Shaun Bailey’s Policies on Transport

The Conservative Party have selected Shaun Bailey as their candidate Mayor of London in 2020, when Sadiq Khan comes up for re-election. He has served on the London Assembly since May 2016, and previous to that was a youth worker and advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron. He gave a rousing speech at the recent Conservative Party conference.

But what are going to be his policies on transport? His campaign web site ( www.backbailey2020.com ) spells them out. We give a summary here. He intends to:

  • Invest in London’s transport to make sure there is more capacity and increased frequency of public transport to meet the needs of our growing city.
  • Put driverless trains on tracks – he will put driverless trains on tracks, so that hard working Londoners are no longer at the mercy of militant unions.
  • Protect the Freedom Pass – he will protect the Freedom Pass (no sensible politician would say otherwise surely).
  • He will get a grip on road maintenance, and will fight for more control over vehicle taxes to help fund the boroughs and get a grip on London’s potholes and road maintenance.
  • He will scrap the suburban driving tax, i.e. the costly expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, and use the money instead to fund a clean bus fleet, saving Londoners money and cleaning up the city’s air.

This looks a vote-winning agenda although I am not convinced that the Mayor should have control over vehicle taxes. This should be a national prerogative.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Bus Network Reduced and Shared Space Schemes

Transport for London (TfL) have published plans that will reduce bus services on 33 routes in London. This will particularly apply to underused services in central London which are alleged to contribute to traffic congestion and poor air quality.

The 33 routes represent only 6% of London’s bus routes and in some cases the route is simply being shortened. Another reason for the reduction is that bus usage has been dropping lately and there is the issue that while the deficit on TfLs budget is rising, buses are still massively subsidised. This is surely a sensible step to rationalise the bus network. If you might be affected by these changes, go here for a public consultation on them: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/buses/central-london/?cid=central-london-bus-consultation

In July the Government announced a moratorium on new “shared space” schemes. That followed concerns in the responses to a public consultation on the Accessibility Action Plan. However they have now made it clear that this ban was not intended to apply to new housing developments or streets with low traffic levels.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Croydon Wants Your Views

The London Borough of Croydon want your views on how they can improve transport in the borough. Croydon is now a notoriously anti-car council with the 20 mph wide area schemes that were a waste of money, and road closures outside schools that will have little benefit but generate a lot of inconvenience for residents and visitors.

Go here to complete their survey:

https://getinvolved.croydon.gov.uk/kms/elab.aspx?CampaignId=735

The deadline for comments is the 30th September so get your comments in now!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Railway System Review, and Renationalisation – Why Bother?

Last week Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, announced a review of the privatised rail system. That follows the recent problems with new timetables where the regulator concluded that “nobody took charge”. Today John McDonnell, the Labour Party’s shadow chancellor said that he could renationalise the railways within five years if Labour wins the next election – it’s already a manifesto commitment. Perhaps he thinks he can solve the railway’s problems by doing so but this writer suggests the problem is technology rather than management, although cost also comes into the equation.

The basic problem is that the railways are built on inflexible and expensive old technology. There has never been a “timetable” problem on the roads because there are no fixed timetables – folks just do their own thing and travel when they want to do so.

Consider the rail signalling system – an enormously expensive infrastructure to ensure trains don’t run into each other and to give signals to train drivers. We do of course have a similar system at junctions on roads – they are called traffic lights. But they operate automatically and are relatively cheap. Most are not even linked in a network as train signals are required to be.

Trains run on tracks so they are extremely vulnerable to breakdowns of trains and damage to tracks – even snow, ice or leaves on the line cause disruption – who ever heard of road vehicles being delayed by leaves? A minor problem on a train track, often to signals, can quickly cause the whole line or network to come to a halt. Failing traffic signals on roads typically cause only slight delays and vehicles can drive around any broken-down cars or lorries.

The cost of changes to a rail line are simply enormous, and the cost of building them also. For example, the latest estimate for HS2 – the line from London to Birmingham is more than £80 billion. The original M1 was completed in 1999 at a cost of £26 million. Even allowing for inflation, and some widening and upgrading since then the total cost is probably less than £1 billion.

Changes to railway lines can be enormously expensive. For example, the cost of rebuilding London Bridge station to accommodate more trains was about £1 billion. These astronomic figures simply do not arise when motorways are revised or new service stations constructed.

