Park Lane, Euston Road, Lewisham Road Closures and Note to Councillors

undefined

Transport for London (TfL) have been active in reducing road space in London by claiming an epidemic emergency. They have introduced a cycle lane on Park Lane, and with the bus lane that has reduced what used to be a three- lane road to one lane. This is one of the key North/South roads in London and the result is heavy traffic congestion extending to roads such as the Edgware Road. The new cycle lane is little used though because there is a good alternative route through Hyde Park.

Another road TfL have now damaged is Euston Road, a key east-west route. One lane has been removed and a speed limit of 20 mph imposed. TfL just seem to be kowtowing to the demands of cyclists and other anti-vehicle groups and the result is great damage to the road network. Longer journey times, more traffic congestion and more air pollution will be the result. London is becoming a “no-go” area for anyone who wishes to drive and use private transport rather than risk infection by using public transport.

Local borough councils across London have been following the lead of TfL and are not just putting in cycle lanes and widening pavements but actually closing roads. How that helps social distancing is difficult to imagine. Lewisham Council is one of the leaders of this illogical move. Make sure you sign this petition against the road closures in Lewisham: https://www.change.org/p/london-borough-of-lewisham-stop-road-closures-in-lewisham/

PLEASE SIGN IT!

But if you live in another part of London, or even elsewhere in the country, this is a note you could send to your local Councillors to deter them from following Lewisham’s lead:

Dear Councillor,

In the current Covid-10 Epidemic, the Government is encouraging local Councils to introduce measures to temporarily:

a)       Provide more social distancing for pedestrians – for example by widening pavements.

b)       Encourage the use of active transport modes such as cycling or walking so as to relieve the pressure on public transport where there will be limited capacity in the short term and to encourage people to use other forms of transport than cars where increased use might lead to congestion.

That includes new Statutory Guidance under the Traffic Management Act 2004. The suggestion is that Temporary Traffic Orders might be used to implement such measures, where such Orders are required.

I have no objection to ensuring that pavements are sufficiently wide to avoid close contact, the possible suspension of parking bays to enable wider pavements and some provision of cycle lanes on a temporary basis so long as road space is not permanently removed. However, there is a suggestion that road closures might also be considered.

Closing roads (e.g. by the use of “modal filters” or “school streets” involving timed closures) provides absolutely no benefit in terms of social distancing and should therefore not be considered unless there are very good reasons to do so. Neither do they encourage cycling as roads can always be shared between cyclists and other road users.

In addition road closures delay emergency service vehicles who have to take longer routes or can get delayed by extra traffic congestion on main roads. When ambulances are delayed, seconds can count in keeping people alive.

Could you please therefore ensure that our local council does not close roads, even temporarily, in response to the Covid-19 epidemic. It is extremely important that the road network is maintained in a fit state and no artificial restraints are placed on it. Road closures can very rarely be justified even in normal times and it is particularly important at present not to create longer journey times and more traffic congestion.

It is also important to bear in mind that many disabled and elderly people rely on their motor vehicles and they will certainly not be capable or willing to cycle or walk instead. Regrettably the Government seems to have ignored a substantial section of the population in some of their advice but there is no good reason why you need to go to such extremes.

Please consider my comments above and advise your policy on this issue.

<END>

Councillors details including contact information are usually readily available from a council’s web site.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London 

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using this Contact page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/contact.htm  to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

City of London Road Closures

The City of London Corporation have issued a note about the road closures and advisory 15 mph speed limits in the square mile. This is claimed to be a response to the Covid-19 epidemic but is consistent with their long-term strategy to remove all traffic from City streets.

To quote: “The City of London Corporation has begun delivery of its transport recovery plan, designed to ensure the safety of residents, workers and visitors as people return to the Square Mile.

The scheme is primarily focused on providing the space needed to maintain social distancing on our streets and to enable safe walking, cycling and the managed use of public transport”.

Key roads such as Cannon Street, Old Broad Street and Leadenhall Street are affected.

