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

Additional Permit Parking Charges for Diesel Cars in Lambeth

The London Borough of Lambeth are proposing to implement additional permit parking changes for diesel cars that do not meet the Euro 6 standard – that means all of them that are more than a few years old. The additional charge will be £40 per year.

The ABD has sent in objections simply on the grounds that this is a political gesture that will have minimal impact on air pollution in the borough, or is motivated by a desire to raise revenue for the Council. A similar calculation recently for Merton showed that the impact might be a reduction of 0.4% in overall NOX emissions which is too small to be measurable in practice. In addition, as clearly there will be additional revenue raised for council budgets, without any offsetting reduction in charges for other vehicles, this change is effectively a revenue raising measure and hence illegal. It has been established by more than one legal precedent that permit parking charges cannot be used to raise revenue but can only cover administration and enforcement costs.

Roger Lawson

Publicity for Traffic Management Proposals

The ABD has set up a petition on the government website demanding that traffic authorities should be required to give greater publicity to proposed traffic management measures, such as reduced speed limits, traffic calming schemes, waiting restrictions etc, so that all road users, including drivers who use the roads but don’t live in the area, are made aware of them and have the opportunity to object.  The petition is now live and is at:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/186407

Please consider signing the petition and passing the details on to others who may wish to do so.

Roger Lawson

Westminster Diesel Parking Charge

The London Borough of Westminster is to trial an increased on-street parking charge for diesel vehicles. It will be a trial scheme in the Marylebone/Fitzrovia areas starting in April. Diesel vehicles will pay an extra 50% on the normal charge of £4.90 per hour.

The object is stated to improve air quality by deterring diesel vehicle usage and ownership. The additional money raised will be used to subsidise public transport schemes.

There are potentially two problems with this. Firstly it looks like a revenue raising measure when the law is quite clear on this matter (see Camden v. Cran and the more recent Barnet case). The Acts of Parliament that enable councils to charge for parking do not permit “revenue raising” measures.

Secondly, how will parking enforcement staff know whether a vehicle is diesel powered or not? Some models can be powered by either and the badge on them may not differentiate. Will parking attendants have access to DVLA records or will they be relying on the honesty of vehicle owners?

Hammersmith & Fulham

Diesel surcharges for permit parking are also an issue in the Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham. Councillor Greg Smith, Leader of the Conservative Group on the Council, had this to say at a recent meeting: “It is nonsensical from an environmental perspective. Diesel cars are simply not the worst offenders for putting nitrogen dioxide and nitrous oxide into the air. The worst offenders are aircraft and heavy goods vehicles, with buses and black cabs also contributing.”. He suggested the Council should encourage renewal of domestic boilers to cut pollution.

He also said “Bizarrely from a party who are supposed to be about fairness and the redistribution of wealth, it is deeply unfair to those who can least afford to change their vehicle AND beneficial to the owners of more expensive, fuel inefficient cars.

Indeed, we must ask ourselves why is it that a Labour Council is taxing the owner of a diesel Ford Fiesta on Crookham Road in my ward more, but the £119,000, 16 feet long Porsche Cayenne Turbo S parked next to it gets a tax break by still only paying £119 a year, despite taking up five feet more in length! Or perhaps they are proud of wanting to charge the owner of the 75mpg Skoda Fabia on Mimosa Street more to park, but the £132,000, 15mpg, 550hp, 5.0 Litre V8 Supercharged Petrol, Range Rover SV Autobiography parked next to it less.

Is that what the Labour Party has become? Champion of the supercar? Promoter of the Porsche? Friend of the Ferrari? All great cars, but it just doesn’t add up with what they say they are trying to achieve.

To be generous, Labour are confused on this matter. To be more accurate, I think they are engaged on a mission of spite – desperate for a headline, but without any substance or foundation.”

Comment: Yes these kind of taxes are token environmental gestures when there is little data provided on what the benefit will be. So as so often these days we get policies promoted without any proper cost/benefit analysis and the cost of introducing these schemes is simply ignored. It’s truly “gesture politics” of the worst kind.

Westminister Council is also a particularly bad example of a lack of democratic accountability and information provision. Try searching their web site for information on these proposals, reports on the topic, minutes of meetings that considered the issue, public consultations, or ways to object etc. You can’t find anything!

Roger Lawson

Diesel Permit Parking Surcharge in Merton

The London Borough of Merton are proposing to introduce a surcharge on all Parking Permits where the vehicle is diesel powered. It has already been approved by Councillors although the decision has been called in for scrutiny at a meeting on the 14th December.

Although the increased charge would be phased in over some years, the surcharge may be as much as £150 which would treble the existing cost for car owners in Merton.