Why invest more in a railway network when roads are cheaper to build and maintain, and a lot more flexible in use? At present the railways have to be massively subsidised by the Government out of taxation – about £4 billion per annum according to Wikipedia, or about 7.5p per mile of every train journey you take according to the BBC. Meanwhile road transport more than pays for itself and contributes billions to general taxation in addition from taxes on vehicle users.

So here’s a suggestion: scrap using this old technology for transport and invest more in roads. Let the railways shrink in size to where they are justifiable, or let them disappear as trams did for similar reasons – inflexible and expensive in comparison with buses.

No need to renationalise them at great expense. Spend the money instead on building a decent road network which is certainly not what we have at present.

Do you think that railways are more environmentally friendly? Electric trains may be but with electric road vehicles now becoming commonplace, that justification will no longer apply in a few years’ time, if not already.

Just like some people love old transport modes – just think canals and steam trains – the attachment to old technology in transport is simply irrational as well as being very expensive. Road vehicles take you from door-to-door at lower cost, with no “changing trains” or waiting for the next one to arrive. No disruption caused by striking guards or drivers as London commuters have seen so frequently.

In summary building and managing a road network is cheaper and simpler. It just needs a change of mindset to see the advantages of road over rail. But John McDonnell wants to take us back to 1948 when the railways were last nationalised. Better to invest in the roads than the railways.

It has been suggested that John McDonnell is a Marxist but at times he has denied it. Those not aware of the impact of Marxism on political thought would do well to read a book I recently perused which covered the impact of the Bolsheviks in post-revolutionary Russia circa 1919. In Tashkent they nationalised all pianos as owning a piano was considered “bourgeois”. They were confiscated and given to schools. One man who had his piano nationalised lost his temper and broke up the piano with an axe. He was taken to goal and then shot (from the book Mission to Tashkent by Col. F.M. Bailey).

Sometimes history can be very revealing. The same mentality that wishes to spend money on public transport such as railways as opposed to private transport systems shows the same defects.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Sadiq Khan Popularity Falling Rapidly

According to a poll commissioned by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and published a week ago, London Mayor Sadig Khan’s popularity has dropped dramatically. In March 2017, he had a net positive satisfaction rating of +35 which is quite exceptional but that has disappeared. Overall the rating is still positive, but only just. Now only 44% think he is doing well versus 40% who say he is doing badly. The Mayor’s rating is now negative among working-class Londoners, the over-50s and those in Outer London.

What is the reason for this decline? It seems likely that the ABD’s campaign on the Mayor’s Transport policies (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) is having an impact as we continue to deliver hundreds of thousands of leaflets across London. The Mayor’s policies such as the ULEZ will particularly affect those groups where his rating has been declining most sharply. Folks are waking up to the Mayor’s attack on all forms of private transport – not just cars but motorcycles, PHVs (minicabs) and taxis and the costs that they will incur as a result.

Other contributions have probably been his mismanagement of Transport for London’s budget which is heading for a massive deficit and has been focussed on by some politicians, and his record on tackling rising crime levels in London has also been criticised. Similarly, his record on housing is no better than his predecessor and very different to what he promised. His promise to freeze public transport fares and improve public transport which he made to get elected have been shown to be mistakes or unachievable. Surely the apt quotation here is “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” (Abraham Lincoln). Voters are now becoming disillusioned with the Mayor as he is seen to be good at rhetoric and photoshoots with children but bad at actually managing the metropolis.

London needs a Mayor who does not just spout fine words, but can actually tackle London’s problems and get them solved.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Joy Morrisey has the Right Ideas

Joy Morrisey is on the Conservative short list to contest the next Mayoral election in London. She wrote an article for City AM last week (4/9/2018) that echoes much of what the ABD has been saying about transport in London.

Firstly she attacked Sadiq Khan’s record on transport and the ballooning deficit in Transport for London (TfL). She suggests it is a priority to get operating costs under control and that a fresh approach is needed. Here’s an extract of what else she had to say:

“At present, it is not always clear what the current mayor’s plans are – “plans” would suggest that real thought had gone into the mistakes he keeps making and the promises he keeps breaking. But we can see the policies: Khan is trying to force motorists off the road, while squeezing as much money as possible out of those who need to drive.

The mayor’s intention to extend the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) all the way out to the North and South Circulars in 2021 is a case in point.

Consider a family who live just outside the zone, who cannot afford to replace their old car, which they need to drive their kids to a school just inside the zone. They would pay £12.50 a day under Khan’s scheme. A pensioner who has to drive himself to, for example, Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone would pay the same.

