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

Barriers on London Bridges

London Bridge Barriers.jpgAs a safety measure, subsequent to the recent terrorist attacks, steel and concrete barriers have been erected on several London Bridges to separate the roadway from the pavements. These are on Westminster Bridge, Waterloo Bridge, Lambeth Bridge, London Bridge and on part of Tower Bridge. Photo above is of London Bridge.

Perhaps most interesting is that there were actually metal railings protecting pedestrians on some of these bridges before 2010 when Boris Johnson, Mayor at the time, removed them. He considered them ugly. This was part of a general policy to remove pedestrian guard rails by Transport for London.

Cyclists are complaining that the new “bollards” on Blackfriars Bridge at the ends of the bridge are causing congestion and delays to cyclists. A similar problem is on London Bridge where cyclists previously often mounted the pavement when vehicles became congested at the northern end.

This has clearly been a rushed response to the threat posed by copycat terrorist attacks, particularly when one bears in mind that there are many other streets in London where dense crowds of pedestrians would be vulnerable to such attacks. The long-term answer may be to simply put back all those traditional pedestrian guard rails which may have had little benefit in road safety terms and were frustrating for pedestrians, but might assist with this problem.

Roger Lawson

Party Manifestos and London

Yesterday (25/5/2017), UKIP published their General Election Manifesto. That completes the quartet of the main parties, so it seemed an opportune time to analyse and comment on them so far as they affect transport in London. That is of course the sole concern of this blog so any diversion into wider political issues will be avoided so far as is practical.

UKIP. Let’s start with UKIPs (subtitled “Britain Together”) as that contains more specifics than the other parties and has a separate Chapter on Transport. It suggests they would:

  • Scrap HS2 on the basis that it is unaffordable, will blight homes and will only save a few minutes on a London to Leeds trip.
  • End all road tolls on the basis that they are an unfair burden on the already highly taxed road user. That would presumably include scrapping the London Congestion Charge, the ULEZ and proposed tolls on the Dartford and Blackwall Crossings.
  • They oppose the proposed new Thames Crossing at Thurrock and would move it further east through Canvey Island.
  • They would encourage zero emission vehicles by providing more supporting infrastructure.
  • They would prevent diesel vehicle owners from being penalised through higher taxes and parking fines, but they support a diesel scrappage scheme and incentives for diesel vehicle owners to exchange them for electric or hybrid models.
  • They do not support the expansion of Heathrow Airport and would encourage the expansion of smaller regional airports (such as development of Manston in Kent).

In summary, it’s very much a “pro-motorist” transport agenda.

Another aspect of their manifesto is the commitment to “balance migration”, effectively reducing inward migration to zero over 5 years (and thereafter only a “one in, one out” policy as the media dubbed it). This would of course relieve the pressure in the longer term on the transport network (both road and rail), which suffers from major congestion in London mainly because of massive increases in passenger demand in recent years. 

Conservative & Unionist (“Forward Together”). This party’s manifesto is short on specifics, perhaps because their policies are very much a continuation of existing ones and because they seem to be relying more on the winning personality of Theresa May rather than vote winning policies. But there are a few comments on transport as follows:

  • They will continue to invest £40 billion in transport projects, including: a) HS2, b) Northern Powerhouse Rail, c) Expansion of Heathrow Airport, d) Development of the strategic road network including extra lanes on motorways.
  • They want almost every car and van to be zero emission by 2050, and will invest £600 million to achieve it by 2020.
  • Rail capacity will be increased (but the specifics are lacking).
  • More money to support cycle networks and cycle parking at railway stations will be provided. (How much? It does not say).

Yes that seems to be about it.

Labour (“For the Many, Not the Few”). As one might expect, the Labour Party has a strong commitment to invest more in infrastructure, communications and energy systems. That includes:

  • Completion of HS2 to Leeds/Manchester and then on to Scotland.
  • A new Brighton Main Line.
  • Build Crossrail 2 in London.
  • Bring the railways back into public ownership (i.e. renationalise them).
  • They will cap public transport fares, introduce free Wi-Fi across the rail network and stop driver-only operation of trains.
  • They will support investment in low emission vehicles.
  • On airport capacity in the South-East, they “welcome the work done by the Airports Commission” and don’t seem to rule out expansion of Heathrow if noise and air quality issues “can be addressed”.
  • They will “refocus” the roads building and maintenance programmes on “connecting communities” and “feeding public transport hubs”.
  • There will be a stronger focus on road safety improvement targets with “bold measures” to improve safety standards.

How some of this programme might be funded I will leave others to comment on.