See https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/Pages/covid-19-city-streets.aspx for more information and where you can give your comments.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London 

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Islington Closing Roads

The London Borough of Islington is using the same tactic of closing roads using Experimental Traffic Orders as some other London boroughs. They are using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to make them “people friendly streets”. They are also using the CommonPlace system as an alternative to proper public consultation – see https://islingtonpeoplefriendlystreets.commonplace.is/

But there is already substantial opposition to the closures which will just force traffic onto other roads. A petition against the proposals has been  created on Change.org – see https://www.change.org/p/islington-residents-stop-islington-councils-closure-of-local-roads?

Please sign the petition. Closing roads is hardly ever justified and particularly so at the present time when an efficient and open road network is so essential for transport of all kinds.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London 

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

More Road Closures in London

I mentioned in previous blog posts the road closures in Lewisham and Hackney using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse. There are also road closures being installed in:

Tower Hamlets. This borough proposes to close numerous roads. See this Traffic Order for details of some of them and where to send your objections: https://www.thegazette.co.uk/notice/3571436

Waltham Forest: This borough proposed a number of “Mini-Holland” schemes that involved road closures before the epidemic hit. Some have been delayed or cut back due to financial limitations, but there are still promoting walking and cycling via “low traffic streets” in the Coppermill and Hilltop areas. See https://enjoywalthamforest.co.uk/enjoy-waltham-forest/walking-and-cycling/ . As in Lewisham, they are using a CommonPlace web site as a consultation method but in this case there is no detailed information yet available. In this and many other London boroughs, there is minimal information on the plans that have been made public and decisions are effectively being taken in secret. Searching the Council’s web site for details of Committee Meetings and Decisions reveals no information. This is a good example of a “bad” borough in terms of democracy.

City of London: The City of London Corporation have issued a note that says the following:

What are the changes? On-street measures will include: Timed closures to motor vehicles, mostly 7am – 7pm, allowing limited access to premises for people with access needs, deliveries and servicing; Reallocation of carriageway to space for walking, queueing and cycling and priority for buses; Closing streets to through traffic or other changes in operation, e.g. switching to one-way.

Where will the changes be? Change is required across the Square Mile and will be delivered in phases. The following streets have been selected for Phase 1 based on pedestrian numbers, pavement widths, cycling demand and connections to destinations, retail and transport hubs: Cannon Street (between Queen Victoria Street and Monument junction); Cheapside and Poultry; Old Jewry and Coleman Street; Lombard Street; Leadenhall Street and St Mary Axe; Threadneedle Street and Old Broad Street.

There are a lot of pedestrians that cross Cannon Street from Cannon Street Station but closing the road when the Bank Junction is already closed is going to be very damaging to traffic flows.

More information is available here: https://tinyurl.com/y76jk363 including where to send objections.

All of these measures are claimed to be justified by the Covid-19 epidemic but they are unlikely to be temporary and are just a continuation of the City Corporation’s attack on all vehicle users. That includes the disabled or infirm to whom few concessions are made.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Lewisham Road Closure News

Scawen Road

What’s happening you may ask about the proposed road closures in Lewisham? These were originally proposed for Lee Green and other parts of the Borough under the Healthy Neighbourhood scheme, but are now being put forward as Covid-19 epidemic emergency responses. At least that seems to be the justification as it is proving impossible to obtain any information on them from the Council. I suspect this is a deliberate obstruction of local democracy but I am submitting a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain more information.

In the meantime, Councillor Sophie McGeevor has issued the following Tweet: “As part of our emergency roll out of measures to support walking and cycling in Lewisham 6 modal filters (of an initial phase of 30) are being implemented next week!”

The roads involved are: Scawen Road (see photo above), George Lane, Kitto Road, Glenbow Rd, South Row, Bishopsthorpe Rd and Silverdale. These are spread around the borough so why they have been selected is not obvious.

You can see more information and add some comments here:  https://lewishamcovidresidentialstreets.commonplace.is/overview

PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU ADD SOME NEGATIVE COMMENTS AND “LIKE” THOSE WHO OPPOSE THESE CLOSURES!

