Mayor’s Dubious Gesture and Taxi Age Consultation

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced more money for his “scrap for cash” fund. Previously this trade-in scheme for older more polluting vehicles had funds allocated of £25 million but it’s now £48 million. This is particularly designed to help small business owners to replace vans and to help “low-income Londoners scrap older cars”, i.e. the vast majority of vehicle owners will not be eligible.

However, details of the additional scrappage scheme won’t be available until later in the year, despite the fact that the central zone ULEZ commences in April. Details of even the first scheme for vans do not seem to be available from TfL. In reality the amount of money being offered will not cover the vast majority of costs incurred by people in replacing cars and vans, so this looks like a token gesture.

The Mayor did of course promote this scheme at a recent Clean Air Summit meeting where he had children support his actions in the audience. Likewise at a recent London Assembly Committee meeting. They had clearly been well-rehearsed by their teachers. Some of these children came from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow. If you think it is wrong for uneducated children to be used to promote dubious policies which are primarily aimed at raising taxes rather than solving real air pollution issues, you could contact the school here: http://www.henrymaynardprimary.co.uk/contact-details/

The Mayor is a serial offender in using children to support his political campaigning as the ABD has covered previously. Does he have no ethics?

The Mayor has also launched a public consultation on changes to the age limits of taxis – see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/taxi-age-limits/?cid=taxi-age-limit . Older diesel taxis are undoubtedly some of the most polluting vehicles in central London, but will his changes actually have an impact on pollution? There is a very long phase in time which means that the taxi vehicle fleet might change substantially anyway. There is also still only one electric charging point for taxis in central London so any taxi owner would be unlikely to move to an electric vehicle until that issue is resolved.

Note that these proposals replace previous ones that have not worked. As the Consultation says: “in spite of previous steps to reduce taxi emissions, the required reduction in emissions has not been achieved”. But there is no clear estimate provided of the impact of the new proposed measures on air pollution. And as usual with TfL consultations of late, no cost/benefit justification provided as there should be.

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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TfL’s Business Plan and Budgets – Financial Profligacy

The Mayor of London has published a Business Plan for TfL for the next five years plus a Budget for 2018/19– see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/publications-and-reports/business-plan. The Business Plan is much as outlined in his adopted Transport Strategy so he aims to get the proportion of journeys taken by walking, cycling or public transport up to 65% by 2024 when it’s about 63% today. That’s despite the recent lack of progress in achieving that goal as highlighted in our previous article on London travel trends here: https://tinyurl.com/ybtchctj

For east Londoners he is committing to progress that vanity project called the Rotherhithe bridge, but there should be new Woolwich ferry boats delivered in 2019, progress on the Silvertown Tunnel and the document mentions a budget for “renewal” of the Rotherhithe Tunnel.

But the bad news for all Londoners is that the Mayor intends that TfL will continue to run a big financial deficit until 2021. That date does of course coincide with the expansion of the ULEZ zone to the North/South Circular which will be providing more income and also the Elizabeth Line (Crossrail) should also be in operation by then which will also assist. There is a small surplus budgeted for in 2022/23.

Another item of bad news for all Londoners is that “proactive” street maintenance budgets will remain at zero so we will see more short-term and reactive patching. This is surely a short-sighted financial approach. Has the Mayor not heard of the phrase “a stitch in time saves nine”.

The delays to Crossrail and falling bus usage have been two causes of the short-term deficits but the Mayor continues to hobble himself with the promise he made to freeze public transport fares so as to get elected. The Mayor claims to have reduced “like-for-like” operating costs in the last two years but that is a claim that is difficult to verify and overall income/costs are what matter.

One consequence of this financial ineptitude is that TfL are having to borrow more money. Debt has been, and will continue to rise rapidly based on the budgets. It will be 175% of revenue in 2018/19 (revenue not profits note), and financing costs will be 7.5% of revenue in that year. That does not look like a sound financial strategy to anyone familiar with the financial world. The Mayor is just in the process of building up a big problem for his successor.

What is remarkable about the two aforementioned documents is the lack of detail on where the Mayor is actually spending money, e.g. the proposed capital expenditure. We just get headline titles such as £116 million to be spent on “Healthy Streets”, £80 million on “Air Quality”, £114 million on “Public Transport”, etc. There is also little detail on operational income and expenditure. The budget for 2018/19 has to be approved by the London Assembly and there is a bit more detail in this version submitted to them: https://tinyurl.com/y78cjoyq

So for example it shows (on page 37) that the introduction of the ULEZ (for central London only in 2019) will cost around £40 million. But the revenue from it seems to be just dumped into “other income” so it is impossible to evaluate the cost versus benefit of it.