The Council is doing this in the name of attacking the level of NOX emissions and resulting negative health impacts. However, the report they have commissioned and published on this subject leaves out a lot of the evidence necessary to make an informed decision on the matter. For example, a quick analysis revealed that this policy may only reduce such emissions in the longer term by 0.4%. A negligible figure and which might even be impossible to detect.

Why should diesel vehicle owners who require on-street parking be penalised when those with off-street parking or who drive in from outside the borough are not? It’s simply irrational and smacks of “gesture politics” of the worst kind.

Perhaps it has more to do with economics because it would raise revenue for the council when council budgets are so under pressure. But unfortunately raising permit parking charges to do that is illegal which has been backed up by several legal case precedents.

Or of course it may be simply an attack on car owners in one of the few ways that Councils can do so. Regardless, any residents of the Borough of Merton should complain to their local Councillors and attend the council meeting on the 14th December to see what transpires.

You can read the full ABD’s submission to Merton Council on this matter here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ABD_Letter%20to%20LBB%20Merton%202016-12-02.pdf

Roger Lawson

London Mayor Transport Policies

As we are coming up to the election of a new London Mayor on May 5th, and of course for representatives to sit on the Greater London Assembly as well, it looks a timely moment to look at the policies of the main parties. I will only comment on their transport policies.

There is one thing that clearly differentiates the two main candidates for Mayor. It is that one is the son of a billionaire financier and businessman, while the other is the son of a London bus driver. You can easily guess which is which of course, but their policies on transport are actually not that much different. Both candidates will continue to support that expensive hand out to the electorate called the “Freedom Pass” where both the rich and poor get encouraged to consume public transport by unjustifiable subsidies which impose a major financial burden on local borough councils (and which the public end up paying for but not transparently). Both support the proposed new East London river crossings, investment in Crossrail 2 and tougher rules on HGVs entering London.

They are also both keen to reduce air pollution in London, and to encourage cycling. So Conservative Zac Goldsmith says “Dirty cars, vans and buses contaminate the air we breathe” and he intends to “make London the greenest city on earth”. As he also says in his manifesto, he has been a lifelong environmentalist and is opposed to expanding Heathrow airport.

Labour’s candidate, Sadiq Khan, is keen to expand London’s public transport network while making it more affordable. One difference between the candidates is that Mr Khan would freeze fares for 4 years and cut Transport for London’s budget. Indeed he is threatening to take personal control of TfL by chairing that organisation. As he says, TfL is a vast organisation but he thinks it is inefficient and flabby. He suggests there are major efficiency savings to be made but he would spend more of TfL’s budget on cycling – expansion of the Superhighway network and Quietways for example. He would also spend more on support of 20mph zones. Mr Goldsmith says that freezing fares is not practical to meet the investment plans for TfL and maintain operations, i.e. that a budget could not be devised to do this.

Mr Khan also opposes a third runway at Heathrow but prefers expansion of Gatwick to meet demand for air travel growth. He supports keeping the Congestion Charge (aka “Tax”) as its current level but he would bring forward the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and extend it to major arterial routes “or a wider section of central London” as he rates cleaning up London’s air to be a priority. He would also call upon the Government to “introduce a diesel vehicle scrappage scheme”, although that would surely not be likely to prompt a positive response.

Incidentally both candidates seem keen to pedestrianise Oxford Street. That has always been a popular concept but ignores the practicality of routing all the buses elsewhere apart from the objections from the retailers that this would deter a lot of their customers.

The Green Party (candidate Sian Berry), who actually did quite well in the last London elections, would also like more investment in walking, cycling and public transport. They would introduce a “smarter” congestion charge system with much more extensive coverage and also expand the ULEZ. They also support a workplace parking levy.

UKIP (candidate Peter Whittle) do not seem to have published a specific London manifesto at the time of writing, but historically they have vowed to scrap HS2, have opposed speed cameras being used simply to raise revenue, and opposed road tolls and congestion charging.

There are also a large number of other minor party candidates, if you don’t find any of the above to your liking. And don’t forget this is a transferable voting system (a supplementary vote where your second choice is used if there is no outright winner on first choices). So there is no harm in declaring your preference for a minority candidate. Just make sure you VOTE FOR SOMEONE.

Zac Goldsmith’s views on cycling 

Now it just so happens that I was able to ask a couple of questions of Zac Goldsmith at a recent husting meeting. I asked him what he was going to do to sort out the traffic congestion that Boris had created with the Cycle Superhighways, and whether he was a keen cyclist himself. In answer to the first question he said he would look at the issue when the works had been completed, and might consider mitigation measures if necessary. He avoided answering the second question altogether. An altogether weak response. I am afraid Mr Goldsmith comes across as a glib and slick politician but one who is not likely to win the election, particularly if he goes on in this manner. Needless to say he is trailing in the opinion polls at present.

