Air Pollution in Islington, Finsbury Square Car Park, Rotherhithe Bridge and Hammersmith Bridge

This article contains a summary of some recent news on transport issues of interest to Londoners.

Islington Air Pollution

First London air quality is a hot topic of late and it’s interesting to look at an “Air Pollution Update” published by Islington Council (see https://tinyurl.com/qljusdl for the full report but a few key points follow).

On PM2.5 particulates it reports steady falls from 2010 to 2016 so that road transport now only supplies 28% of the total. Commercial cooking is a larger proportion and has not declined at all while there are lots of other contributors. As regards NO2 which is the other emission that people are concerned with even though the proof that it is dangerous is quite limited, this has been falling sharply since 2005-2007. It might now be half what it was on the latest figures – see chart below from the report.

Islington NO2 Emissions

These declines are probably similar in other London boroughs and air pollution will continue to decline from road transport including cars due to tougher vehicle standards. The Mayor of London’s imposition of a wider area ULEZ is simply not justified.

Finsbury Square Car Park

Those who have worked in the City might be aware that there is an underground car park operated by NCP under Finsbury Square. It has a bowling green and an area of grass on top which is used by City workers in the summer, but it is generally a bit run down with abandoned petrol stations still there. But now there are plans to redevelop it. What the redevelopment might contain is not clear as the plans have not been made public. It would certainly be a pity if one of the few car parks in the City is lost.

Rotherhithe Bridge or Ferry

We have previously covered the proposals for a bridge (cyclists/pedestrians only) across the Thames at Rotherhithe. This was an enormously expensive project for little benefit and received many local objections. TfL have now announced they are progressing the design of a ferry crossing instead. See https://tinyurl.com/tx5zutf for more information, but it’s still only for cyclists and pedestrians, and the economics are not yet disclosed.

Hammersmith Bridge

The closure of Hammersmith Bridge is creating lots of difficulties for residents of West London. It has been suggested that a temporary road bridge be put in place while the listed bridge is being repaired, at a possible cost of £5 million, but it seems there is little support for that idea. Instead TfL is proposing a temporary walking and cycling bridge. This would be a seven-metre wide, prefabricated steel structure. See https://tinyurl.com/st8s7m4 for more information and to give your views. But it will hardly solve the traffic congestion problems that are otherwise going to last for some years.

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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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Building on Station Car Parks

One of the items I overlooked when discussing the TfL Business Plan in a previous blog post was the proposal to build on car parks owned by TfL. There is obviously a high demand for more housing in London and TfL control a significant amount of land so it is not unreasonable to look at whether some of it could be used for housing. However building on station car parks would remove a very useful facility and cause great problems for many people who use them as part of a commuting strategy. To quote from TfL’s Business Plan:

“Working with Grainger plc, we have launched Connected Living London, a ground-breaking new partnership. Together, we are delivering one of the UK’s biggest Build to Rent programmes, with 3,000 homes being built across seven sites. Arnos Grove, which will be one of the first sites we submit to the Local Planning Authority, will see us transform a car park into around 150 good-quality rental homes – 40 per cent of which will be affordable. Not only will we provide the homes London desperately needs, but by developing on car parks, like Arnos Grove and Cockfosters, we will be promoting active and sustainable travel in line with the Mayor’s Transport Strategy”.

In respect of the Cockfosters proposals, there is a consultation you can give your views to here: https://www.givemyview.com/cockfosters/ , or for Arnos Grove here: https://www.givemyview.com/arnosgrove/ . The questions are biased in that there is no option to respond “do nothing” but you can still make your views clear.

People affected by these proposals could also object to the Planning Applications once they are made. See Enfield and Barnet council planning systems.

There are also petitions on Change.org against the Cockfosters proposal – see https://www.change.org/p/sadiq-khan-stop-cockfosters-station-car-park-development-to-keep-crucial-facilities-in-our-area and here for Arnos Grove: https://www.change.org/p/sadiq-khan-let-s-stop-tfls-proposed-development-of-the-car-parks-at-arnos-grove-station

Roger Lawson

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Delivery Consolidation in the City and New Traffic Signs Manual

There were a couple of interesting items for readers in a recent edition of Local Transport Today.

