). This would of course relieve the pressure in the longer term on the transport network (both road and rail), which suffers from major congestion in London mainly because of massive increases in passenger demand in recent years. 

Conservative & Unionist (“Forward Together”). This party’s manifesto is short on specifics, perhaps because their policies are very much a continuation of existing ones and because they seem to be relying more on the winning personality of Theresa May rather than vote winning policies. But there are a few comments on transport as follows:

  • They will continue to invest £40 billion in transport projects, including: a) HS2, b) Northern Powerhouse Rail, c) Expansion of Heathrow Airport, d) Development of the strategic road network including extra lanes on motorways.
  • They want almost every car and van to be zero emission by 2050, and will invest £600 million to achieve it by 2020.
  • Rail capacity will be increased (but the specifics are lacking).
  • More money to support cycle networks and cycle parking at railway stations will be provided. (How much? It does not say).

Yes that seems to be about it.

Labour (“For the Many, Not the Few”). As one might expect, the Labour Party has a strong commitment to invest more in infrastructure, communications and energy systems. That includes:

  • Completion of HS2 to Leeds/Manchester and then on to Scotland.
  • A new Brighton Main Line.
  • Build Crossrail 2 in London.
  • Bring the railways back into public ownership (i.e. renationalise them).
  • They will cap public transport fares, introduce free Wi-Fi across the rail network and stop driver-only operation of trains.
  • They will support investment in low emission vehicles.
  • On airport capacity in the South-East, they “welcome the work done by the Airports Commission” and don’t seem to rule out expansion of Heathrow if noise and air quality issues “can be addressed”.
  • They will “refocus” the roads building and maintenance programmes on “connecting communities” and “feeding public transport hubs”.
  • There will be a stronger focus on road safety improvement targets with “bold measures” to improve safety standards.

How some of this programme might be funded I will leave others to comment on.

Liberal Democrat (“Change Britain’s Future”). The Liberal Democrats focus on “clean air and green transport”. Specifics include:

  • Support for a diesel scrappage scheme and encouragement of the swift take-up of electric and driverless vehicles.
  • Extending Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) to ten more cities.
  • All PHVs and buses in urban areas to run on ultra low or zero emission fuels within 5 years.
  • Reform of vehicle taxation to encourage electric and low emission vehicles.
  • Establish Government run companies to take over Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink due to severe failings of existing franchisees.
  • Proceed with HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2.
  • Support the takeover of metro services in London by London Overground.
  • They are opposed to expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and want to improve regional airports.
  • Design cities as safe and attractive walking spaces.

To summarise therefore, all the parties support the promotion of zero emission (electric) vehicles. They all support more rail capacity in one form or another, but only UKIP would specifically cancel HS2. UKIP is “against” more things as one might expect from a populist protest party whereas the Conservatives have gone more for a “positive vision” with lots of the written equivalents of “sound-bites” using words such as “strong”, “stable” and “prosperous”. Actually interpreting what these fine words will mean in practice can be more difficult. The Labour and LibDem manifestos are very much in their traditional mode and hence might appeal more to their existing supporters than new ones. The impact of any party which might win the national election might be limited in London though as the Mayor is very much a dictator and can introduce his own policies and taxation (disguised as “charges”) to a great extent.

Perhaps it might be better to have a right-wind central Government to control the excesses of a left-leaning Mayor (look at some of the quite disastrous changes under Livingstone). But no doubt readers can all make their own minds up after reading the manifestos which are all available on the web.

Roger Lawson

The Rise of Non-Travel

We all know that travelling in London has become more difficult in the last few years. Rising traffic congestion due to reductions in road space and cycle superhighways, and overcrowded public transport, have been very damaging. Population increase, and more business activity, have not been supported fully by new transport infrastructure and there has been little long-term planning or funding to improve the transport network.

Now Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that travelling is now so difficult in London that the number of Londoners who spend all day at home has been rising. To quote (from LTT): “In particular, there has been a rise in non-travel, in other words, people staying at home all day and not making any trips”. It seems on any given day, around 20% of Londoners do not make any journeys nowadays.