Here are some simple questions one could ask that are not answered by these documents such as:

  • How much money is being spent on Cycle Superhighways, Quietways and other cycle projects?
  • How much does the Santander Cycle Hire scheme cost to run, or does it make a profit? What is being invested in expansion of that scheme?
  • How much is TfL spending on funding wide-area 20 mph schemes in local boroughs?
  • What will be the real costs and income from the ULEZ, both before and after expansion?

There is simply insufficient detail provided to answer these questions. These documents do not provide enough financial detail to judge the merits of the Mayor’s plans at all. One suspects a lot of dubious projects and expenditure are being concealed in these public relations documents.

But there is one thing for certain. There is no budget to improve the road network in London so as to increase capacity and reduce traffic congestion. With London’s population expanding, that is a serious omission.

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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How TfL and Local Councils Waste Your Money

On the 17th December I attended a Committee Meeting of the London Borough of Bromley. It can be useful to attend such meetings so as to become familiar with what your local representatives are doing. This meeting was one of the Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee called specially to review the proposal for a cycle lane on Crofton Road in Orpington. The proposal to spend £673,000 on this project had been “called in” by Councillor Tony Owen and others after a decision by the Portfolio Holder Councillor Huntington-Thresher to proceed with it. So the Scrutiny Committee had to review the decision.

This cycle lane was originally planned to run all the way from Locksbottom to Orpington Station at a cost of nearly a million pounds. The scheme was reduced in cost when the section from Ormonde Avenue was cut out. Note that the funding to cover the cost of the scheme comes from Transport for London (TfL). As was pointed out in the meeting, this is still taxpayer’s money and councillors need to take care of it.

Councillor Owen spoke against the scheme. He said that Councillor Huntington-Thresher had previously assured us that he would not make decisions that were not evidence-based. He suggested this scheme was being driven by two motives: spending of budget money and the need to encourage switching from using cars to using buses or cycling – but the latter was not credible. He said that it was “overkill” when the council could just paint some cycle lanes on the road. It might result in slower traffic and more air pollution and might disrupt bus timetables. There are possible alternative routes to the Station. He also expressed concern about the impact on emergency service vehicles who had not been consulted.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher responded that they are encouraging cycling but there was slow take up of bikes. Others mentioned that TfL were keen to support this proposal as part of their wider cycling strategy and considered this a key route.

There was discussion of the number of cyclists who might use the route – TfL had forecast 21,000 apparently. But a TfL survey in the summer had shown only 91 cyclists on the road in a day. It was suggested that the forecast usage was simply incredible.

The public consultation on the proposals were also discussed. Over 3,000 consultation forms had been sent out to local residents but only 26 responses were received. Of those 17 were in favour. The Crofton Residents Association Chairman was reported as saying the consultation was “not credible”.

The Scrutiny Committee voted to take no action so the scheme will proceed as proposed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Comment: Yes it’s your money that is being spent by TfL on what seems a totally unjustifiable cycle scheme. Encouraging cycling may be meritorious but I doubt that cyclists are deterred from using this route at present on what is mainly a wide road (see photo above). There was also no apparent case in road safety terms as no accident data was presented at the meeting. It’s more likely the number of cyclists is very low on this route because there is a steep hill from Orpington High Street up to the Station and thereafter west on Crofton Road. Could it be that bureaucrats at TfL just looked at a map and did not actually try cycling the route?

This “eye-watering” expenditure as Councillor Owen called it, is a ridiculous use of public funds when TfL are already running up a major budget deficit. TfL are funding similar schemes all over London in other boroughs as cycling gets funding that is unjustified on any rational basis. It is very unlikely that car users on that route will turn to cycling and the cost per cyclist is simply enormous. The public consultation was also very selective. Were people told how much money it would cost and how few cyclists were currently using the route? I doubt it.

In summary, it certainly seems unwise of councillors to support this expenditure. The cost of £673,000 would be a godsend to hard-pressed council budgets if spent on other things such as social services. TfL is in essence being financially mismanaged by a Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who seems to have no financial acumen whatsoever. That is very apparent from his Transport Strategy for example. He complains about lack of money but wastes money on such schemes as that in Orpington.

Mayor to Spend Even More Money on Cycling

The Mayor has recently announced a “Major Action Plan to Get More Londoner’s Cycling”. This will involve improved standards for cycle routes, a rebranding of Superhighways/Quietways, and a cycling infrastructure database but also undoubtedly more expenditure on cycling provision. See https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/action-plan-to-get-more-londoners-cycling

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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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