Firstly the problem of emissions from delivery vehicles (HGVs and LGVs) in the City of London is being tackled by plans for “consolidation centres”. That would mean fewer individual trips by motorised vehicles with the last mile being covered by cargo bikes or even on foot. The City of London Corporation has identified three possible locations for “last mile logistic hubs” – the London Wall car park, the Barbican Trading Estate and Middlesex Street car park.  I am not even sure what they mean by the Barbican Trading Estate although there are some large car parks in the Barbican Centre. However most of those are accessed via Beech Street which will be a zero emission road soon.

As regards the London Wall car park, I am familiar with that as I use it occasionally but it gets full up already at certain times so removing space for other purposes does not seem a good idea. It is one of the few car parks in the centre of the City and the entrances and exits are not at street level so surely it is far from ideal for heavy cargo bikes.

A new Chapter 6 of the Traffic Signs Manual used by road traffic engineers to help design roads has been issued. Chapter 6 covers junction design and pedestrian signals as well and replaces several “Traffic Advisory Leaflets” issued by the Department for Transport (DfT). It is particularly of interest in respect of the timings of pedestrian crossings and their location. Chapter 6 is only 200 pages – and you thought designing roads was simple.

See https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/traffic-signs-manual for all of the Traffic Signs Manual chapters.

Roger Lawson

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London Councils Making Even More Money From Parking

The RAC Foundation have published some figures on how much local Councils profit from parking. The latest data shows that the profits they make have risen by 7% to £930 million in the last year. The profits in some London boroughs are the highest in the country with Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea, Wandsworth, Hammersmith & Fulham, Camden and Islington all being in the top 7. In fact 12 of the 13 highest profiteers in the country are all in London with only Brighton & Hove being the exception.

Total income received from parking was £1.75 billion with costs incurred were £0.82 billion. Income comes from on-street parking, permit parking schemes, off-street car parks owned or run by Councils and parking enforcement. They are not supposed to make a profit from on-street parking but clearly do in many cases. However they can legally charge what they like for off-street car parks.

Any surplus from on-street parking is supposed to be spent on transport improvements but that is in practice a very broad item and includes expenditure such as supporting concessionary public transport fares, cycle lanes and many other things that have no benefit whatsoever to vehicle users who have paid for the parking. In reality Councils are using parking fees as a slush fund to finance all kinds of projects in some boroughs. Some of the surplus is spent on road maintenance but that has been falling which is why there are more and more potholes on our roads.

It is surely time for national government to intervene to rectify these abuses that are taking place because high parking charges are destroying many High Streets and Town Centres as retailers are already under pressure from the internet.

For more information and to see how your local borough compares the RAC Foundation report is present here: https://tinyurl.com/qm9ypy2

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Sadiq Khan’s Election Manifesto – Have Your Say

The Labour Party are inviting everyone to have their say on Sadiq Khan’s Manifesto for re-election as London Mayor in 2020. You can read about his achievements to date and submit answers to their questions via this web page: https://tinyurl.com/y29yu999 . It is of course a very biased document like all consultations that Mr Khan presides over, but anyone can respond – you don’t need to be a Labour Party member.

Perhaps the Mayor is short of ideas to ensure he gets re-elected. His last big vote winner was freezing public transport fares but after three years of holding the tide back of inflation in King Canute fashion he has managed to dig a deep hole in Transport for London’s finances which simply cannot continue. Bus services are being reduced as a result while traffic congestion increases. His policies on Congestion Charging and the ULEZ will impose higher costs on many Londoners with minimal public health benefit. He has also clearly failed to tackle rising violent crime and not solved London’s housing problem – indeed his only proposal for the latter is to introduce rent controls which would make matters worse.

But he does admit to increasing the Council Tax Precept (what you pay to the Mayor from your local council taxes) to the maximum allowed. No thanks Mr Mayor. All his other claimed achievements are quite trivial in relation to the problems Londoners perceive as key issues.

All the way through the document, the Mayor emphasises that he has limited powers over many aspects and clearly wants more. But it would be very dangerous to give him more.

