Hammersmith Bridge Closure

Hammersmith Bridge 2

Hammersmith Bridge in west London has been closed “indefinitely” by the local Council after safety checks revealed “critical faults”. This Victorian bridge was never designed for modern traffic, particularly heavy buses, and has been falling into disrepair for some time.

The local council (Hammersmith & Fulham) and Transport for London (TfL) blames lack of funding to repair the bridge and in particular cuts in Government funding. Financing major bridge repairs would normally be the responsibility of TfL so they are clearly the ones to blame. The Government says they have given billions of pounds in funding to TfL so it’s not their fault. In other words, everyone is trying to make political capital out of this management failure.

Hammersmith Bridge is a key part of the road network and there is a legal obligation on the local Council under their Network Management Duty (see the Traffic Management Act) to keep it open. But local councils only have very limited funding for transport projects and rely on TfL for major projects.

The estimated cost of the required work to repair the bridge is £11 million. Meanwhile TfL is planning to spend at least £400 million on a new pedestrian/cyclist only bridge at Rotherhithe. Surely TfL have their priorities wrong?

Residents who wish to complain should complain to Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, because he heads TfL, and also to the local council. However Labour controlled Hammersmith & Fulham Council have known about the problems with this bridge for many years but done nothing (that Council has responsibility for the bridge).

Roger Lawson

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Rotherhithe Cycle and Pedestrian Bridge

An article contributed by the Rotherhithe Bridge Action Group:

Sadiq Khan’s Taxpayer funded vanity project – the world’s longest and tallest vertical lift bridge.

Rotherhithe Bridge 2Rotherhithe Bridge 1

TfL recently confirmed that their chosen bridge design, connecting the eastern fringes of Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf, is a vertical lift bridge with a truss deck. The bridge will have concrete towers 90m tall and 15m wide, supporting a bridge deck 180m long. The Rotherhithe Bridge design is 10m longer than the Arthur Kill railroad bridge, currently the world’s longest vertical lift bridge. The deck will lift to a height of 60m above the mean spring high waters to facilitate the movement of large vessels.

The initial cost of the Rotherhithe Bridge is currently estimated at £400m+, with project costs at £600m (including operating, renewal and maintenance costs of £2.4m per annum over the appraisal period of the asset). Currently the GLA have allocated just over £100m towards the Rotherhithe Bridge. As private funding has failed to meet the remaining cost, TfL have confirmed that the funding will come from the 2017/18-2021/22 Healthy Streets Programme budget. As a result many programmes, which include cycling projects, are at risk of being postponed or cancelled.

TfL analysed the Navigable Bridge (swing design) as having the highest Benefit to Cost Ratio (“BCR”) value of 1.97:1, as compared to a tunnel or enhanced ferry. Further investigation shows that TfL used a bridge cost of £19m or less to achieve this favourable 1.97 BCR value. Using the current bridge cost estimates gives a realistic BCR value of just 0.65:1. This project, therefore, represents poor value for money and always has done. TfL have actually estimated a swing bridge cost of between £182m and £274m (including 52% optimum bias), so it is difficult to understand the reasons for using the erroneous £19m value in the BCR analysis. Sadiq Khan and TfL have failed to provide an explanation. Since the Mayor was made aware of this material error in 2018 he has spent a further £7.2m on the Rotherhithe Bridge project.

More information on the BCR analysis is provided in this document:

https://irp-cdn.multiscreensite.com/80a646fd/files/uploaded/BCR%20analysis.pdf

TfL have chosen the central alignment connecting Durand’s Wharf Park, south of the river, to Westferry Circus. No feasability study was commissioned to determine the most suitable location for a bridge in East London. TfL confirmed that this was because the location had been selected by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan. Spending £600m on any project without commissioning this basic assessment is irresponsible at best.

Thames Clippers is currently working with Beckett Rankine to develop a rival scheme to the Rotherhithe Bridge. This uses three all electric, zero emission, ferries with a new pier at Rotherhithe and an extended pier at Canary Wharf. The total cost would be under £30m which is a fraction of the £400m+ cost of the Rotherhithe Bridge. The ferries would be cycle-on cycle-off and during peak times all three would run, departing every few minutes. There are a number of examples where this works well around the world including Gosport and Amsterdam.

