Garden Bridge Down The River

Yes that vanity project the Thames Garden Bridge has finally been cancelled. After it lost the support of Mayor Sadiq Khan it has not been able to get enough funding from private sources. The amount of money wasted is forecast to be about £46 million. And most of that came from public funds, i.e. your taxes, with nothing to show for it at all. But better late than never so far as cancellation is concerned.

It was a bridge sold on attracting tourists but was not in the right place and not useable by many people who might wish to cross the Thames at that point. No proper cost/benefit analysis was done on it. But like that other more grandiose vanity transport project, HS2, once these projects get launched they soon gain a momentum of their own as lobbyists for commercial groups who might benefit promote the project.

Now HS2 has only spent about £2 billion to date, without laying a single foot of track, but if it was cancelled now might save over £70 billion. As with the Garden Bridge, there are lots of other better uses to which the money could be put.

It’s not too late. Just time to make a tough decision.

Roger Lawson

Transport Costs in London – A Begging Letter from the Mayor

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has recently published a document entitled “Transport expenditure in London” (from the GLA Economics Current Issues Note 54). It claims to be an analysis of how much money is spent on transport in London in comparison with other parts of the country. But in reality it repeatedly simply argues that London needs more. Unfortunately, the facts presented, which is useful information in many ways, actually tend to show that London is already very well funded as regards rail transport, but that the road system has been neglected of late. Here are some of the key points from the document:

It says “Comparing regions based on how much transport expenditure they receive on its own or on a per head basis does not properly account for the need or demand for transport” (page 2). It suggests that rather than using a “per head” basis, it should be on a “per user” basis and proceeds to say “On this basis, the amount spent on railways per passenger journey and the amount spent on roads per 1 million vehicle miles in London were one of the lowest among the GB regions.”  

Now there are of course many more “commuters” who travel into London by train and other public transport on a daily basis than you get in the other major UK cities, let alone in the more rural areas. In addition many of these journeys in London involved multiple stages, i.e. separate trips, including changes of mode, which they are probably counting as separate journeys because they are otherwise difficult to measure. So they are selecting a measure that favours their argument.

In addition, they say that “In particular, London has seen the largest decline in road expenditure per 1 million vehicle miles since 2007-08”. Well one can quite believe that when London has had minimal expenditure on roads while cities like Birmingham have greatly improved their road networks in recent years.

They do point out that the number of passengers using public transport in London at peak hours far exceeds that of other major cities but their table of numbers of trips by mode shows that almost as many get made by car as by bus/tram and they are more than double those by rail. Mr Khan wants to change that of course, and the Mayor, and his cycling mad predecessor, have been increasing the number of cycle trips but they are still a small fraction of those by other modes (see page 9).

The report gives some figures on public sector expenditure by region, and London receives 29% of all of it, plus another 11% is spent in the South-East. The North-West is the next biggest at 11%. This just shows how much more subsidies, both capital and current expenditure, is spent in London and the South-East than the rest of the country – but the Mayor would like even more! See page 12.

In terms of expenditure per head, London is about twice as high as any other region and amounts to about £981 in 2015-2016 per head. To look at this a different way, the expenditure per passenger journey on the railways in London was approximately £6.94 in 2015-16. Bearing in mind that most rail trips within London probably cost less than £7 you can see how massive these subsidies are (i.e. more than 100%).

The rest of Great Britain gets even bigger rail subsidies per trip at £10.30, but one has to bear in mind that many such trips would be much longer and more expensive.

In terms of road expenditure per region per user, London is relatively high but Scotland is even higher (see page 21). But London’s has been declining and has “one of the lowest spends per vehicle mile in Great Britain”.

