More on Shapps Announcements and ABD Press Release

I covered the announcement of the Governments Covid-19 Transport Strategy in a previous blog post. Here are some further comments:

On the 9th May Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said that only 10% of former public transport capacity will be available in some locations if social distancing is to be maintained. It seems likely that will be so for many months even if people are permitted to go back to work. This will clearly cause major problems in London where almost all commuters use public transport such as trains, the underground and buses.

After the Prime Minister spoke on the 10th May, Mr Shapps issued this tweet: “Speaking this evening the PM was clear – if you’re going back to work in a job that cannot be done from home, please avoid public transport if possible. Go by car, or even better, cycle or walk. To help, we’ve announced more than £2bn in the biggest ever boost to cycling and walking”.

An example of how problematic London transport has become is a report in the Times that says Transport for London (TfL) has asked the Government for £2 billion. To quote: “TfL is down to its last £1bn, which is being burnt at a rate of £21m a day — leaving it less than two months from emptying its coffers and illustrating the intense pressure on local authority finances”. The article suggests the Government will attach some strings to any funding.

Mr Shapps was clearly right to point out the public transport capacity problem, but his apparent remedy to get everyone walking and cycling makes little sense. It is a typical view of politicians who can afford to live in central London. But for the vast majority of London commuters who travel many miles to get to work, it’s simply impractical even if they are keen cyclists.

Mr Shapps also justified his proposals by saying the epidemic is a great health opportunity to encourage active travel with the objective to double cycling by 2025. He also proposes to implement at least one “zero emission” city, and argues that one of the few positives will be improved air quality. He actually said there are “more than 20,000 extra deaths a year attributed to NO2 emissions”.

This figure is nonsense. It repeats the past allegation of 40,000 deaths from air pollution in the UK which has been shown to be simply wrong and a corruption of statistical evidence. In reality, there may be a few months shortening of life expectancy from all air pollution sources, a lot of which cannot be removed such as natural sources. But the figure is essentially uncertain and it is clear there are no deaths directly attributable to pollution. To specifically indicate NO2, which mainly comes from transport, as being the problem is also wrong when the Government advisory body COMEAP could not even agree that NO2 contributed to the negative impact on health of air pollution from particulates.

Mr Shapps clearly knows little about air pollution and its impact on health but is using his ignorance to put a positive spin on his actions in response to the transport crisis.

Just to show how there is no direct correlation between traffic levels and air pollution, this is what the London Air Quality Network (LAQN) recently reported: “Levels of the pollutant nitrogen dioxide (NO2) has reduced significantly during lockdown, research from King’s College London has found. Concentrations of NO2 have lowered as much as 55% due to less road traffic. However, levels of PM10 and PM2.5 were higher after lockdown than at any other time in 2020, due to easterly winds and pollutants from northern Europe”. The reduction in NO2 is perhaps not surprising when measurements by the LAQN are often taken at the roadside so will be heavily influenced by adjacent traffic. But as particulates (PM10 and PM2.5) are of much greater health concern you can see that Mr Shapps’ spin on the air pollution issue is somewhat misleading. Other UK cities have also shown no direct correlation between traffic reduction from the epidemic and air pollution – at least to date.

The air pollution problem is much more complex than can be solved by encouraging walking and cycling alone.

To conclude the ABD has issued the following national press release:

Shapps Announces £2 Billion War On Drivers.

Every city in the UK to be made a traffic hell like London.

Grant Shapps today announced £2 billion to supposedly enhance walking and cycling (See Reference 1 below), but when he expounded the detail it was clear that this amounted to yet more gridlock and bullying for motorists of the type we have unfortunately got used to in London (Reference 2).

Pavements will be widened, cycle lanes introduced, roads will be closed – yet Shapps had the effrontery to suggest that a 5% increase in cycling would benefit motorists by reducing congestion. Not if there are 50% less roads, it won’t, Grant. Do the maths.

And while drivers are bullied with ridiculous speed limits, an expansion of electric scooters is simultaneously mooted – devices capable of breaking urban speed limits but which have no effective braking, crash protection or licensing requirements. This shows that road safety is a sham – just an excuse to make driving unpleasant and stressful and so discourage it.

The result is that getting about in any motor vehicle – car, delivery van, tradesman, taxi – in our cities is going to become a total 24/7 nightmare in every city in the UK.

The excuse for this was Coronavirus, but it’s clear that these disgraceful measures will be permanent. Talk about taking advantage of a crisis to reduce people’s freedom. The day after VE Day and we’ve already forgotten why we fought World War 2.