With Sadiq Khan’s mantra being that he will not tolerate any waste of public money; it is hard to understand why so much Taxpayer funds are being spent on the Rotherhithe Bridge. The free to use enhanced ferry is a far cheaper viable alternative, which meets the “Healthy Streets” objectives without compromising other projects.

Karryn Beaumont

Rotherhithe Bridge Action Group

www.rotherhithebridge.uk

 

ABD Directors Speak to the Express

Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here: https://tinyurl.com/y2p6qjpa

In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.

Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”

They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Most Congested Roads in the UK

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The BBC has reported on congested roads in the UK and rates the North Circular Road (A406) as the worst. Needless to say, other London roads such as the A23, Kingsway/Strand and the A1203 (The Highway) also rate highly.

The report is based on information from Inrix who estimated that London drivers lost about 227 hours each on average to congestion. London is by far the worst city in the country for traffic congestion. For example in Leeds only 143 hours are lost. Is it surprising that many companies have expanded operations in Leeds as opposed to London?

What have the current and past Mayor’s done about traffic congestion in London? Basically done nothing but make it worse. The Congestion Charge scheme has been an abysmal failure and the growth in PHV (minicab) use and internet deliveries have contributed more recently. Schemes such as cycle superhighways on the Embankment which reduced 2 lanes to 1 on a major east-west route have also made congestion worse – that is why The Highway is congested as traffic backs up from Lower/Upper Thames Street all the way there.

Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor Sadiq Khan think they can reduce congestion by encouraging modal shift – persuading people to cycle or use public transport – but that simply does not work. They need to rethink their approach. The current Mayor’s Transport Strategy is already proving to be an abject failure.

You can read the BBC report here: https://tinyurl.com/yyrv44cz

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor Loses Case in High Court over CS11

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has lost a judicial review case on Cycle Superhighway 11. That was proposed to cover the Swiss Cottage gyratory, Avenue Road and the road around Regents Park which would be mainly closed to vehicles. We published an article by objector Danny Michelson in November 2016 which gives more details: http://tinyurl.com/ydh4wc8b . The picture below is how Transport for London envisaged the Swiss Cottage junction would look – as usual a very optimistic and unrealistic view!

Swiss Cottage Cycle Superhighway 11

The City of Westminster launched the judicial review on the basis that there had been inadequate consultation and TfL had ignored their objections on the matter. They suggested the proposals would cause more traffic congestion. High Court judge Sir Ross Cranston ruled in their favour.

TfL may appeal the case, otherwise they will have to go back to the drawing board and possibly do another consultation.

Comment: Swiss Cottage is one of the key road junctions in London for North/South traffic and Regents Park is also an important route for vehicles. Swiss Cottage road junction is far from perfect and no doubt could be improved in a number of ways, including provision for better cycle safety. But this scheme was badly designed and there was no justification for all the road closures to vehicles.

It’s a case of the Mayor not listening to objectors as we have seen many times recently. The only folks who supported this scheme were the very vociferous cycling lobby but they need to listen to the concerns of other people also.

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Unblock Meeting, Bank Junction, Moor Lane and Sadiq Khan’s Antics

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Unblock the Embankment Group (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ). This was a group formed to oppose the closure of the Embankment and Lower/Upper Thames Street route for 6 months, a key east-west route through London, for the construction of a new Super Sewer. It seems they were successful in that regard. But they are now focussed on trying to persuade TfL and the City Corporation to reroute the Cycle Superhighway (CS3) to relieve the congestion on that route. There were representatives of the City Corporation at the meeting including Chris Hayward who chairs the Planning and Transportation Committee. He actually said in the meeting that CS3 has unquestionably made congestion worse, with which I don’t think anyone would disagree. Journey times across London (e.g. City to Westminster and back) have increased very substantially and there are no good alternative routes.