Liberal Democrat (“Change Britain’s Future”). The Liberal Democrats focus on “clean air and green transport”. Specifics include:

  • Support for a diesel scrappage scheme and encouragement of the swift take-up of electric and driverless vehicles.
  • Extending Ultra Low Emission Zones (ULEZs) to ten more cities.
  • All PHVs and buses in urban areas to run on ultra low or zero emission fuels within 5 years.
  • Reform of vehicle taxation to encourage electric and low emission vehicles.
  • Establish Government run companies to take over Southern Rail and Govia Thameslink due to severe failings of existing franchisees.
  • Proceed with HS2, HS3 and Crossrail 2.
  • Support the takeover of metro services in London by London Overground.
  • They are opposed to expansion of Heathrow, Stansted or Gatwick and want to improve regional airports.
  • Design cities as safe and attractive walking spaces.

To summarise therefore, all the parties support the promotion of zero emission (electric) vehicles. They all support more rail capacity in one form or another, but only UKIP would specifically cancel HS2. UKIP is “against” more things as one might expect from a populist protest party whereas the Conservatives have gone more for a “positive vision” with lots of the written equivalents of “sound-bites” using words such as “strong”, “stable” and “prosperous”. Actually interpreting what these fine words will mean in practice can be more difficult. The Labour and LibDem manifestos are very much in their traditional mode and hence might appeal more to their existing supporters than new ones. The impact of any party which might win the national election might be limited in London though as the Mayor is very much a dictator and can introduce his own policies and taxation (disguised as “charges”) to a great extent.

Perhaps it might be better to have a right-wind central Government to control the excesses of a left-leaning Mayor (look at some of the quite disastrous changes under Livingstone). But no doubt readers can all make their own minds up after reading the manifestos which are all available on the web.

Roger Lawson

Bank Junction Closed to Most Traffic

Bank Junction 4 2017-05-23On Monday (22nd May), Bank Junction in the City of London was closed to most vehicles. Only buses and cyclists are now permitted between 7.00 am and 7.00 pm.

It was very amusing watching a BBC reporter talking about this on the Monday evening news with the background of the junction in view – and clearly many vehicles were either not aware of the new restriction or were ignoring it. The infringers face a large fine.

On Tuesday it was similar as you can see from the photo above – just one example of many seen in just a few minutes.

The measure has certainly reduced traffic congestion at and around this junction, but of course spreads it elsewhere. Whether it will reduce accidents at this location remains to be seen. Cyclists and buses now speed through the junction.

The ABD did object to this closure as did taxi drivers. It’s one of the key road junctions in the City of London and there were other alternatives to simplify this complex junction and reduce accidents.

Roger Lawson

The Rise of Non-Travel

We all know that travelling in London has become more difficult in the last few years. Rising traffic congestion due to reductions in road space and cycle superhighways, and overcrowded public transport, have been very damaging. Population increase, and more business activity, have not been supported fully by new transport infrastructure and there has been little long-term planning or funding to improve the transport network.

Now Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that travelling is now so difficult in London that the number of Londoners who spend all day at home has been rising. To quote (from LTT): “In particular, there has been a rise in non-travel, in other words, people staying at home all day and not making any trips”. It seems on any given day, around 20% of Londoners do not make any journeys nowadays.

It seems likely that there has been a reduction in travel for shopping purposes (hence the increase in van deliveries resulting from internet shopping). But there are more people probably working from home and using the internet and other communication media rather than going into a conventional workplace everyday. Also of course the increase in the elderly might explain the rise in non-travel, although many retired people move out of London.

New Cycling and Walking Commissioner

One other influence over future travel patterns may be a new “Cycling and Walking Commissioner” named Will Norman. Former Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan has suggested the change of name for the role might indicate that Mayor Khan might have more interest in walking than cycling, particularly as some previously approved cycling schemes do not seem to be progressing. He also suggested that the Mayor wishes to avoid confrontation with the motoring lobby. But that surely seems very unlikely bearing in mind the Mayor’s plans over air pollution.

Roger Lawson

Thames Crossings – One Closer But Another In Doubt

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced their preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing to relieve congestion on the Eastern side of the M25. Other options have been discarded and the chosen route is leaving the M25 at North Ockendon, via Orsett and Tilbury, a tunnel under the Thames and linking to the A2 near Shorne (the start of the M2). This route will mean that traffic from the Channel Ports will be able to avoid the Dartford Crossing area altogether. Money will also be spent on widening the A13 and on improving roads around the Dartford Crossing.

No timescale for delivery has been given and it might take as long as ten years, assuming the Government can actually find the money to build it.

As expected, not everyone is happy with the chosen route citing more air pollution, take up of green landscape and the impact on local communities. But it was always going to be a difficult choice when some action surely needed to be taken to cope with the projected extra demand on the existing river crossings. There was a large number of responses to the consultation on Route “C” to which both the ABD (London) and ABD (Kent) responded – we supported option “C” with some additional suggestions. You can see all the responses in a document on the web.

