City of London Traffic Reduction

The City of London Corporation are developing a Transport Strategy as part of the Corporation’s “Local Implementation Plan” that all local councils in London have to prepare. The proposals from Steve Presland, Transportation and Public Realm Director, include “measures to reduce traffic” and “the reallocation of road space to increase priority and comfort for people on foot….”. There will be research to agree the optimal allocation of space between all travel modes and a review of the potential “for permanent or timed road closures to improve conditions for people walking, cycling and using public transport”. Yes we are likely to see more damage to the road network such as the one recently introduced at Bank. The move to reduce traffic is despite the fact that the level of business activity in the City is likely to increase over the next few years. So traffic congestion will no doubt get even worse.

The Transport Strategy will be subject to a public consultation in early 2018 but you can see what it is likely to contain.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Sadiq Khan Plans Your Life

If you live in London, you should pay attention to the “London Plan” that Mayor Sadiq Khan has recently published. Indeed if you live in other large conurbations you might wish to review it also because the policies he is promoting might spread elsewhere.

What’s the London Plan? It’s a document that sets the “spatial development” strategy for London over the next few years and has legal implications for planning developments, housing construction, transport infrastructure, and many other aspects of our lives.

The Mayor makes it plain that London needs to cope with the rapidly expanding population and business activity. The population of London might reach 10.5 million by 2041 he says (currently 8.8 million). That means a lot more houses have to be built (66,000 per annum he says) and support for more workplaces.

In addition it has major implications for transport infrastructure while at the same time he wants to clean up London’s air. He wants to make London a “zero carbon” city by 2050, although no doubt he will be long gone by then. As part of this he aims to reduce “car dependency” (an emotive and inaccurate phrase disparaging people who have made a rational or personal choice about how they travel when you don’t see this said about those who rely on cycles for their daily travel needs).

Why has the population of London grown so rapidly in recent years and continues to do so? Page 12 of the Plan explains why. It says 40 per cent of Londoners were born outside the UK, and the city is now home to 1 million EU citizens, no doubt attracted by the vibrant London economy. This has put a major strain on housing, transport, social services and other infrastructure (incidentally an unbelievable 1.2 million Londoners are apparently “disabled”).

This state of affairs has come about because of national policies on immigration with no effective policies to distribute that more widely across the country compounded no doubt by a desire by some politicians to improve their chances of being elected.

Specifically looking at transport, the Mayor’s target is for 80% of all journeys to be made by walking, cycling and public transport (that of course includes the 14% of Londoners who are disabled!). It’s currently 64%. This is going to mean an aggressive set of policies to reduce car use – hence our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which supports the London Plan – see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Mayor highlights the health inequalities in London, with deprived areas of London having reduced life expectancies (as much as 15 years for men and 19 years for women) surely an astonishing statistic. What is the reason for this? Poor housing conditions are certainly one, but lack of daily activity is allegedly another so the Mayor wants us all to be walking and cycling.

The Mayor does have plans to improve public transport including proposals for Crossrail 2 and extension of the Bakerloo line but these proposals will do relatively little to soak up the increased demand, and with no proposals of significance to improve the road network, hence no doubt the need to encourage us all to walk or cycle.

The Mayor’s plans to support the need for more housing include targets for every London borough (for example over 2,000 new homes every year in Barnet, Brent, Ealing, Greenwich, Hounslow, Newham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets). This includes high concentration developments in locations with good public transport access levels (PTALs), particularly inner London boroughs. Outer London boroughs might see a relaxation of planning regulations to allow more “in-fill” developments including building on back gardens as the Conservatives promptly complained about. There will be more encouragement for smaller builders, more efficient building techniques and “proactive” intervention in London’s land market (more “compulsory purchase” perhaps).

One aspect of transport infrastructure that the London Plan covers is that of parking provision for new housing, office or shop developments. It wants most developments to be “car free” (i.e. no parking provision), particularly those with high PTAL levels. The details of what this means in practice are not clear, but it looks like the intention is to reduce parking provision substantially, thus resulting in more on-street parking and obstruction.

The Mayor concludes his near 500-page tome on the subject of the “Funding Gap”. By this he means the gap between the public sector funding required to support London’s growth (and his plans) and the money currently committed. In other words, he wants more money, including a bigger share of taxation collected from Londoners. For example, he repeats his call for control of Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) which any right-thinking person should surely oppose. Yes the Mayor wants more money and more power. Unfortunately the establishment of directly elected Mayors such as Mr Khan has resulted in empire building of the worst kind. They are effectively dictators within their realms with no effective democratic constraints on their policies and negligible public accountability.