You could also send comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

If you don’t object, these closures are likely to be made permanent! The closures are likely to be implemented via Experimental Traffic Orders but these do not yet appear to have been published. It is important to oppose them when published. You should be able to find them in The Gazette (see https://www.thegazette.co.uk/  ) where all official notices appear. To search for notices from any London Borough use the search function to search for the boroughs name, e.g. “London Borough of Lewisham”).

The ABD suggests that roads should not be closed without prior public consultations that include both local residents and road users. Such road closures do not help with social distancing so there is no justification for them as “emergency” measures. They create more traffic congestion and longer journey times. All roads should be shared by different users, not closed to vehicle traffic.

These roads are being closed using “Modal Filters” which is simply a euphemism and a deliberate misleading of the public. Only cyclists can easily get through such closures, and they will even obstruct emergency service vehicles.

MAKE SURE YOU OBJECT AND STOP THE CLOSURES SPREADING!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Hackney Closing Roads Without Consultation

The London Borough of Hackney is closing a number of roads using Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). These do not require any consultation before being put into effect; you can only comment later. The roads affected immediately are Ashenden Road, Gore Road, Meeson Street, Ufton Road and Barnabas Road.

Councillor Jon Burke is the Cabinet Member on the Council responsible for these moves. When I complained on Twitter about these closures and the lack of consultation, he responded “We consult local residents, not the rat-runners”. Clearly Councillor Burke has no clear idea on how democracy should work. Calling people who use vehicles “rats” is abusive and it is wrong to ignore the general public but just listen to a few people. And in reality most of the people using these roads will be local residents.

This unfortunately is the kind of thing that is happening of late in some London boroughs (Lewisham is another example), where the Covid-19 epidemic is being used as an excuse to close roads. Local democracy is being undermined by claims of expediency. Road closures do not help with social distancing. They also create more traffic congestion and longer journey times. It’s basically just an excuse to pander to the wishes of cyclists as these are closures using “modal filters” that still allow cyclists. The ABD believes that all roads should be shared by different users, not closed to vehicle traffic.

The danger is that Experimental Traffic Orders can easily be turned into Permanent ones. The ABD is generally opposed to road closures as they damage the road network. We have submitted objections to these closures which you can also do by sending an email to streetscene.consultations@hackney.gov.uk – quote Traffic Order Numbers TT1420 and TT1421.

Note that all Traffic Orders need to be published in The Gazette (see https://www.thegazette.co.uk/ ) where all official notices appear. To search for notices from any London Borough use the search function to search for the boroughs name, e.g. “London Borough of Hackney”).

You could also send comments to Jon Burke. His email address is Jon.Burke@Hackney.gov.uk and his Twitter account is @jonburkeUK .

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Update on Lewisham and Other Boroughs Covid-19 Transport Responses

As in many other London boroughs, Lewisham Council have developed a Covid-19 Transport Plan which is in response to the epidemic where social distancing is required. This involves widening pavements, providing more cycle lanes and possibly road closures, much to the anger of local residents. More details are now available in a report to Councillors (see Reference 1 below). I’ll summarise some of the key points:

  1. It includes proposals to create more pedestrian space, quieter residential streets (I think they mean without traffic), safer space for pedestrians/cyclists (i.e. more and wider cycle lanes and wider pavements) and creating safer space outside schools (i.e. road closures called “School Streets”).
  2. Council officers will be given “delegated powers” to create the necessary traffic orders, parking suspensions, temporary barriers and other infrastructure with enforcement via camera technology.

In other words, council officers will be able to implement the kinds of proposals previously put forward in the “Safer Neighbourhoods” proposals without further public consultation or even input from Councillors. The Council has gained additional powers to do these things under new Statutory Guidance issued by the Secretary of State for Transport (Grant Shapps) – see Reference 2. Effectively the new Guidance drives a coach and horses through local democracy and enables Councils to do what they want without any restraint or input from local residents.

