Emirates Cable Car, Bike Hire and TfL Finances

The London Evening Standard recently ran an article that suggested the Emirates Cable Car might be sold off or scrapped. The Cable Car runs across the Thames at Greenwich, cost about £60 million to build and opened in 2013. Passenger numbers have been lower than forecast with it mainly being used by tourists. I used it once but it’s a very slow means to get across the Thames at that point, even allowing for delays at the Blackwall Tunnel.

Does it lose money? According to the information provided by a recent FOI Act request, the numbers are as follows for the 12 months to Jan 2017: Income £9.2 million, Operating Costs: £6.0 million. But £3.3 million of the income comes from Emirates Airlines sponsorship under a deal that runs to 2021, so it barely breaks even ignoring the sponsorship money. Why an airline would wish to subsidise this slow and unreliable mode of transport (it frequently breaks down or has to stop in high winds) was never very clear.

On break-even if they don’t renew sponsorship it might be argued it is worth retaining, but obviously the construction cost will never be recovered, and even exceptional maintenance costs might be unaffordable. The Mayor and TfL have some tough decisions to make on this one.

The Standard also suggested that the Santander Bike Hire (formerly Barclays) might be scrapped to save money. It costs £21 million per year to run, of which TfL pays £3.6 million according to the Standard article. It might have encouraged more cycling in London, although users of these bikes are some of the worst behaved cyclists from my observations – perhaps because tourists unfamiliar with London traffic and road rules tend to use them. However, there are now some commercial alternatives who operate a “dockless”, pick up and drop off anywhere system. It might must be that after just a few years the technology is obsolescent.

Both subjects are of course under the spotlight because of the pressure on the Mayor’s Transport Budget where he has seriously miscalculated the funding needs and the impact of his past promises to his electorate. Another aspect that TfL are examining according to an FT article is the exemption from the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. “tax”) for taxis and PHVs (mini-cabs). The latter have proliferated with such operators as Uber creating a lot more traffic congestion. Why they should be exempt was never very clear, although the argument is perhaps that they offer a public service similar to buses. But it’s not very clear why buses should be exempt either, particularly as they create a lot of congestion.

Bearing in mind the need for the Mayor to raise money, and the fact that he is threatening to cancel Uber’s licence, the expected outcome is surely going to be something like this: Yes we won’t cancel your licence after all but you’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge, or a specially large annual licence fee. Is that a deal?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cycle Superhighway 9 – Consultation Results Biased by Cyclists

Transport for London (TfL) have published the results of the public consultation on their proposals for Cycle Superhighway 9. That is to run from Kensington Olympia to Brentford Town Centre.

They got 5,295 public responses, and 93 “stakeholder” responses (typically organisations including the ABD). In terms of overall support for the proposals, they got 59% in support, 38% opposed and 2% undecided. That alone tells you that there was very significant opposition.

But I believe these figures have been distorted by lobbying by cycling groups. Page 22 of the TfL report gives a breakdown of what modes of transport the respondents claim to usually use. It shows 67% used the Tube, 65% Cycle, 50% use a Bus and 56% use a Private Car. These are very high figures for cycling.

In reality, you can see how many people actually cycle in this area by looking at traffic count data published by the Department for Transport. The figures are as follows for two of the boroughs in west London in 2016:

Kensington and Chelsea: Cyclists: 5.8%, Cars/Taxis: 73.4% of all traffic

Hammersmith & Fulham: Cyclists: 4.5%, Cars/Taxis: 74.8% of all traffic

You can see that these are very different figures, and rather demonstrate the likely bias in the results of this consultation. Indeed, TfL received 941 representations alone from supporters of one of the activist cycling organisations, the London Cycling Campaign. TfL makes no attempt in recent consultations to “normalise” the data so that responses are not manipulated and biased by unrepresentative pressure groups.

This is surely one such example.

You can read the Consultation Report here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cs9/ . TfL is currently considering the results but if it is like other similar consultations the scheme is likely to proceed with few changes.