In summary, it is not clear that the building of lots of new homes (which of course will emit more pollutants, particularly during constructions, more than offsetting any reduction from restraining car use), of a fairly low standard in dense conurbations, is going to improve the quality of life for Londoners. It is undoubtedly the case that more new homes are needed in London but building new homes without complementary improvements to the transport infrastructure, which has consistently lagged behind the growth in London’s population, does not make much sense.

As is already seen in the statistics, older London residents are moving out and being replaced by immigrants. Some readers might wish to consider doing the same given the outlook for the quality of life in London. Simply reacting to the population growth in London without trying to constrain it, or divert it elsewhere, is surely a mistake.

You can submit your comments on the London Plan to the public consultation by going here: https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/planning/london-plan/new-london-plan/comment-draft-london-plan . Please be sure to do so.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cycle Superhighways and Motorbikes

Here’s a letter received from a resident of south-east London which is worth repeating:

Hi,

I’m thankful I’m retired now, and only have to visit London when I choose to.

I used to commute by motorbike and that (for the time being) is still my preferred method of transport. I always perceived motorbikes as being virtually negligible in their contribution to congestion and/or pollution, and never thought of them as ‘bothering’ anyone. It actually disgusts me that TfL see them very differently, with the same disdain they apply to any other type of motorised vehicle.

Their pro-cyclist / anti-anything with an engine stance is now going beyond ‘psychotic’ – their latest mailshot was about how they propose to redesign Lower Road / Jamaica Road (which aren’t short of cycle lanes as they are) into yet another Cycling Superhighway, with a whole “boulevard” for them and – consequently – a whole lot LESS space for ‘everybody else’ Never mind the disruption or the cost: it’s so easy to play easy with budgets when they’re using other people’s money to do it!

I actually do count myself lucky to be retired. Where I take myself now (and it usually involves my wallet) is my own choice, and there’s coming a time soon when it won’t be London.

The problem with TfL, unfortunately, is that they’re not just wrecking the road network out of ‘necessity’… they’re actually taking a sneaky pleasure from doing it!”

Roger Wood

<ENDS>

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Proposals to Improve M25/A3 Wisley Junction

Anyone who regularly travels around the western side of the M25 will know that the A3 junction near Wisley has been a congestion hot spot for many years. Traffic joining the M25 from the A3, or leaving it to get on the A3, results in traffic jams. Likewise queues can arise on the A3, partly because the roundabout at the junction contains traffic lights. Highways England have now published their preferred proposals to improve the situation.

There was an informal public consultation which considered several options, but Highways England have revised the one which proposed simply a larger roundabout so as to try to meet environmental concerns (RHS Wisley Gardens are very close by and there are ancient woodlands near the roads). That is the one they are proposing to put to a formal public consultation in early 2018. Prospective completion date might be as late as 2025.

More details are present here: https://highwaysengland.citizenspace.com/he/m25-junction-10-a3-wisley-interchange-improvement/

Comment: This junction is well overdue for improvement so the reaction of most motorists is likely to be that the sooner this is implemented, the better. The proposed solution does look like a reasonable compromise although the details of the traffic modelling would have been helpful. Perhaps we will see that in due course. Will the suggested design actually cope with the likely additional traffic flows around the M25, particularly if Heathrow airport is expanded? The proposed solution may provide only temporary relief and there will be considerable disruption while it is constructed.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Disabled and the Mayor’s Transport Strategy

As readers will probably be aware, the ABD has been running a campaign against London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy for some months (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ). It has been remarkable that a large number of the responses came from disabled people, or those caring for them. Below is one example of a letter sent to the Mayor on this topic. 

Subject: objection to tyrannical taxes

Dear Mr Khan,

I wish to object to your Stalinist policies intended to impose even more taxation on already monumentally taxed motorists driving in London. Can I remind you that in this country it is not yet a criminal offence to be a motorist, and your treatment of them as virtual criminals is a scandal.

My wife is disabled and moving around for us has become a nightmare in London. Successive ideologically obsessed, national and London Mayoral governments have ramped up the difficulties of driving in London and have imposed punitive measures on anyone who has the audacity not to walk or ride a bike or travel on the dysfunctional public transport system.

Do you, Mr Khan, intend to make life even more difficult for disabled people like my wife, as well as for millions of able-bodied people whose lives are not so cushioned as yours?  How would that look on the election posters?

Soviet style dictats which sneer at democracy are imposed without regard for those whom governments are supposed to serve.  Public opinion is swept aside in a cynical, Stalinist, totalitarian, environmental policy, in the formulating of which hardly any rigorous scientific expertise has been used – merely the intolerant, doctrinal posturing and ignorant polemic of bullies.