It seems likely that there has been a reduction in travel for shopping purposes (hence the increase in van deliveries resulting from internet shopping). But there are more people probably working from home and using the internet and other communication media rather than going into a conventional workplace everyday. Also of course the increase in the elderly might explain the rise in non-travel, although many retired people move out of London.

New Cycling and Walking Commissioner

One other influence over future travel patterns may be a new “Cycling and Walking Commissioner” named Will Norman. Former Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan has suggested the change of name for the role might indicate that Mayor Khan might have more interest in walking than cycling, particularly as some previously approved cycling schemes do not seem to be progressing. He also suggested that the Mayor wishes to avoid confrontation with the motoring lobby. But that surely seems very unlikely bearing in mind the Mayor’s plans over air pollution.

Roger Lawson

Speed Humps to Slow Cyclists

There is a problem in Hyde Park where cyclists have been clocked travelling at more than 30 mph even though there is a posted speed limit of 10 mph. The paths in Hyde Park are shared by pedestrians and cyclists and the Royal Parks staff said they observed several near misses when they monitored the paths. Pedestrians need to walk across the cycle path at some point but cyclists do not slow down and frequently verbally harass pedestrians who get in their way.

So the Royal Parks plan to install rows of granite setts as “rumble strips” to slow cyclists at a cost of £215,000. Needless to say the always vociferous cycling lobby are objecting with the London Cycling Campaign calling the plan “outrageous”.

It is surely regrettable that this is another example of cyclists ignoring regulations and taking the attitude that everyone else should get out of their way.

Roger Lawson

More Cyclists and More Delays

Transport for London (TfL) have published a report giving the impact of the new East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways. Although these have attracted large numbers of cyclists, they have also led to major delays for motor vehicles. For the latter, some journeys across London take 15 minutes longer (e.g. as much as 50% longer). This is particularly so in the evening peak rush-hour on the eastbound journey. This is mainly due to removal of one traffic lane.

Comment: Yes this was one of the most ill-conceived changes to the London road network one could imagine. It is was introduced without any justification by a proper cost/benefit analysis and by a Mayor keen on cycling. It just demonstrates what can happen when so much power is put in the hands of one person with little democratic control over what they do. Who would have thought when he was elected that he would promote such an ill-conceived and damaging scheme.

Roger Lawson

Cycle Superhighway 11 Goes Ahead, but Another Halted

There have been lots of complaints about the proposed Cycle Superhighway 11 between Swiss Cottage and the West End running through Regents Park. Transport for London (TfL) have made some minor changes to the scheme but otherwise it is going ahead. Some further consultation on the Regents Park routes is being done however. See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/cycling/cs-11/  for TfLs note on this subject.

However the objectors are not at all happy. The main campaign against said “TfL and Camden Condemn Thousands of Residents And Commuters To Years Of Congestion And Misery” and “Despite months of detailed meetings with us and other local stakeholders where we have repeatedly raised your concerns about unacceptable traffic “reassignment” onto residential streets, increased pollution, increased disruption and severe adverse impact on the emergency services, disabled, businesses and road users who rely on motor vehicles, TfL (and Camden Council under the shameful direction of their Councillor Phil Jones – Cabinet Member for Regeneration, Transport & Planning) have condemned thousands of people to years of misery from CS11 construction works and associated impacts. TfL have only made minor, meaningless tweaks to the original CS11 scheme including: Allowing a right turn from the bottom of Fitzjohns Avenue / College Crescent into Finchley Road northbound and re-introducing a banned turn right from Finchley Road into Hilgrove Road (which we pointed out to them will cause traffic to back up all the way along Finchley Road).

Yes it seems that TfL is yet again ignoring the views of road users other than cyclists in the name of the policy to get us all cycling. There is more information here, including how to object: https://www.change.org/p/transport-for-london-stop-transport-for-london-s-ill-planned-cycle-superhighway-11-scheme-in-north-london/u/18804455?utm_medium=email&utm_source=notification&utm_campaign=petition_update

Cycle Superhighway on Westway Abandoned?