Roger Lawson

City of London Transport Strategy

City Traffic 2018The City of London Corporation is currently developing its Transport Strategy. The Corporation covers the square mile of the City and in some respects takes the role of other local London borough councils. It therefore has to also develop a “Local Implementation Plan” to match the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy. The aim is to publish a Transport Strategy for the City by Spring 2019.

As part of this exercise they are running a series of “Workshops” for interested parties and I attended one on the 6th March. This is a report on the event.

The meeting was hosted by Bruce McVean who is heading up the strategy development team. Apparently they have 8 people working on this project. It was amusing to note on my journey to the event where I had to walk through the Bank road junction that there were still numerous vehicles driving through it and ignoring the no-entry signs. See previous blog posts on that subject. Although this scheme is “experimental” the Corporation recently decided to postpone any longer-term proposals for improving the situation.

There is also a “Strategy Board” who will be considering the Transport Strategy, but I have previously commented on the lack of representation on that of anyone with a knowledge of transport issues other than City Corporation staff.

The people attending this Workshop were a very mixed bunch and I have no idea how they qualified for an invite. Apart from myself there was at least one elderly City resident, a lady who represented the interests of the disabled and a keen bus rider (also enthusiastic about trams and trolley buses).

The meeting commenced with a short talk by Iain Simmons (Assistant Director – City Transportation). I had previously communicated with him on the closure of Shorter Street. He gave an overview of the process and the public consultations being undertaken which should complete by the end of the year with findings to be published in March 2019. He discussed the current use of transport in the City based on a report they recently published (called “Traffic in the City 2018” which you can find on the web). The chart above,  taken from that report, shows traffic trends in the City.

As I said to one of the Corporation’s staff this just shows how the road network in the City has been damaged over the last twenty years as it seems unlikely that the demand by users of cars, taxis and PHVs has declined but usage has been obstructed by road closures, removal of road space, traffic congestion and other factors (the congestion charge is not one of them and claims for the impact of that are spurious).

Iain Simmons said that “virtually nobody is now riding around in the City in private cars” which I can well believe. Such vehicles have not just declined, they have been replaced by PHVs to a large extent (minicabs and Uber like services) with even licensed taxis declining in the last two years. There has also been a reduction in goods vehicles (LGVs) perhaps because of consolidation of trips and companies banning delivery of internet orders to their offices. Note that one cause of the reduction of vehicles is now simply the difficulty of entering the City from surrounding roads – for example TfL are using traffic lights to restrict access along the Highway to Upper/Lower Thames Street and the East-West Cycle Superhighway has obstructed access to some parts of the City. The removal of the Aldgate gyratories in the East has also caused congestion and problems with access from that direction.

There has been a big increase in cycling as you see from the chart, but motorcycling has been declining.

One of the key issues to be faced is that the City “population” is increasing. This is mainly driven by the growth in commuters as business offices increase in number and size. This has resulted in pedestrian KSIs going up while others have remained static. Mr Simmons said they still have “a big problem with road danger reduction”. (Note: the 20-mph wide area scheme was noticeably ineffective in improving the road casualty statistics). He also mentioned there was a drive to “turn streets into places”.

Bruce McVean then covered the transport challenges and the opportunities. He said they had received very mixed responses to the consultation so far, with concerns about cycling and the disabled. But he promoted the concept of turning streets into “places” as there was a desire for more open space for pedestrians in the City.

We then broke up into smaller discussion groups. There were lots of ill-informed suggestions made, but there was some agreement on the growing dangers posed by cyclists to pedestrians in the City due to the former’s inconsiderate behaviour. The difficulty of access to some parts of the City, including tube stations, for the disabled or elderly was mentioned. Route finding by pedestrians was often difficult (the Barbican was an area particularly mentioned as being obstructive).