Here are some of the questions and how you may care to respond to them (I have only covered those questions that are relevant to transport):

Environment and Climate Change:

Question: How do we take the next steps to clean up London’s air and oversee a massive shift from polluting cars to walking, cycling and electric vehicles at the same time?

Answer: concentrate on fixing the vehicles over which you have control and which are major contributors to air pollution, i.e. diesel buses. You also need to tackle air pollution on the Underground. Otherwise any measures should be justified on cost/benefit grounds and scare-mongering over an imaginary public health crisis as the justification for higher taxes should be stopped. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular should be halted and the introduction of more Cycling schemes that create more traffic congestion (and hence air pollution) should be halted.

Transport:

Question: How else can Sadiq make London’s transport system affordable and accessible to all Londoners?

Answer: Stop wasting money on schemes with very poor cost/benefits (such as the proposed Rotherhithe bridge and most of the Cycle Superhighways the finance for which has to come out of public transport fares. He needs to stop spending money and imposing taxes on road users to make the transport system more affordable for everyone. That includes halting the investment in 20 MPH speed limit schemes and cycle schemes that have poor cost/benefits. He should also cease support of road-pricing and workplace parking levies.

Question: What are the future major schemes that Sadiq could focus on delivering?

Answer: The Silvertown Tunnel is one which will be a major benefit for east London. Repairing the Hammersmith Bridge is another for West Londoners. Improving major east-west and north-south road routes such as the Embankment rather than degrading them with 20 MPH speed limits and cycle lanes should be another key objective.

Question: What more can be done to promote walking and cycling?

Answer: Some youth elixirs for the elderly and inform would help and concealing the dangers or cycling is another. That is of course just a witty response to a proposal that is unnecessary and has major disbenefits.

Question: When asking for more powers and devolution from Government on transport issues, where should Sadiq focus his energies?

Answer: Give the Mayor powers to introduce policies to reduce the population of London so as to reduce pressure on the transport, housing and public health systems. Specifically redistribution of business and people out of London and powers to reduce immigration and encourage birth control.

He should also argue for a commitment to devolve more powers to local boroughs so as to avoid TfL dictating local borough policies and more funds financed by central Government to be given to local boroughs solely to be used on improving the road network in London. In addition the Mayor should be given the power to set sensible minimum parking standards for new developments (not maximum ones) in London boroughs.

Those are just a few ideas to help Mr Khan, or indeed his opponents, to get elected.

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Croydon Permit Parking Charges – Public Ignored

The London Borough of Croydon has published the responses to their consultation on changes to parking charges that will result in large increases, particularly for certain vehicles. It will mean the permit parking charge for a vehicle emitting more than 225 g/km of CO2 will rise from £80 to £300. There will also be an additional surcharge of 30% for pre-2015 diesel vehicles and it is also proposed to introduce similar increases for Pay & Display parking spaces.

Councillors have decided to push ahead with the proposals despite the fact that of the 148,000 cars registered in Croydon only 9,000 pay for parking permits. So the impact on air pollution in Croydon will be negligible even if some residents respond by changing their vehicles. As most of the air pollution comes from buses, HGVs and LGVs, charging resident car owners in the name of reducing pollution is pointless.

But the Council will make as much as £162,000 in additional permit charges each year which gives you some idea of the motive for this change.

There were 1,149 responses to the public consultation of which 1,039 submitted objections (i.e. 90%) with only 62 responses in support. Some 19% of respondents suggested this was simply a way for the council to generate income, and they were certainly correct on that point. The council’s response to that was to say the parking charges were insufficient to reduce the number of cars on the roads of Croydon.

You can read all the responses to the public consultation and the Council’s report here: https://tinyurl.com/y3o4oby2 . Here’s a summary of one response: “It is a tax on the poor. It’s not fair on those people who cannot afford to buy a new card…. It is another poverty tax…..”.

Comment: This is a typical example of doing a public consultation and then ignoring the result, apart from ignoring the logic and likely impact of the proposal. Regrettably Labour controlled councils such as Croydon often adopt the stance of ignoring the views of the public because Councillors think they know better what is good for you. I hope that those impacted will bear this in mind at the next borough elections.