Page 25 of the report also gives a useful breakdown of “Sources of Funding for Transport for London”. Some 47% comes from fares, 25% from central Government grants (i.e. out of taxes), 17% from borrowing, and 11% from “other income” (that would include the Congestion and LEZ charges). So Londoners get a subsidy equivalent to 53% for public transport. But this report argues Londoners pay proportionally more for its own infrastructure investments in comparison to other regions.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy argued that public transport users subsidise car drivers. On the data contained in this report, that is clearly nonsense. Public transport users are massively subsidised and the Mayor is asking for even more. See here for more information on that and how you can object: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The full report on Transport Expenditure in London is present here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/transportexpenditure_final_cin54.pdf

Roger Lawson

Forcing Implementation of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy

An article in the latest edition of Local Transport Today (LTT) made interesting reading. It reported on how London boroughs will be in the “frontline to deliver Khan’s traffic reduction goal”.

As readers may be aware, local boroughs in London have control over local roads, but they have to produce a “Local Implementation Plan” (LIP) to show how they are going to follow the Mayor’s Transport Plan (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm if you are not yet clear how damaging it could be). Each borough has to submit their LIPs by October 2018 at the latest and they have to be approved by Transport for London (TfL).

The boroughs have been issued with guidance on how to write their LIP, and Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport has said in the foreword that “Traffic reduction should be a central theme of borough LIPs, with the aim of creating pleasant places for residents of every part of the city. This means providing alternatives to car use, discouraging unnecessary trips, looking at how street space is used most efficiently, supporting car-free lifestyles, and taking action to reduce and re-time freight trips.”

Now we all know what “discouraging unnecessary trips” implies. It means that journeys that you consider worth taking may not be by some bureaucrat in TfL. In other words, your freedom to choose when and how you travel are going to be constrained if the Mayor has his way. And comments such as “looking at how street space is used” surely suggests it could be reallocated as we have seen so much of in the last few years in central London – road space reallocated to cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles.

Most funding for new transport schemes in local boroughs are funded by TfL because they have the tax resources and central Government funding while local boroughs have very small transport budgets from their own cash resources. Such funding from TfL has historically been focussed on certain “streams” that they consider priorities, although there was some local discretionary funding.

This is what it says for example in the Interim Guidance from TfL: “In line with the Healthy Streets Approach, a new Liveable Neighbourhoods programme will replace the LIP Major Schemes programme to deliver transformational improvements in walking and cycling provision, road safety and road danger reduction and mode shift from private car use”.  

There will also be more money for bus priority measures (i.e. bus lanes), cycling and air quality programmes. In addition, the LIP guidance suggests that TfL will be working more closely than in the past in preparation of the LIPs. Does that mean they are going to provide more support, or simply want to ensure they toe the line? If you are in any doubt, it also suggests that TfL will be providing more services to deliver major projects within boroughs – and that includes design and traffic modelling or even “construction oversight”.

It would appear that there will be even more interference in local boroughs in local traffic and road safety schemes by TfL than ever before. This is despite the fact that TfL do not have the local knowledge that is required to develop good schemes – even local boroughs often do not know as much as local residents about road network issues.

Will there be resistance from local boroughs to these plans? Perhaps. But it shows why it is so important to get the proposals in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy kicked into the long grass. TfL continue to wish to impose a centralised, dictatorial manifesto on local boroughs and take even more control over their activities and funding. This writer thinks it should be opposed.

Roger Lawson

London Mayor’s Transport Strategy – A Blatant Attack on Motorists – Campaign Against It Launched

The ABD have issued the following press release:

Last year Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London on a manifesto pledging to tackle congestion through harmless-sounding measures like encouraging car clubs and managing road works. He also promised to maintain the Congestion Charge at its current level.

He would not have got elected if he had come out with blatantly anti-motorist proposals. However, his recent Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) does precisely this.

The under-publicised proposals seek “new ways of paying for road use”, hinting at pay-per-mile road pricing. This could see the Congestion Charge extended across Greater London, with local boroughs asked to use it as a blunt traffic reduction measure. Alternatively, they could be asked to bring in “Workplace Parking Levies” – effectively a tax on going to work.

Britain’s drivers pay five times over to use the roads. Yet the Mayor feels that Londoners “pay too little”, without giving any figures to support this. He alleges that public transport fare payers subsidise motorists which is simply wrong – the reverse is the case as public transport is massively subsidised out of public taxation while motorists pay more than the costs of maintaining the roads.

It is particularly worrying that he wants to take over collection of VED (“road tax”) and set the rates which would provide another way for the Mayor to extract money from car drivers on top of congestion charging.