A Corporation staff member suggested that one way to free up more open space would be to remove on-street parking. It was unclear why visitors were using this as such spaces would be difficult to find and there are several off-street car parks. I suggested they ask the users. Note: I think removal of such spaces would only make sense if more off-street parking was provided as many such car parks are now full to capacity. They are also often difficult to access and difficult to find for casual visitors.

There was some agreement that in some areas there was insufficient capacity for pedestrians on pavements and this problem might get worse.

Suggestions were also made to remove all road traffic from the City, simplify and rationalise the road network, develop a ring road, have a “park and ride” scheme and other oddball or impractical ideas (bring back trams for example). There seemed to be little understanding of why vehicles are on City streets although it was mentioned that there are food deliveries for example.

The large numbers of currently highly polluting buses in the City needs to be looked at, particularly as some of them seem to be on “long distance” routes where there seems little need for them to go through narrow City streets.

It was suggested by a staff member that timed road closures as around the bank junction might help (as to how was not clear). I opposed that because occasional visitors are unlikely to be aware of the timings and hence create the difficulties seen at Bank.

At the end of the session I said that I considered the Mayor of London’s desire to turn roads into “places for social interaction and exercise” to be nonsense. Surely the purpose of roads is to enable the movement of goods and people. This issue was not really debated with the City Corporation seeming to have swallowed the dogma of Transport for London and the Mayor hook line and sinker without any thought. Indeed as I have commented before, City Corporation staff seem to have a prejudice against motor vehicles on the roads of the City and the history of the road network in the City over the last 30 years demonstrates many damaging changes which have increased congestion.

Here’s my analysis of the issues and what improvements should be aimed for:

Problems to be faced:

  • Increasing numbers of commuters/pedestrians.
  • Rising traffic congestion, despite reduced vehicle numbers.
  • Air pollution from vehicles and businesses still poor, the former mainly caused by traffic congestion (damaging levels of emissions from vehicles are coming down rapidly due to technological improvements).

What should be aimed for:

  • Improvements in traffic speeds to provide economic benefits and help to cut pollution.
  • Safer roads (stopping pedestrians stepping off pavements into the paths of vehicles is still a major problem).
  • More capacity for all transport modes (i.e. vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians).

I suggest it would be possible to rationalise the road network to gain all those benefits. Bank junction is a good example of where a major redevelopment could simplify the roads, improve traffic flow, free up more open space and reduce road traffic accidents.

One of the problems with releasing more open space is that there is very little unused land in the City and it is of course enormously expensive land. Therefore new office developers like to maximise the developed land space. This is a planning issue that needs to be tackled. Developers really need to have an obligation to ensure some ground space is provided as a public amenity and pavements around new developments should be widened.

In summary there are lots of ways that transport in the City of London could be improved, but I am not convinced that concepts such as turning streets into places, an Orwellian redefinition of the word street, is going to help.

In the meantime, there is a public consultation where you can give your own views here: www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/transportstrategy

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: Mayor Sadiq Khan Ignores Objections to his Transport Strategy

The ABD has issued the following press release:

The response of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the public consultation on his Transport Strategy has been announced today. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been actively campaigning against certain aspects of his proposals.

We suggested that his proposals were a direct attack on the use of cars or indeed private transport in general and that not only were his proposals unrealistic but would not work. Our campaign attracted more responses to his proposals than any other campaign group.

Has he made any significant changes to his proposals? In reality NO. The response document (see below) is full of comments that say “no change” is proposed.

A Brief Analysis of Responses to the Public Consultation

The Mayor claims “broad support” for his Healthy Streets approach and the 80% mode share target for cycling, walking and public transport use. But then goes on to say “there were sometimes divergent views across issues”. Indeed, if you look at the details of the comments TfL received there was substantial opposition to many points, including much opposition to road user charging or congestion charging schemes.

There were clearly lots of opposing comments from outer London residents and although the Mayor has committed to respond to them by improving the bus network and surface rail in outer London, this is hardly likely to placate many objectors. Our experience is that many of those objecting are disabled or very elderly who often rely on private vehicles and who would have difficulty with public transport (most of them consider the suggestion that they should cycle as laughable). You can see some comments from our campaign supporters on our web site.