Roger Lawson

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Lewisham Parking Charges to Increase

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to revise it permit parking charges and make other changes to its parking policies. It includes emission-based charges that means owners of diesel vehicles or with larger engines will pay much higher charges.

They are doing this because they claim “air pollution is causing a public health crisis in London…” but that is simply not true. Londoners are living longer than ever. They also claim that introducing such charges will improve air quality when that is not true either – the vast majority of air pollution comes from buses, HGVs and other commercial vehicles, from home heating, offices, industry and other sources – such as blown in from outside the borough.

Charging car owners more will have negligible impact on air pollution in Lewisham but will cause some residents to incur substantial extra costs in paying higher permit charges or the cost of changing their vehicles.

But it will also have no impact on residents who park off-road or on visitors who drive through Lewisham so it’s basically an attack on a small minority of residents in the name of fixing a non-existent health crisis. It’s also probably about raising income from parking but the Council seems unable to disclose the financial impact.

The Council is running a public consultation on the proposals which you can access here: https://lewisham.gov.uk/myservices/parking/permits/parking-policy-consultation . Don’t forget to answer all the personal information questions such as sexual orientation, ethnicity, religious beliefs, and sources of income so that Lewisham Council can keep all your personal information on file for anyone to hack! I’m joking in that regard of course. Don’t answer them.

Roger Lawson

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Heathrow Airport Expansion, M25 Diversion and HS2

Heathrow Airport has announced a public consultation on its plans to expand by building a third runway. This will require diversion of the M25 into a tunnel over which the new runway will be built.

The western side of the M25 is one of the busiest sections of the national motorway network and has regular congestion at present. The additional traffic generated by the airport expansion plus the construction traffic and the disruption caused by the diversion is surely going to make congestion worse both in the short term and long term.

In addition the additional planes flying in and out of the airport will add to air pollution in the area which is already one of the worse such spots in London. The airport plans “no significant increase in parking at the airport despite the scale of growth” which seems somewhat unrealistic. But they plan to deter people from driving to the airport by introducing a ULEZ charge for most visitors. Effectively folks using vehicles will be targeted as a way to offset the additional emissions from planes.

As regards the general merits of expanding the airport, the ABD has no official stance as there are differing opinions on the subject. But the impact on the M25 and surrounding roads will clearly be negative and should be opposed.

For more information and to respond to the consultation, go here: https://aec.heathrowconsultation.com/

HS2

Boris Johnson, our potential future Prime Minister, is drawing up plans to have an independent review of HS2 which many people oppose. But it is likely to be run by Douglas Oakervee who chaired HS2 between 2012 and 2013. This looks like a future “whitewash” and a sop to those who oppose HS2 on economic and environmental grounds.

Roger Lawson

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The Cost of Khan – 3

The Conservative Group on the Greater London Assembly have produced their latest report on the 3-year record of the Mayor in the “Cost of Khan”. It analyses the performance of Mayor Sadiq Khan in the job. Anyone who thinks he is performing well in the role should read it. For those who think he is performing badly, it provides the evidence.

I’ll focus on a just a few of the issues in this note. Khan’s war on the suburbs with the new “London Plan” is covered where housing density is increased and back gardens are allowed to be built on. It includes proposals to limit car parking provision which shows the Mayor’s lack of awareness and consideration for outer London residents and their needs.

Financial incompetence is highlighted such as over Crossrail, the pay of TfL employees and the ULEZ scheme. The staff in City Hall have gone up from 897 when he became Mayor in 2016 to what will be 1,232 staff in the next financial year. That’s a 37% increase and pay in total has gone up an even more staggering 59%. That’s one reason you are paying more in Council Tax!

Even his record on the environment and air pollution is poor with promises of tree planting not met, and the very high pollution from diesel buses which account for 20% of NO2 emissions is not falling as replacement is slow. The ULEZ scheme will be very expensive to implement and operate and is not likely to have a great impact on air pollution.

In summary, the Mayor is a great expert at blowing his own trumpet by spending large sums on PR and social media. He also spends a lot of time on politics that are outside his remit such as Brexit and the Trump visit. Perhaps he just wants to distract the public from his failings to do his job effectively?

You can read the detail report here:

https://www.glaconservatives.co.uk/cost-of-khan.html

Roger Lawson

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