Reports in LTT and elsewhere have suggested that the Cycle Superhighway planned to run along the A40 from Paddington to Action which was proposed to run along one lane of the Westway has been axed by the Mayor. This would have taken up one lane of that elevated road, but with existing traffic volumes that might not have been an issue. The Mayor is now denying that the route has been abandoned, although the exact routing may be changed.

Comment: This all seems very odd to me because that seemed to be one of the few cycle superhighway routes that would not have created massive congestion and inconvenience to other road users, as the others have done. It seems likely there were doubts about its usage by cyclists, and perhaps the cost was a problem when Sadiq Khan’s budget for TFL is proving to be ever more unrealistic.

Roger Lawson

TfL’s Damaging Proposals for Cycle Superhighway 11

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing to install a new Cycle Superhighway in London, with dedicated cycle lanes linking Swiss Cottage to the edge of the West End at the northern end of Regent Street.

To facilitate this scheme, dubbed CS11, they also plan to make dramatic changes to arterial through routes and surrounding roads in the NW3 and NW8 areas. The main proposals are to replace the one-way gyratory system around Swiss Cottage with two-way streets; close off the northern end of Avenue Road to all traffic except buses; close the rest of Avenue Road – a main route into central London – to traffic for 20 out of 24 hours a day; and close four out of the eight gates to the Outer Circle of Regent’s park, also for 20 out of 24 hours a day.  Dedicated cycle lanes will be installed over this route, further squeezing traffic onto less road space.

Accompanying this, and evidently in some misguided attempt to aid the flow of traffic in this new layout, TfL are planning to ban various right and left turns off Finchley Road in its approach to Swiss Cottage, making it extremely difficult to reach neighbourhoods such as Belsize Park by car.

Into this mix comes central government’s long term plans for the construction of HS2, the new high speed rail link to the midlands and north of England, which include the building of a railway tunnel under Adelaide Road (another road leading into Swiss Cottage), and of two massive ventilation shafts – one in Adelaide Road and the other one near Fairfax Road, also in the Swiss Cottage area.

In a nutshell, these two unconnected projects will inevitably clash with, and intrude on each other, resulting in massive disruption, traffic congestion, increased air pollution, and absolute hell for local residents – for up to sixteen years, the timescale for completing the HS2 works. On its own, if CS11 in its proposed form goes ahead this will be bad enough.  However, combined with the estimated hundreds of HS2 lorries that are expected to be using the roads in this area every day, the mind boggles as to the impact this will have.  TfL’s response to this is that they don’t think it will be a major problem.

Needless to say, the CS11 plans have been met with fierce opposition from residents and road users. A consultation resulted in a 60% approval, but it was later revealed that TfL had canvassed every single cycling club in Greater London, including many south of the river in areas nowhere near the affected area, to take part in the consultation.

However, various protest groups have been formed to try and persuade TfL to either moderate their plans or abandon them altogether, with petitions organised and approaches made to MPs and officers of TfL and Westminster and Camden councils. No final decision has yet been made.  Westminster Council are opposed to the CS11 proposals, and Camden council partly opposed.  Putting off CS11 until later is not an option because of the sixteen-year timescale of the HS2 works.

In the meantime, rumour has it that TfL will now scrap the plan to close the four gates to the Outer Circle. The cycling fraternity will not be happy.  Anyone driving around the Outer Circle these days knows that this road has almost been hijacked to be used as a training circuit for two-wheeled enthusiasts.  Supporters of CS11 have called the Outer Circle a dangerous rat run, which is complete nonsense.  It is only subject to light traffic, and most of any danger that might exist comes from mobs of cyclists crowding out other vehicles.

Anyone with an interest in this matter can look up the CS11 plans on the TfL website, and the main protest website, www.cs11.london . Please give the latter your support.

Danny Michelson