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Notes for Editors

(1) £2 billion package to create new era for walking and cycling: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/2-billion-package-to-create-new-era-for-cycling-and-walking

(2) How London got rid of private cars – and grew more congested than ever:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2020/feb/11/how-london-got-rid-of-private-cars-and-grew-more-congested-than-ever

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Sadiq Khan Asks for £1 Billion Bail-Out

Sadiq Khan may be asking for as much as £1 billion to bail-out Transport for London (TfL). He did not deny it when interviewed on BBC television. The organisation is haemorrhaging cash as most of its income comes from bus and tube fares and usage of those has severely declined. It may be unable to pay its staff very shortly without some Government support and has already “furloughed” 7,000 staff from today. TfL will be able to access funding from the Government’s Job Retention Scheme for those staff, saving the organisation millions of pounds every week, but that’s only a short-term and temporary solution to the Mayor’s financial problems.

How did the Mayor get TfL into the position where it cannot survive the problems caused by the coronavirus epidemic? In essence because the Mayor is financially inept and has allowed TfL to run up massive deficits so it has minimal reserves to cope with such an event. We have commented on this issue repeatedly – for example here on the TfL budget in January: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

Total borrowing was forecast to reach £12.3 billion within 2 years because of delays to Crossrail and other issues, and that was before the impact of the coronavirus. A lot of the problem is caused by the Mayor spending money on programmes such as cycle schemes, Active Travel, Healthy Streets, Vision Zero road safety, the ULEZ and other policies for which there was no cost/benefit justification provided in this Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS). Now we are seeing the result of this financial incompetence and inability to manage the budget.

The ABD suggests that before the Government hands the Mayor any cash, they should lay down some conditions on how it will be used and insist on some changes to the MTS. Scrapping the expansion of the ULEZ would be a good starting point.

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Climate Assemblies Exposed As Platforms For Extremists

The ABD has issued the following press release:

Croydon Citizens’ Climate Assembly wants totalitarian kangaroo climate courts for net zero non-believers. At first it seemed like the LTT article (1) on the London Borough of Croydon Citizens’ Climate Assembly Report was an April Fool joke, but the actual report (2) does contain the following on page 5:

“People who fail to support the law of net zero greenhouse gas emissions should be identified and penalised. We want the majority of socially responsible residents supported and recognised for contributions they make. We also want to see those who let us down identified and penalised.”

It appears that Croydon Council wish to introduce some “thought police” as in George Orwell’s novel to tell us what we should believe.

ABD Environment Spokesman Paul Biggs said: “UK Net Zero policy should be scrutinised by all voters via a proper democratic process including a full cost-benefit analysis (3) rather than by a selected few overseen by biased advisors, which include Extinction Rebellion. In a free and democratic society people are entitled to hold their own views and make their own travel and lifestyle decisions. It’s ridiculous that a supposedly Conservative government is pandering to environmental extremists by supporting the setting up of assemblies dominated by extremists to advise on decisions that will negatively impact the economy and our lifestyles when there is not likely to be any beneficial impact on global CO2 emissions, weather or climate.”

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Notes for Editors

(1) Local Transport Today: Punish people who don’t back net zero: https://www.transportxtra.com/publications/local-transport-today/news/65037/-punish-people-who-don-t-back-net-zero-

(2) Croydon Citizens’ Assembly on Climate Change Report:  https://democracy.croydon.gov.uk/documents/s21475/Appendix%201%20Final%20report%20on%20Citizens%20Assembly%20on%20Climate%20Change.pdf

(3) Petition: Hold a referendum to scrap the UK’s policy of Net Zero CO2 by 2050   https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/300316

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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

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Mayoral Election Postponed and Transport Price Freeze Unfrozen

Among last weeks epidemic news and financial turmoil, two important items of news for Londoners sneaked out. First the election for Mayor of London has been postponed – possibly for a year, along with other local Government elections due in May. With Sadiq Khan well in the lead in the polls, that might be welcome news for other candidates as it will give them more time to gather supporters.

One of the current Mayor’s vote winning policies at the last election was his promise to freeze public transport fares. That proved popular with many Londoners despite the fact that it was financially rash and has resulted in a big deficit in Transport for London (TfL) finances and limited investment in new transport services. The Mayor has now decided to drop that commitment but he is committing to limit rises in Underground fares to inflation and continuing to freeze bus fares – if he gets re-elected of course.

Is that wise? One thing he appears to have overlooked is that TfL finances depend to a great extent on fare-paying passengers. Bus trips have been falling and the coronavirus impact will undoubtedly reduce the numbers travelling on London buses and the underground substantially as more people work from home and events in London are cancelled. Nobody is going to be travelling on crowded public transport if they can possibly avoid it by walking, cycling or getting taxis instead.

This might have a very severe short-term impact on TfL’s finances as a lot of TfL’s costs are fixed so any hit to revenue results in big financial losses. But TfL is already loaded with debt due to the fares freeze so may no longer be credit-worthy. That will be a real problem for the new Mayor whoever it is.

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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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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.