The Council’s initial proposals include restricting parking on such roads as Deptford High Street, Luxmore Gardens, Coulgate Street and Hither Green Lane (see report for full list). These proposals are not unreasonable in some of these roads.

They also propose as a second project to introduce “modal filters” to create quieter and safer roads. This is just a euphemism to closing roads to all traffic except cyclists which has been so vigorously opposed by many residents. There are also proposals for School Streets. They propose to use Temporary Traffic Regulation Notices followed by Temporary Traffic Orders. We believe this is a misuse of the regulations as we have said before and made plain in a letter to the Council.

The closure of roads using the epidemic as an excuse makes no sense. Closing roads does not help social distancing. It just favours one category of road users over another. And it is clear that there is the intention to make these closures permanent in due course. The proposals also ignore the requirement to take into account the needs of the elderly and disabled under the Equalities Act.

In regards to “public engagement” the Council has set up a web site called Commonplace – see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/ where more details will be provided. Some is already there, although it seems to be a work in progress at the time of writing. You can potentially add your comments, or suggest additional locations.

Will the Council have the money to implement these proposals? This is doubtful. This is what Councillor Sophie McGeevor said in a recent tweet (‪@SophieMcGeevor): “You know that £250 million investment in walking and cycling that the government have been going on about? Well London boroughs will each only get £100k of that. That would only cover about 20% of our initial COVID-19 transport proposals in Lewisham”.

Let us hope that this will stop them from doing the road closures and just stick to the sensible parking restrictions.

But make sure you send any comments to Sophie McGeevor who is responsible for these plans – her email address is CllrSophie.McGeevor@lewisham.gov.uk

Note that a number of London boroughs have already drawn up plans and submitted proposals for funding under the Covid-19 banner, and some money has already been granted. Bromley’s proposals were covered in a previous blog post.

Streetspace and School Streets Guidance

TfL has also published guidance on how boroughs should implement their “Streetspace” proposals – see Reference 3 below. And they have also published guidance for “School Streets” which are being implemented by many boroughs – see Reference 4 below.

School Street Sign

See photo above of a sign that can be used to enforce School Streets.

Reference 1: Lewisham Council Report – Implementation of Temporary Measures…. (see item 3) https://tinyurl.com/y7ojhtxw

Reference 2: Government Funding for Cycling/Walking and new Statutory Guidance: https://tinyurl.com/y9yry8wz

Reference 3: TfL Streetspace Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/lsp-interim-borough-guidance-main-doc.pdf

Reference 4: TfL School Streets Guidance: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/appendix-8-supplementary-guidance-on-school-streets.pdf

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

 

 

Bromley – Funding Submission for Highway Measures

ChislehurstHighSt1Anyone with an interest in the activities of the local London Boroughs as regards highways measures will know that a revolution is taking place for two reasons: 1) The Mayor and TfL have run out of money so funding by Tfl for previously approved highways schemes has been stopped; and 2) the Covid-19 epidemic has prompted the Government to ask local councillors to bring in measures to promote “social distancing” and encourage walking/cycling to relieve pressure on public transport and roads. Some money is available in grants for such measures but they have to be bid for and soon in a competition that will be judged on merit.

Bromley Council have published what they may submit in a document that explains the process – see https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/documents/s50082088/ES20029.pdf

Many of the proposed measures may be temporary, but some might be made permanent. Plans for “Healthy Neighbourhood” or “Mini-Holland” schemes which include road closures may have lost previous funding, but they might still be snuck in using the new funding measures. It is therefore important if you live in London to keep an eye on what your local borough is proposing because there will otherwise be minimal public consultation. The proposals are considered urgent now because of the epidemic and decisions may simply be delegated to council staff to push them through quickly.

However, I have submitted the following comments to some of the relevant Bromley Councillors and officers (I may try and cover some other boroughs later but it really needs someone with local knowledge of the roads to make suggestions and comments – with 32 London borough I cannot personally cover all of them):

Bromley Funding Submission for Highway Measures

Dear Councillor Harmer,

Here are some comments that you requested on the published “Funding Submission for Highway Measures to Support Social Distancing….”. As you may know, I have taken a strong interest in traffic and transport issues in Bromley for the last 20 years.