This is also evident from the Consultation Response Document where it says “there was a notable level of disagreement with the aim that by 2041 Londoners should be doing 20 minutes of active travel each day” (page 30 of the Consultation Report).

Opposition to road charging was evidenced by 566 “comments of concern” versus 250 supportive comments (see page 103). That’s good evidence of the level of opposition. That’s despite the repeated claims by the Mayor that the Congestion Charge system reduced congestion (see page 106), which is simply not true. But it is “no change” for his strategy to support charging schemes. His only concession is that it will be up to local boroughs to consider how or whether to implement them (see page 109). The ABD is likely therefore to be fighting these in individual boroughs in future as we successfully did in Greenwich when this was last proposed.

Even the Mayor’s environmental policies received a lot of negative comments (see page 110) and there were also many against “densification” of London which is a major concern in outer London boroughs (see page 162). The Mayor again proposes “no change” to his strategy on those.

In summary a disappointing outcome, with consultation responses minimised by the short timescale allowed. The outcome is much as one might expect when you have a Mayor who has dictatorial powers and who does not seem to understand the diverse population of London and those who live in outer London.

Postscript: It is noticeable on a more detailed study of the Consultation Report that the numbers responding to the specific questions, and the responses given, are not reported. For example, one of the questions posed in the consultation was “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above plans for road user charging in London?”, and the options to respond were “Strongly Agree – Partially Agree – Neither Agree nor Disagree – Partially Disagree – Strongly Disagree – No opinion”.

Although the comments written in by respondents are classified, and in some cases reported, why are there no simple percentage numbers of the aforementioned responses given? What is TfL trying to hide? The ABD has submitted an FOI Act request to obtain this data.

More Information

The ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport is described here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Announcement from TfL and the Consultation Report document can be obtained from here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/mayors-transport-strategy/?cid=mayors-transport-strategy

For more information, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.


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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Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Feedback

We have received a lot of comments from the general public on our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Many were not aware of what was proposed and those particularly concerned were the elderly and disabled. This is a typical example recently received:

“I’ve just received your leaflet re the above and I’m aghast at the mayor’s proposals you’ve listed.  I rarely use my car to pop to the local shops, preferring to walk, for the exercise.  However, it’s much more convenient and quicker to drive to the nearest swimming pool (for more exercise!) than it is to get the bus (which I know I could do).  I also do the weekly shop once a week after swimming and this would not be possible without using my car.  I know I could do it online but I prefer to choose my own products – and anyway it still requires a vehicle to do the delivery! 

I certainly don’t see why I should pay more than I already do for this!  

We also get frequent visits from carers who help look after my wife – a lot of them use the bus but some of them use cars and I think it would be unfair for them to have to pay more. 

Perhaps you would be kind enough to send me the link to the relevant detail and proposed timetable for implementation and also details on how to object please.”

There are of course enormous numbers of elderly and disabled people living in London who often rely on cars and PHVs (minicabs) for day to day transport. Suggesting most of them can walk or cycle is simply nonsense and even using buses can be impractical for them due to the instability of such vehicles.

In addition, there are large numbers of ladies who feel insecure walking the streets at night and using public transport can be seen as risky.

Another group of objectors are those running small businesses who have to transport goods and those with large families who do a “bulk” shop at a supermarket once per week. The load that results is too large to carry other than in a vehicle.

The Mayor’s Transport Strategy focuses on the young and healthy who have office jobs in central London to which they commute via public transport, or those fit enough and willing to cycle in all weathers, while it ignores a very large proportion of the population. It needs to be scrapped and a new plan put forward!

Roger Lawson


Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London


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Sadiq Khan Plans Your Life

If you live in London, you should pay attention to the “London Plan” that Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently published. Indeed if you live in other large conurbations you might wish to review it also because the policies he is promoting might spread elsewhere.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The Mayor makes it plain that London needs to cope with the rapidly expanding population and business activity. The population of London might reach 10.5 million by 2041 he says (currently 8.8 million). That means a lot more houses have to be built (66,000 per annum he says) and support for more workplaces.

