Decarbonising Transport – A Costly Exercise in Limiting Personal Freedom

Decarbonising Transport Cover

Grant Shapps, Government Transport Minister, has recently published a document entitled “Decarbonising Transport” (see Reference 1 below). From the cover photograph (see above), it suggests that the Government expects us all to travel by electric buses in future with not a private car in sight.

That is actually the agenda spelled out in the document. It follows from the adopted Government policy of achieving net zero greenhouse gases (GHG) by 2050, despite that fact that many people think this is financial lunacy and simply unaffordable. That’s even if you believe that removing all CO2 emissions is essential to stop global warming which is a very dubious proposition anyway.

The document spells out that “Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network”. If only the latter were true!

Public transport is inherently inconvenient. It never arrives at your doorstep and if it is raining you will get wet walking to the nearest bus stop or train station. You will also get cold in winter waiting for the next bus or train, and may be uncertain when or if it will arrive – public transport is never as reliable as your own vehicle. But the Government is intending to “persuade” you to change your lifestyle.

It also contains this wonderful sentence “Clean, place-based solutions will meet the needs of local people. Changes and leadership at a local level will make an important contribution to reducing national GHG emissions”. What exactly does that mean and what practical measures is it suggesting. This writer has no idea.

It also states that “all road vehicles will be zero emission” and also says “technological advances, including new modes of transport and mobility innovation, will change the way vehicles are used”. Is it suggesting we will all be using electric scooters in future or what?

The Government is developing a Transport Decarbonisation Plan (TDP) which will set out in detail what will need to be done and will be published in Autumn 2020 – the Government is clearly rushing ahead on this policy. The document already published does give a lot of information on the sources of GHG emissions in the UK and the trends in size.

Transport has remained remarkably stubborn to change whereas many other sources such as energy production have fallen in the last few years. Transport is now the largest contributor at 28% of emissions. But cars/taxis emissions have fallen while HGVs and Vans have increased – the latter have grown by 67% since 1990 on more than double mileage. Emissions from cars are projected to fall by 52% by 2050 due to the increased use of electric vehicles. The private motorist is doing what the Government requires however misconceived and expensive it may be.

Meanwhile emissions from international aviation have more than doubled since 1990 and were still increasing prior to the virus epidemic. They might soon exceed emissions from cars. There is no short-term way of cutting aircraft emissions so they are allowed to buy “indulgences” just like in medieval times for their sins. In this case that means purchasing carbon offsets or planting trees under the CORSIA scheme.

The Government is spending billions of pounds on encouraging us to walk and cycle, mainly via local authority schemes. You can see the impact of this in London which had had similar policies and lots of funding since the current Mayor was elected. It has been a very negative outcome with modal shift hardly perceptible except where people are forced to comply by closing roads, restricting parking and other similar measures.

The document highlights that 79% of domestic freight is carried by roads, 13% by water and 9% by rail – the latter two mainly carrying heavy, bulk cargoes. But GHG emissions from HGVs have been rising driven partly by decreasing fuel efficiency. New lower emission targets for HGVs have been set to tackle this problem but the future projections do not indicate a rapid fall. The Government suggests that electric cargo bikes are the answer for local deliveries.

In summary the Government is keen to promote modal shift in the public, whether you like it or not. This is yet another attack on the private car which the ABD has consistently opposed because it is in essence irrational and unnecessary.

You can share your views on decarbonising transport, register for regular updates on the progress of the Transport Decarbonisation Plan and register your interest for the workshops by emailing TDP@dft.gov.uk as well as by following @transportgovuk on twitter.

Please send the Government your views before this nonsense goes too far.

Reference 1: Decarbonising Transport: https://tinyurl.com/s2ohyd9

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Stopping Sales of Petrol and Diesel Vehicles

Please respond to the Government consultation below about bringing forward the ban on sales of new petrol, diesel, hybrid cars and vans from 2040 to 2035 or even earlier. The ABD believes that free market forces should dictate when and if petrol, diesel and hybrids can be replaced and by what. Electric Vehicle (EV) cars and vans aren’t suitable for heavy use such as towing caravans or powering Motorhomes, whereas hybrids are a useful compromise.

It is also clear that EVs might also be banned as the additional requirement for the electricity supply network will be substantial. In effect some people are advocating a complete ban on private car ownership in the future.

The Government consultation details are here: https://tinyurl.com/qul2ksv . You can respond with a simple email.

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Book Review – Demotorized – A Witty Look at the Use and Taxation of Motor Cars 

Demotorized Cover

“Demotorized” is a new book by experienced motoring journalist James Ruppert. As he describes it himself, it “is partly a giant whinge on behalf of the average motorist” whereas he believes motor cars are a “force for good that outweighs any downsides”. That is certainly what the Alliance of British Drivers believes.

The book is a witty look at the history of the automobile and how politicians have taxed them, often using excuses for doing so that have created unintended consequences. Or they have simply misunderstood the technology and the underlying science so that money has been wasted and negative results obtained – such as the push for diesel usage that has now been reversed.