Being someone who is considered a particularly “vulnerable” person from the Covid-19 epidemic being a transplant patient, I have a strong interest in ensuring that roads and pavements provide adequate social distancing capabilities. However I also have a strong interest in ensuring that vehicle users are not unreasonably prejudiced by such measures in my wider role for the ABD in London, particularly as the use of cars rather than public transport can be an invaluable resource to the elderly and disabled, of which there are very many in the borough.

In general most of the proposals being put forward for funding seem quite reasonable, so I will only comment on those worth highlighting and where I have particular knowledge:

Temporary measures in locations where walking and cycling schemes have been previously supported by members.

BROMLEY TOWN – Glassmill Lane. I note the proposal to “filter”, i.e. close, the road to southbound traffic with the introduction of a cycle lane. This road is used by a lot of traffic headed from Bickley or Chislehurst to Beckenham (you indicate 15,000 vehicle movements). The reason for this is because the alternative routes, particularly Beckenham Lane where traffic queues up to Shortlands Station for much of the day, are not very viable.

Although the volume of traffic may be temporarily lower, it is clearly likely that any such change would be made permanent. There are also a considerable number of properties to the east of Glassmill Lane (between Mill Lane and Bromley Gardens) who would be severely inconvenienced by this closure. I suggest if nothing else that they be consulted before this is done, irrespective of the urgency of these proposals.

I can well understand this proposal is being considered because the tight bends at the top of Glassmill Lane and the narrow carriageway at that point are clearly dangerous, and not just to cyclists. However, I would suggest that a closure northbound rather than southbound would be better. Traffic travelling from Beckenham eastwards has good alternative routes so would not normally use Glassmill Lane.

CHISLEHURST: Add a refuge at the bottom of Old Hill. I am very supportive of this proposal.

COPERS COPE: A regards the proposed temporary closure of Park Road, I suggest the local residents should be consulted before any such measure is undertaken. The ABD is opposed to road closures unless there are very good reasons to do so.

As regards the suggestion that Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) might be used to put in measures such as road closures, they are intended for the use in emergencies and it would be a misuse of the legislation that permits road closures by councils. The latest Government Guidance does not change the wording of the Act that covers such capabilities. TTOs should only be used for such things as emergency road repairs and should be temporary as the name implies. To use them for measures to improve social distancing may be justified temporarily, but that does not support the closure of Park Road, nor the closure of Glassmill Lane mentioned above.

SHORTLAND: Durham Road – Valley Road. It is not at all clear what is being proposed here, and by “filter” I presume a road closure is being proposed. Could you ask whoever writes these documents to stop using a euphemism. A road closure to everyone but cyclists is a closure. What are the alternative routes that might be used around such a closure? Again local residents need to be consulted first. The Covid-19 epidemic should not be used as an excuse to close roads without prior public consultation.

Town Centre Distancing Hotspots.

BROMLEY TOWN CENTRE: I would support the pedestrianization of East Street. As regards keep left and lane signage for pedestrians, I really doubt that this will be adhered to and could be expensive to implement.

ORPINGTON: We would oppose any suggestion of restricting the High Street to buses, cyclists and servicing vehicles only. I doubt any vehicle users who know the area would use this road as a through route, so the vehicles are mainly dropping off and picking up pedestrians. However, some of the parking on this road could usefully be removed.

CHISLEHURST TOWN CENTRE (see photo above).  I completely agree with changing the parking to be parallel with the road between Willow Grove and Prince Imperial Road entirely. Indeed I have supported this ever since I was involved with the Chislehurst Society. This should be made a permanent change. This would provide a wider pavement, possibly even a cycle lane, and smooth traffic flows.

Temporary Measures for Schools in the Borough.