One issue raised was that cyclists on the CS3 superhighway have to suffer the high pollution levels when it is known that pollution levels on Upper/Lower Thames Street are some of the worst in London and exceed legal limits. Cyclists might prefer an alternative route and bearing in mind that the City Corporation is planning to improve cycle routes through the City as part of its Transport Strategy, it was suggested that the CS3 could be relocated. Naturally that would require some funding (perhaps £10 million) but it seems HM Treasury might provide some funds to improve traffic flows in London. But will the Mayor of London and TfL support such a move even if funding is available?

Has CS3 reduced accidents to cyclists? It was noted that it has not.

The City Corporation’s Transport Strategy was discussed and there have been many thousands of responses to their public consultation on that – which is more than expected. The ABD promoted responses among our supporters so perhaps we helped in that regard. The consultation has now closed and it’s too early to give any analysis of responses. It might be March/April before a report is published.

One aspect of the Transport Strategy is the proposed 15 mph speed limit across the City, but it was acknowledged that this would require legislation, i.e. the City Corporation cannot impose without an Act of Parliament.

With more cycle routes in the City and closure of Bank Junction, even more traffic might be diverted to Upper/Lower Thames Street, making congestion and air pollution even worse.

There was some discussion of air pollution trends on the CS3 route, and in London as a whole, on which data seemed to be limited. Incidentally a new initiative on that is to equip Google’s Street View cars with air pollution sensors. This would enable a real time and very localised view of pollution to be obtained. There will also be more fixed sensors attached to lampposts and buildings to obtain even more data.

Of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is forcing all taxis to become zero emission capable (hybrid/electric) in the near future but surprisingly there are still no electric charging points for taxis in the City. TfL are dragging their feet on providing it seems.

There was some discussion on the closure of Bank Junction, and proposals for a zero-emission limit for vehicles on Moor Lane in the Barbican. The City Corporation have now published a report on longer-term proposals for Bank Junction that includes three suggested options – total pedestrianisation, pedestrian priority with some vehicle movement, and thirdly retaining existing vehicle movements. Option 2 includes closure of some of the “arms” of the junction which seems eminently sensible – see illustration provided below – you can see other ones in the Committee Reports obtainable from here: https://tinyurl.com/y96stsvu

bank junction option 2

But there is still a commitment to turning this key road junction into a “place” and reducing vehicles to improve road safety so it is not at all clear whether even the third option would support taxi movements.

Another subject briefly discussed was the proposal to close Moor Lane to all vehicles other than zero emission ones. Apparently there was a majority of respondents opposed to the scheme in a public consultation (see the Committee Report mentioned above). Confusion between that and TfL’s ULEZ scheme was one objection. What was the response of the City Corporation? They are not dropping the proposal, but intend to either go-ahead or simply postpone it. As I commented in the meeting, will the City Corporation and its elected members actually take account of responses to the public consultation on the City’s Transport Strategy? To date they have not shown any willingness to listen.

Is Sadiq Khan responding to the air pollution concerns that he spends so much time talking about? Amusingly there was a report on the Guido Fawkes web site (which is usually accurate) saying that his official vehicle is a 4.4 litre BMW on which the MOT has expired. Not exactly environmentally friendly as Guido pointed out.

Meanwhile the Mayor continues to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion on public relations and social media consultants. That includes promoting his views on Brexit very vigorously and Guido also revealed that the Mayor had given £20,000 to a group called “The3million” representing EU citizens in the UK who want to stop Brexit. The Mayor continues to waste money while interfering in national politics rather than sticking to his job of Mayor of London.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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London Travel Trends – Mayor’s Policies Failing Badly

London’s population is still growing rapidly, albeit the rate of growth has slackened slightly of late. That increases the demand for travel in London. A recently published report from Transport for London (TfL) highlights the trends in travel in different modes – see below for a link to the full report. Here’s some of the key points:

The average number of trips per day in 2017/18 was 2.1. That figure has been falling in recent years and is similar to national trends. It probably reflects the difficulties of travel in the UK and in London, the higher cost, the fact that the population is ageing and the increase in remote working and telecommuting.