You are supposed to represent ALL Londoners, not merely your tiny political clique and your sycophantic fan-base in the East End.  A majority of London taxpayers live outside your exclusive and introspective inner-city bubble; do their interests not count?  Or are they just tax-fodder?  There is a fundamental democratic principle which seems to have escaped you – ‘No taxation without representation’.  It is the principle on which Americans parted company from Britain.  You certainly don’t represent me, a London taxpayer, and I suspect there are many others who would say the same.

If I’m wrong, Mr Khan, challenge me – though I doubt you will consider a mere taxpayer worthy of an answer.  I know what I expect from the London Soviet, but I’m quite prepared to admit I’m wrong if you can demonstrate that you are a democrat.  If you aren’t a totalitarian, Mr Khan, then come and talk to me – and millions like me in London who are sick of Soviet government.

I’ve thrown down the gauntlet and all that remains is to see whether you have the honour, the sense of democratic obligation and the justice to pick it up.  I await your reply.

Yours sincerely, Peter Newsham

<END>

We will advise readers if any response is received, but I doubt there will be one of any substance.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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New Thames River Crossing at Rotherhithe?

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe (Canada Water) and Canary Wharf. Before you get too excited, this would be for pedestrians and cyclists only. Their preferred option is a bridge, although they have also considered a tunnel (more expensive even if done as a submerged tube), or a ferry (much cheaper).

The bridge would cost as much as £300 million but they estimate as many as a milllion pedestrian trips and 340,000 cycling trips per year would use the crossing. But recovering the cost over ten years would require the users to pay over £20 per trip. Needless to say, they are not being asked to pay for that as there would be no tolls or charges for use – at least they are not mentioned in the consultation documents.

Comment: the only option that makes any financial sense in my view is a ferry which is much cheaper and more flexible to cope with demand variation and inaccurate forecasts of usage. The Rotherhithe Tunnel can be used by pedestrians and cyclists but demand there is minimal so even TfL’s forecasts of usage seem optimistic to say the least.

Such large expenditure being considered for this project would surely be better spent on a proper road crossing (bridge/tunnel) further downstream which has been wanted for many years but gets continually delayed.

This could likely be another vanity project like Boris Johnson’s Emirates Cable Car, or the recently cancelled “Garden Bridge”. The cable car has over a million users a year and covers its operating costs at least, but is mainly used by tourists. At a return trip cost of £9, you can see why. It’s questionable whether it will ever recover its capital costs. Perhaps Mayor Sadiq Khan wants a bridge they can name after him as a legacy when he departs? There seems no good reason to build it otherwise. 

But it’s a good example of the financial profligacy to pander to the London electorate beloved by the current Mayor.

For more details or to respond to the public consultation on these proposals, please go to: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings/rotherhithe-canarywharf/?cid=r2cw-crossing

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Oxford Street to be Pedestrianised

Transport for London (TfL) have announced major changes to the western end of Oxford Street in central London. The road itself will be pedestrianised. All the multiple bus routes that currently use the road, and which cause very poor air pollution will either be simply “withdrawn”, or diverted down Wigmore Street and Henrietta Street in some cases. Even cyclists will be prohibited although one can imagine the problem of enforcing that restriction.

A lot of the surrounding roads will also be affected, and routes north and south across Oxford Streeet limited. For example, the Harewood Place/Hollies Street route north from Hanover Square will be barred except to buses and taxis. This will make it difficult for some vehicles which need to reach the car park under Cavendish Square from the South. This is a large car park used by many shoppers and visitors to the surrounding medical practices in the area around Harley Street. Cavendish Square will be substantially improved though and as a result the entrance/exit to that car park need to be reversed

Note that this section of Oxford Street (west of Oxford Circus to Orchard Street, where Marks & Spencer is sited) is already restricted to buses and taxis. An artists impression of what the street might look like is given below, and you can find more information and respond to the consultation here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/oxford-street/?cid=oxford-street

Comment: The “bus jams” caused by queuing buses on Oxford Street, often quite empty, certainly needed tackling and there are frequently accidents caused by folks stepping in front of buses. Pedestrianising the street is surely a good concept although some bus passengers may be seriously inconvenienced and Wigmore Street may become congested.

Otherwise, the ABD is generally not in favour of restricting roads to certain types of vehicles, or of having time limited road closures (James Street will be closed 11.00 am to Midnight). But if any readers have other comments on the proposals, please let us know by commenting on this blog post.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Oxford Street Pedestrianisation