The author takes a close look at the global warming paranoia that is being used to attack personal vehicle use – he clearly does not believe in it at all. He also takes a look at the revenue raising from the pursuit of speeding offences, but unfortunately fails to mention the false statistics on which it was based and how money is being generated by “speed awareness” courses. Indeed he suggests that the latter is a “local authority revenue raiser” when in fact few local authorities currently run such courses – It’s mainly commercial organisations and it’s them and the police who are the main financial beneficiaries. At least that is the current position although there are moves to enable local authorities to get on this gravy train.

There is a good section on the history and future prospects for electric vehicles. The author makes it plain that their economics have yet to be proven.

It’s quite a long book at over 300 pages and a mine of useful information so at £9.99 for the paperback edition it’s good value. But it’s still an easy and amusing read – indeed sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether the author is being serious or not.

In summary a useful book for anyone who wishes to learn more about the motor industry and how the motorist has suffered from perverse government policies.

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Electric Vehicle Charging, Beech Street Closure and CAZ Checking

There are many concerns about the practicality of electric vehicles. One major issue in London and other major UK cities will be how those people who park on the street will be able to charge them after all petrol/diesel car sales are banned in 2035, as the Government is proposing. The above photograph shows a typical outer London suburban street (Upwood Road in Lee, part of the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme in Lewisham). Cars are parked nose to tail during all of the day. Although some houses have off-street parking, the owners frequently have multiple vehicles some of which are parked on the road. In inner London there is typically no off-street parking at all with closely packed terraced houses

There are suggestions that charging points could be located in lampposts and be operated on a commercial basis, or by installing new charging points along the pavement border. Creating such infrastructure would be very expensive though.

Some local authorities such as the London Borough of Hounslow are suggesting that an alternative is to allow residents to trail a cable from their homes over the pavement (this writer has seen one example of this already). But that creates a trip hazard and is only practical if the car is able to be parked within a few feet of the home. As finding a parking space anywhere near can be exceedingly difficult on many roads, that does not seem likely to be a realistic proposition on most roads. Those people who live in blocks of flats would also have problems.

Even if a cable cover is used, or a channel dug in the pavement as has been trialled in Oxford, it still seems to have limited application with significant risks to the public and the cost might be £1,500 per cable for a channel according to a report in LTT.

The compulsory use of electric vehicles and banning of petrol/diesel ones has not been thought through.

Beech Street

The City of London Corporation is pushing ahead with the closure of Beech Street to all but electric vehicles from Mid-March. The Corporation is running some “Drop-in Events” nearby where you can get more information or ask questions on the 18th, 24th, 25th and 27th February.

CAZ Checking

Several major UK cities are now looking at implementing Clean Air Zones (CAZs) that will impose charges on non-compliant vehicles rather like the London ULEZ scheme. Birmingham and Leeds are two such cities which are reasonably well advanced with plans although the actual start dates have not been announced as yet.

The Government has set up a web site at https://www.gov.uk/check-clean-air-zone-charge where you will be able to check whether your vehicle is compliant but there is no central payment system and it seems auto-pay systems where you simply register your vehicle and a fee is charged to your credit card if you enter the zone will not be available as it is in London.

Basically it looks like this will be a very complicated bureaucratic nightmare to know whether you need to pay and how to pay. There is not even certainty that a vehicle that is compliant with one CAZ or the ULEZ will be compliant in another area.

As with the policy to promote electric vehicles, it appears that no consideration of the practicality of such policies has been considered. Perhaps the Government is intent on making driving so complicated that it puts people off doing so!!

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Press Release: Hybrid Cars To Be Banned From 2035

The Government plans to ban sales of new hybrid cars from 2035 along with all petrol and diesel cars. That has been brought forward from the previously planned date of 2040 and will now include hybrid vehicles.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) deplores this over-reaction to the views of the extreme end of the environmental movement. This change in the regulations ignores the whole-life cost in terms of carbon emissions of building, operating and scrapping vehicles. Premature changes will mean more emissions of CO2 not less.

There is also no certainty that by 2035 there will be vehicles available that provide sufficient range, or an adequate network of electric charging points that drivers can rely upon. It will also require a major expansion of the electricity grid to cope with the increased demand. All these changes will impose enormous costs on drivers and the economy, and threaten the very existence of the motor manufacturing industry.

Hybrid vehicles are a good compromise solution to meet the concerns of drivers and ensure that they transition to lower emission vehicles in due course, but this change might actually deter people from buying them. Bringing in tougher regulations might simply ensure that vehicle owners keep their old petrol/diesel vehicles for longer rather than replacing them with new ones, with the unintended consequence that emissions will not fall.

These proposals are part of the Government’s plans to achieve a net-zero carbon target by 2050 which will impose enormous costs on the economy and have no impact on the worldwide emissions. The UK is already a very small part of worldwide emissions and unless major nations such as China and the USA cease using coal in power stations, when they are currently building more of them, there will be negligible impact.

This latest announcement is just another example of “gesture politics” that may kowtow to the whims of environmental enthusiasts in the UK but will in reality have negligible impact apart from inconveniencing the general public.