It gets worse. The cost of the infrastructure needed to cover this expanded area has been estimated at £780m.

That’s money that should be spent on genuinely improving London’s air quality. For example, £600m would pay for the replacement of 2,000 diesel buses with hybrid vehicles, which emit nearly 80 per cent less nitrogen dioxide.

We need to make it easier for Londoners to leave their car at home, but without punishing those who do drive for making an entirely rational and reasonable choice.

If I became mayor in 2020, I would scrap Khan’s unfair and ill-considered ULEZ expansion, and focus on more effective ways to improve both air quality and transport options in the capital, for all Londoners.

Londoners cannot afford another four years of a mayor guided by cheap headlines and misplaced ideology. Right now, we might be hopelessly lost on our journey towards better transport, but under a different mayor, London can find its direction again.”

All very sensible policies and surely a good basis for an election winning campaign. Let’s hope that she wins the nomination. The other candidates are Andrew Boff and Shaun Bailey

The full City AM article can be read here: http://dev2.cityam.com/262379/london-needs-new-mayor-get-transport-show-back-road . Why not add your own comments?

Let the best man/woman win. But more than one candidate suggests the Mayor needs more powers. Surely it’s more a case of Sadiq Khan not using the powers he already has effectively to improve the transport network, control crime, build more houses and improve the environment.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Crossrail Delay and Sadiq Khan Balloon

It has been announced that the opening of Crossrail is to be delayed until Autumn 2019. It was scheduled to open in December this year. This a major blow to transport plans for London as it was intended to provide a major improvement to public transport capacity across London, and provide correspondingly large revenue increases to Transport for London (TfL).

This could blow an even bigger hole in Mayor Sadiq Khan’s transport budget which was already heading for a deficit of £1 billion pounds in the current year. Crossrail was expected to contribute substantial revenue to TfL in the next financial year but that will now be much reduced. Falling passenger numbers, particularly on buses, and Khan’s inept promise to freeze London transport fares two years ago are the main causes of his budget problems. The promise on fares was a big factor in his election.

The Conservative party have suggested that there were no delays to the ten-year Crossrail project when they ran City Hall.

Mr Khan has also been under attack for his failure to tackle knife crime in London. The latest symptom of this was the launch of a balloon showing Khan in a bikini which emulated the one flown of Donald Trump in Parliament Square. Many people complained that Khan should not have given permission for that as there should have been respect for a foreign head of state and that dabbling in the affairs of other countries was not the role of the Mayor of London.

The latest balloon seems to also be a complaint about other aspects of Khan’s regime and his record on free speech. The organiser was Yanny Bruere who raised £60,000 in a crowdfunding campaign and apparently intends to continue to promote that Khan should be removed. See https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/giant-sadiq-khan-baby-balloon-to-fly-over-london for more information or if you wish to comment.

Note that the ABD has been very critical of Khan’s policies and in particular his “Mayor’s Transport Strategy” – see our campaign on that here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

It is undoubtedly the case that the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and his tax raising ULEZ proposals will not be changed unless he is removed from office by the electorate so supporting this initiative is surely worthwhile. Ridicule is a good a way as any of getting the message across that many people think Sadiq Kahn has demonstrated that he is the worst Mayor of London that we have yet had – and his predecessors were pretty poor. From car-hating Ken Livingstone to cycling fanatic Boris Johnson, none have shown much wisdom.

Directly elected Mayors in London have proved to be very dubious and the extent of their powers means that they have dictatorial control in effect. They are also impossible to remove. The current Mayor even wants to extend his powers over vehicle taxation, the surface rail network and in the planning area. Surely time to reconsider the governance structure in London and for the Government to take more direct control. Mrs Thatcher went so far as to abolish the previous left-wing dominated Greater London Council (GLC) in 1986. That got rid of Ken Livingstone but only temporarily. We now have another populist Mayor in Sadiq Khan who makes promises he cannot keep to win elections – just like Livingstone did. Perhaps you will recall the promise he made to solve traffic congestion with a “Congestion Charge” which naturally did not work. We get similar “gestures” from Sadiq Khan such as the ULEZ proposals which will not cure London’s air pollution problems but will impose very major costs on Londoners.

Time for central Government to intervene and ensure that whoever runs London is more representative of the overall electorate in the metropolis. No more dictators please. And time for Sadiq Khan to go!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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