CHISLEHURST: Chislehurst CE Primary – closure of School Road at Royal Parade. A closure at the end of School Road (at the junction with Royal Parade) would effectively mean the closure of Church Row and hence require all north/south traffic to use Church Lane instead. This would put more pressure on Royal Parade which already has stationary traffic for most of the day, on Bull Lane and Manor Park Road. I would suggest alternative closure points would be better, including making Church Row one-way southbound which has long been proposed and would enable wider pavements to be introduced. In summary, I think any changes in these roads would be problematic without a lot more consideration and estimates of the impact on traffic queues. The closure of School Road might be welcomed by the School, but local residents over a wide area might be adversely affected.

Temporary Measures in locations where walking and cycling schemes were being developed.

CHISLEHURST: Improving the footpath between Belmont Lane/Edgebury and Kemnal Road. As a former resident of Belmont Lane, I wholeheartedly support this, although it’s not a “short-cut” that takes you anywhere of interest. However the last time I walked it, it was barely passable on foot and in winter gets very deep in mud and slippery at the Northern end. It would be a useful improvement but far from essential.

I hope you will consider the above comments before deciding where any money that is available might be spent.

Yours sincerely

Roger Lawson

<END LETTER>

P.S. Apparently the intention is to make Glassmill Lane, Queensmead Road and Station Road one-way along the whole length thus enabling one phase of the traffic lights at the Shortlands Station junction to be closed, thus improving traffic flow on Beckenham Lane. But it would create major inconvenience for many local residents forcing them onto Beckenham Lane via a circular route.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

More Taxes on Car Drivers, and Londoners in General

I covered the TfL bail-out deal that Sadiq Khan agreed with the Government in a previous blog post. As usual the Mayor blames the Government. So he says today: “The Government is, in effect, making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing on Covid-19”. He also said: “This deal is a sticking plaster. The old model for funding public transport in London simply does not work in this new reality – fares income will not cover the cost of running services while so few people can safely use public transport. Over the next few months we will have to negotiate a new funding model with Government – which will involve either permanent funding from Government or giving London more control over key taxes so we can pay for it ourselves – or a combination of both”. Yes it looks like the Mayor wants to take more from you in taxes!

See the link to the full announcement below.

To help raise more revenue, the Congestion Charge and ULEZ taxes are being immediately reinstated and the Congestion Charge is to go up a whopping 30% from the 22nd June and the times will be extended to between 07:00 and 22:00, seven days a week. It is suggested this might be a temporary change, but don’t bet on it!

In addition there will be road closures and Heidi Alexander has said “One of the world’s largest car free zones will be created in central London as part of our response to Covid-19”.

This is what Black-cab driver and general secretary of the London Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA) Steve McNamara said to the BBC: “ It’s an absolute disgrace –  no one had been consulted about plans to change the use of some roads. Usually you have to consult with the public and businesses – they are using a health emergency to get around the laws to consult people before you do these things. London will grind to a halt even with reduced people. It’s a land grab to exclude Londoners from their roads and to widen pavements for more cycling”.

The ABD certainly agrees with those comments and we have pointed out that the Covid-19 epidemic is being used to introduce an agenda that penalises private travel and reduces your freedom. See the link to the ABD’s press release below.

But it’s not just vehicle users who are going to be penalised. The BBC has said this about the Freedom Pass: “Under the new conditions, children will no longer have free travel across London and restrictions on travel passes for people with a disability or over the age of 60 will also be imposed during peak hours”, although no formal announcement has yet to be made. The Freedom Pass might have been overdue for reform but the Mayor will no doubt blame this on the Government also rather than his own financial mismanagement.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Announcement: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/statement-from-the-mayor-of-london-regarding-tfl

ABD Press Release: https://www.abd.org.uk/press-release-shapps-announces-2-billion-war-on-drivers/

You can see more details of the proposals from TfL to change London here:  https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/streetspace-for-london

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.

Sadiq Khan and TfL Bailed Out

Blackfriars Bridge at Lunch TimeAfter threatening the Government that TfL would have to make deep cuts to public transport in London unless they came up with some money by the close of yesterday, they did agree a bail-out. But with some conditions attached.