From 2010 to 2017 the proportion of trips by walking, cycling and public transport in London increased only slightly from 62.6% to 62.7%. The trend to more “sustainable and active” travel modes has actually flattened out in the latest 2 years. In other words, the recent Mayoral policies to get people to change their travel modes to what he wants has been a dismal failure. But the Mayor is not giving up. The Mayor and TfL still believe there is a large scope for mode shift according to the report, but that is surely a figment of their imagination. Based on the data below, the Mayor will no doubt be focussed on getting those who live in outer London to change their ways – you have been warned!

Road traffic in London increased only slightly by 0.1% in 2017. There was no growth in car traffic but LGVs rose by 1.9% probably due to more internet shopping deliveries. The general trend in car traffic levels in London is shown in this chart:

car traffic levels 2017

This probably reflects improved public transport (e.g. more buses that have been heavily subsidised and more underground/rail/tram/DLR services) and the degradation of the road network with fewer and more expensive parking facilities, particularly in central London, in the last 20 years. But note the relatively lower decline in outer London and the fact that since 2013 the decline has ceased in all areas.

The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) in central London is not the cause of the reduction there because inner London has also shown sharp declines to which the Charge does not apply. It might have more to do with increased congestion and hence higher trip times in central and inner London for the reasons given above.

Both bus journeys and underground usage have been falling – bus trips down by 6.5% in 2017 since 2014, and underground trips fell by 1.1% in 2017 although that had grown in previous years. These figures reflect perhaps the high costs of public transport, the overcrowding on the underground and on some bus routes in rush hours and the fact that bus journey times have been slowing due to traffic congestion. It can simply be quicker to walk in central London!

Cycling figures suggest that numbers of trips were unchanged in 2017, but distances travelled were greater suggesting there are more long-distance cycling commuters and more trips in outer London. This might be the result of economic incentives to cycle as public transport fares increased (particularly national rail serving outer London) and more cycle superhighways. Cycle usage as a proportion of overall trips remains low at 2% however despite the massive investment in cycle infrastructure in recent years. Cycling is still relatively unpopular among the elderly, among females and those of a non-white or mixed- race background according to the report.

Walking trip rates have been in decline in London in recent years despite the Mayor’s policies. Young adult walk rates fell by 22% between 2011/12 and 2017/18 for example. The impact of “healthy streets” and “active travel” policies promoted by the Mayor are conspicuously absent from the data in TfL’s report. Free travel passes both for those in education and for the elderly have clearly had a negative impact on walking rates. If the Mayor is serious about encouraging more active travel, that’s surely one hand-out he should cancel.

As an aside, the recent introduction of 16-17 and 26-30 railcards has been promoted as a generous offering to help the young, but is it not just another way to charge less to more impecunious customers and more to the others? Anyone familiar with economics will know that this is a tactic to maximise profits. In the case of railcards, which have time of travel restrictions, it’s also a way to smooth out travel demand and fill those otherwise empty seats at off-peak times.

Another failing Mayoral policy has been that on improving road safety. In 2017 the number of fatalities actually increased to 131 – up 15 on 2016. There were marked increases in pedestrian and cyclist casualties. Overall KSIs also rose in 2017 (by 2%) although that figure might be distorted by changes in casualty reporting. The roll-out of wide area 20 mph zones financed with many millions of pounds of funding from TfL and which was supposed to have a major impact on pedestrian casualties has clearly been very ineffective.

In relation to improved public transport capacity to serve the growing population, that simply did not happen in 2017 – “place kilometres” remained unchanged. That’s surely another Mayoral policy failure and resulted in higher public transport overcrowding. But service reliability on buses and London underground plus DLR/trams did improve. Surface rail was patchy though.

The full London Travel Report Number 11 can be read here: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-11.pdf . It looks like it’s been written by public relations consultants as it presents a positive spin on the data when any detailed reading tells you a very different story.

But in summary it shows how the policies pursued by Transport for London, and by both the current and previous Mayors, have been a dismal failure. Lots of expenditure on the promotion of cycling and walking have not influenced travel behaviour much while expenditure on road safety has been misdirected with negative consequences. Improvements in public transport infrastructure have failed to cope with the increase in population which has been promoted rather than discouraged.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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