The Thames Garden Bridge in central London now looks even less likely to proceed even though £46 million has already been spent on it after a damning report commissioned by Major Sadiq Khan. Written by Labour MP Margaret Hodge it suggested the project should be scrapped. She suggested it would have difficulty raising the funds (projected cost now about £200 million) and would not be able to cover its running costs and hence might require a Government bail-out.

Comment: as in my previous report on this project, I can see many better uses for the money that spending it on this “vanity” project.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Latest Announcements on ULEZ

On the 4th April the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, made his latest announcements on how he intends to reduce air pollution from road vehicles in London. Not a mention of how he intends to reduce the 50% of air pollution caused by things other than road transport which is still growing as the population of London increases, but let us say no more about that for the present.

Mr Khan has revised his previous proposals somewhat, presumably based on the last public survey which did show overall support for his proposals with some reservations. But he is now definitely committed to:

– The introduction of a “T-Charge” of £10 for older vehicles (pre-2006) commencing in October this year. This will only apply within the existing Congestion Tax area of central London.

– The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for all vehicles from April 2019, which will again only apply to the central London zone and replace the “T-Charge” mentioned above. The ULEZ daily fee to drive in the zone will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and apply to all vehicles that do not meet the following standards:

a) Petrol Euro 4/ IV

b) Diesel Euro 6/ VI

c) Powered Two Wheelers Euro 3

These standards mean that petrol cars more than around 13 years old in 2019, and diesel cars over 4 years old in 2019 will have to pay a charge which will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 for heavy vehicles such as HGVs and coaches.

They will be in addition to the Congestion Charge where applicable. The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis, which are already being made cleaner through licensing restrictions. From next year all new licenced taxis must be zero-emissions capable.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, which only applies for limited hours on weekdays, these charges will apply all the time. So trips into central London for the evening will cost you £12.50.

There is again a public consultation on the above which everyone who drives in London should respond to and it is present here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/airquality-consultation . PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 

In addition to the above the Mayor is considering expanding the ULEZ to nearly all of Greater London in respect of heavy diesel vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries to be implemented in 2020. Also he proposes to consult on extending the ULEZ to all other vehicles including cars within the North/South Circular, to be implemented in 2021. So you could be paying £12.50 just to drive within that ring road, although a lot of the previous respondents to the last consultation suggested a lower charge.

Mr Khan is calling on the Government to deliver a nationwide diesel vehicle scrappage scheme but there is no sign yet that the Government is listening. There is some concession to residents who live within the ULEZ and for disabled vehicle users who will have a “sunset” period until 2023.

Comment: some information required to make any intelligent comments on these proposals is not apparently available. For example what is the likely impact of these proposals on the level of air pollution within the zone or outside it? What is the cost/benefit justification? What is the cost of implementing this scheme and how much revenue and profit will TfL obtain from it as a result?

These questions are very important because the Mayor has a very strong financial interest in these proposals as the additional charges will no doubt raise much needed revenue for the Mayor and TfL whose budgets are currently under pressure.

It is most regrettable that this is yet another example of asking the public’s views on a matter without giving them the full facts to enable them to make a reasoned judgement on the proposals.

I have asked TfL to provide this information and will let you know if I receive it.

But having walked the streets of the City of London last week I certainly think something needs to be done about air pollution because my lungs were definitely affected and I have not suffered from asthma for many years. The problem was that all the roads such as Cannon Street, Eastcheap, Bishopsgate and around Aldgate were just gridlocked in the middle of the day with stationary traffic which consisted mainly of buses, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles. This happens quite regularly now because of the impact of the Cycle Superhighways, road closures, removal of gyratories and other measures promoted by the previous Mayor and local authorities over the last few years.

Vehicles may have been getting cleaner, only somewhat confounded by the Government’s misconceived promotion of diesel vehicles so as to save CO2 emissions. But if transport planners create gridlock then the inevitable will happen – air pollution will continue to get worse until only zero emission and expensive electric vehicles are allowed. We also need to tackle other sources of air pollution and the best way to do that is to stop the growth in the London population or even reduce it.

Postscript: on 9/4/2017:  This interview with Professor Tony Frew, a respiratory expert on TalkRadio is definitely worth listening to if you want the facts about air pollution and its sources: http://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory

Julia Hartley-Brewer whom conducted that interview also attacked the promotion of the 40,000 deaths per year in the UK from air pollution in an article in the Daily Telegraph on the 7th April. She said “This 40,000 figure is alarmingly high. It is also alarmingly wrong”.

And as of today I am still awaiting a response from TfL on the data requested giving the data on the impact of the ULEZ on air pollution. Not even an acknowledgement of my request so far so I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

Roger Lawson