But whichever candidate wins, it looks like we will get a continuation of the policies pursued in the last few years which have been so damaging to the road network of London.

Roger Lawson

Parking Enforcement by Camera in Bromley

Readers will probably be aware of the new Deregulation Act which has severely limited the use of cameras to enforce parking. They can only be used now to enforce:

– school keep clear markings

– bus stop/stand clearways

– red routes

– bus lanes

These were granted as exceptions to the general principle of not allowing camera enforcement after representations by local authorities that it would make for great difficulties in enforcement. However, there is still the overriding guidance on operational use issued by the Department for Transport.

Bromley Council had been using 4 mobile camera cars to enforce parking restrictions generally in addition to outside schools, i.e. when outside school opening closing times and during school holidays they were deployed on other roads. These will now be scrapped (and probably don’t have any resale value) as the limited use now possible for them makes them uneconomic. Instead to enforce school zig-zag areas they will be replaced with ten automated CCTV cameras that will be rotated around Bromley’s schools.

These are “automated” in the sense that by software they identify automatically infringements (and simply stopping, not parking, on the zig-zags is an infringement, but a PCN will only be issued after a review by a Civil Enforcement Officer). In addition another ten automated cameras will be used to enforce bus lanes (to replace “manned” static cameras).

The council expects to generate more income from the parking cameras, with no more cost, but less income from the bus lane cameras due to changes to Bromley High Street, resulting in a net small reduction in overall “surplus” on such operations. The Council was very concerned about the impact of the Deregulation Act on parking surpluses which are a significant contribution to overall Council budgets.

This writer asked a question on the legality of the new approach at a Council Meeting on the 30th September. The answers given by the Committee Chairman did not satisfy me so I subsequently wrote this letter to him, which spells out the issues:

Dear Mr Huntington-Thresher,

I must say I was very disappointed by your answer to my question at the Environment PDS Committee last week.

As I pointed out in the meeting, the current “Operational Guidance to Local Authorities” makes it quite clear that the use of cameras (which result in PCNs being sent in the post to infringers) is severely limited. As it says in that document, the guidance “advises all English enforcement authorities of the procedures that they must follow, the procedures to which they must have regard and the procedures that the Government recommends they follow when enforcing parking restrictions” so effectively it has the force of law.

Although I do not wish to encourage anyone to park on the zig-zags outside schools, the use of automated cameras to enforce them is not compliant with the rules on operational Guidance in the aforementioned document or with the Deregulation Act 2015. Indeed the above document says specifically that “Where approved devices may be used, the Secretary of State recommends that approved devices are used only where enforcement is difficult or sensitive and CEO enforcement is not practical“.

As I pointed out in the meeting, I do not see why enforcement by CEOs in the normal way would not be possible outside schools. Even if motorists drive away before being given a ticket they can be sent by post later, and as on zig-zags even stopping temporarily is an infringement there is no need to allow for grace periods. So enforcement would not be “difficult or sensitive” – no more than for any other parking offence. The additional argument was put that people might drive off in a hurry if they saw enforcement happening and cause an accident, but that seems very unlikely. In essence the presence of a CEO is much more likely to deter stopping or parking outside schools which is the whole point of the exercise whereas an automated camera will just result in post-facto fines.

Your response was in essence, well if we get challenged in law and lose the challenges then we will reconsider. But in the meantime we will spend a lot a money implementing these cameras and issuing tickets.

To my mind this is a most irresponsible attitude. Firstly it flouts the law and councils should not set such a bad example, and secondly it might result in the council incurring the liability of having to refund all past PCNs when they are shown to be wrong – and that’s apart from the money wasted on the cameras that might prove to be useless in due course.

The proper course of action would be a) take proper legal advice on the matter by consulting the Secretary of State at the Department of Transport, and/or some other independent legal authority before this plan goes ahead.

I probably don’t need to point out to you that clearly this plan is motivated by financial objectives – namely that using an automated system is likely to produce revenue at minimal cost. But you should not be using parking fines to generate profits, which is again contrary to Government guidelines.

In general the proliferation of cameras everywhere is abhorred by the general public. We don’t wish to live in a big brother society where our every move is monitored by authorities and even accidental infringements of petty rules get penalised.

I ask you again to reconsider these proposals.

Roger Lawson 9/10/2015

Final Comment: Although one appreciates the focus of councillors on running a balanced budget, using cameras and automated processes to issue PCNs is a recipe for disgruntled voters. Perhaps the Council should consider a scheme similar to that recently pioneered by Thurrock Council in Essex – namely training teachers and parents to issue PCNs outside schools.