The Government has agreed to provide TfL with £1.5 billion in grants and loans to enable TfL to continue operating for at least a few months. With most of TfL’s income coming from bus and underground fares, the collapse in usage as people avoid public transport in the virus pandemic has resulted in massive losses at TfL which are still continuing. In addition the Mayor’s previous decisions to suspend increases in public transport fares, which he made to ensure election, have been enormously damaging to TfL finances and meant they were already budgeting massive deficits even before the epidemic hit.

The suspension of the Congestion Charge and ULEZ has also not helped, plus the fact that you can avoid paying bus fares by entering through the central door as is now required. Even TfL’s advertising revenue has fallen as advertisers’ budgets have fallen and they won’t pay when far few people are using public transport. With social distancing required, even the capacity of buses and the underground will be severely restricted for some time, even if people can be persuaded to use it.

The details of the agreed deal have not yet been disclosed, but the BBC reported that it includes a commitment to raise public transport fares by inflation plus 1%, two seats on the TfL board and a complete review of its finances. TfL has also committed to run a full service when previously they were cutting to 75%.

Mr Khan as usual blamed the Government rather than his own financial incompetence. This is what the BBC reported as being said by someone in the Mayor’s office: “They have forced ordinary Londoners to pay a very heavy price for doing the right thing on Covid-19 by hiking TfL fares, temporarily suspending the Freedom Pass at busy times and loading TfL with debt that Londoners will pay for in the long run”.

Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary, said it was wrong for the rest of the country to be bailing out Londoners but in fact Londoners who never use public transport will be paying a lot of the bill anyway via the Mayoral Council Tax Precept and in other ways.

What should the Mayor have done instead of running up a large deficit, and what should he do now?

Clearly many TfL projects have been very expensive. Building cycle superhighways has not come cheap and schemes such as Crossrail have very marginal cost/benefit ratios. The Mayor’s office and TfL management costs have also grown as the Mayor built an empire at taxpayer’s expense. It seems likely that a number of projects such as to expand the underground network will now have to be cancelled. Subsidies to bus operations which have been running at about £1 billion per annum could never be justified except by the desire of the Mayor to win popularity and elections.

The Mayor and TfL have actually cut their bus income by introducing road schemes that slowed traffic including buses, thus cutting bus ridership. You cannot solve these problems by simply encouraging cycling. The average distance travelled by a London commuter is 13 miles per day with many travelling much longer distances. That makes it impractical for many people to cycle even if they had an inclination to do so. The danger of cycling puts many people off using it for long journeys. Department for Transport (DfT) figures show that there are 1,139 serious injuries and 29 deaths for every million miles cycled, while for car drivers the figures are only 27 and 2 respectively.

The Mayor and central Government should face up to realities and work on the following:

  1. Free up the road network to enable more commuting via cars/taxis and improve bus services. Stop reducing road space.
  2. Provide more parking facilities at low cost.
  3. Encourage more tele-commuting by investing in broadband services and support.
  4. Encourage businesses to relocate out of congested central London into the London suburbs and elsewhere.
  5. Retail facilities and hotels/restaurants should be relocated similarly.
  6. We should move away from the concentration of businesses and facilities in central London to have a wider distribution so we are not reliant on public transport so much.
  7. Bus and underground services should pay for themselves. Handouts for political reasons (such as the Freedom Pass) should be severely restricted to those who really do need travel support, i.e. those who cannot afford to pay.
  8. The ULEZ and Congestion Charge should be scrapped as they don’t really provide a sensible return on the investment and operating costs. They are simply a financial burden on Londoners with very little benefit.

All it needs is strong and wise leadership from the Mayor of London to get Londoners through the current crisis, but will we get it? It seems unlikely from the current Mayor.

All that is likely to happen is that the TfL deficit will continue to grow after this short-term bail-out unless someone really gets to grips with the underlying financial problems.

P.S. Government announcement here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-grants-transport-for-london-funding-package?   They apparently still think the problems can be solved by encouraging cycling.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.