In addition it has major implications for transport infrastructure while at the same time he wants to clean up London’s air. He wants to make London a “zero carbon” city by 2050, although no doubt he will be long gone by then. As part of this he aims to reduce “car dependency” (an emotive and inaccurate phrase disparaging people who have made a rational or personal choice about how they travel when you don’t see this said about those who rely on cycles for their daily travel needs).

Why has the population of London grown so rapidly in recent years and continues to do so? Page 12 of the Plan explains why. It says 40 per cent of Londoners were born outside the UK, and the city is now home to 1 million EU citizens, no doubt attracted by the vibrant London economy. This has put a major strain on housing, transport, social services and other infrastructure (incidentally an unbelievable 1.2 million Londoners are apparently “disabled”).

This state of affairs has come about because of national policies on immigration with no effective policies to distribute that more widely across the country compounded no doubt by a desire by some politicians to improve their chances of being elected.

Specifically looking at transport, the Mayor’s target is for 80% of all journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport (that of course includes the 14% of Londoners who are disabled!). It’s currently 64%. This is going to mean an aggressive set of policies to reduce car use – hence our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which supports the London Plan – see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Mayor highlights the health inequalities in London, with deprived areas of London having reduced life expectancies (as much as 15 years for men and 19 years for women) surely an astonishing statistic. What is the reason for this? Poor housing conditions are certainly one, but lack of daily activity is allegedly another so the Mayor wants us all to be walking and cycling.

The Mayor does have plans to improve public transport including proposals for Crossrail 2 and extension of the Bakerloo line but these proposals will do relatively little to soak up the increased demand, and with no proposals of significance to improve the road network, hence no doubt the need to encourage us all to walk or cycle.

The Mayor’s plans to support the need for more housing include targets for every London borough (for example over 2,000 new homes every year in Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Hounslow, Newham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets). This includes high concentration developments in locations with good public transport access levels (PTALs), particularly inner London boroughs. Outer London boroughs might see a relaxation of planning regulations to allow more “in-fill” developments including building on back gardens as the Conservatives promptly complained about. There will be more encouragement for smaller builders, more efficient building techniques and “proactive” intervention in London’s land market (more “compulsory purchase” perhaps).

One aspect of transport infrastructure that the London Plan covers is that of parking provision for new housing, office or shop developments. It wants most developments to be “car free” (i.e. no parking provision), particularly those with high PTAL levels. The details of what this means in practice are not clear, but it looks like the intention is to reduce parking provision substantially, thus resulting in more on-street parking and obstruction.

The Mayor concludes his near 500-page tome on the subject of the “Funding Gap”. By this he means the gap between the public sector funding required to support London’s growth (and his plans) and the money currently committed. In other words, he wants more money, including a bigger share of taxation collected from Londoners. For example, he repeats his call for control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which any right-thinking person should surely oppose. Yes the Mayor wants more money and more power. Unfortunately the establishment of directly elected Mayors such as Mr Khan has resulted in empire building of the worst kind. They are effectively dictators within their realms with no effective democratic constraints on their policies and negligible public accountability.

In summary, it is not clear that the building of lots of new homes (which of course will emit more pollutants, particularly during constructions, more than offsetting any reduction from restraining car use), of a fairly low standard in dense conurbations, is going to improve the quality of life for Londoners. It is undoubtedly the case that more new homes are needed in London but building new homes without complementary improvements to the transport infrastructure, which has consistently lagged behind the growth in London’s population, does not make much sense.

As is already seen in the statistics, older London residents are moving out and being replaced by immigrants. Some readers might wish to consider doing the same given the outlook for the quality of life in London. Simply reacting to the population growth in London without trying to constrain it, or divert it elsewhere, is surely a mistake.

You can submit your comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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