He seeks to discourage car ownership, using a reduction in the availability of private parking and kerb side parking spaces with discriminatory parking charges against some vehicles.

Even Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs – minicabs) come under attack with proposals to limit their numbers or increase their costs by dropping their exemption from the congestion charge.

He proposes reallocating road space away from drivers, even though the reduction in space has been a key factor in increasing congestion. He even hints at car parking at stations being made less convenient or spaces being removed.

In summary, the Mayor makes it plain that he intends to reduce car use in favour of public transport, cycling and walking by penalising motorists and making it more expensive for you to own and drive a car. The private motorist could become a vanishing species in London if the Mayor has his way, or your costs for driving will skyrocket.

These proposals would give the Mayor the ability to build a financial empire and dictate the lives of Londoners much more extensively than at present. The MTS is yet another missed opportunity to develop an integrated transport strategy with an improved road network in London.

Readers have until 2nd October to object to the proposals. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is supporting a campaign which has been launched against the Mayor’s proposals. For more information, please visit http://www.cantpaywontpay.london/

More Information 

Mayor’s Manifesto: http://www.sadiq.london/a_manifesto_for_all_londoners

Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS): https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

For the ABD’s analysis of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, see: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/mayors-transport-strategy-an-attack-on-private-transport-with-dubious-economics/

For more information on this issue, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378

________________________________________________________

Make sure you object to this blatant attack on motorists.

 

Mayor’s Transport Strategy – An Attack on Private Transport with Dubious Economics

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy (MTS) on the 21st June. We gave some initial comments previously but we have now published a more detailed analysis – see below.

Here’s a brief summary:

The Mayor is concerned about “car dependency”, an emotive phrase used to describe people’s preference for private vehicle transport in some circumstances. He plans to fix that by making the use of cars more and more difficult over the next few years. 

He is also going to fix our health problem (he claims) by getting people out of their cars and walking or cycling instead. Or if they can’t do that, by getting them to use public transport even though he admits that underground and surface rail is often grossly overcrowded and cannot be fixed in the short term. Or of course you can travel by bus even though bus ridership has been falling as it is slow and unreliable (and getting worse).

The Mayor even suggests that the elderly and disabled are too dependent on car use, so they will have to face the same treatment.

Even Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are subject to attack on the basis that they have made congestion worse due to their increase. The Mayor proposes to limit their numbers, and/or remove their exemption from the Congestion Charge.

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 in London, 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.

To further restrict car use, parking provision will be restricted in new developments or even be “car-free”. Yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking. In addition, access to kerb space (on street parking including permit parking) may be restricted or usage discouraged by pricing.

There is a target of a zero-emission transport system by 2050. But he wants to have zero emission zones in central London and the suburban town centres by 2025. This means that unless you have an electric vehicle, it may be prohibitively expensive to drive around much of London in just a few years’ time. That’s much sooner than the vehicle population will change.

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. He will also allow local boroughs (there are 32 in London) to introduce congestion charging schemes so we could end up with a horrendous patchwork of restricted zones. The Mayor repeats the claim that the Congestion Charge was a success in reducing congestion which is simply wrong – as the ABD has repeatedly said. The evidence is here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Congestion.htm.

How much will a new system cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask.

There will be more “bus priority measures” to improve bus journey times and reliability – that means more bus lanes. But the Mayor seems not to recognise that bus lanes are already present on most key routes and are an inefficient use of valuable road space.

What is the cost of the proposed strategy? The Mayor does not say, but it will be clearly very expensive. Transport for London (TfL) have been evading even answering simple questions on the finances of the ULEZ scheme, and there is no cost/benefit analysis provided on the Mayor’s latest proposals, as with so many recent TfL schemes.

The Mayor even goes so far as to claim in the MTS document that public transport fare payers subsidise motorists. This is simply a lie. It is both inaccurate and grossly misleading. Public transport fare payers do not subsidise anyone.

They are subsidised themselves from local and national taxation. Motorists pay much more in taxes than is spent on the provision of roads. On a national basis, and in London, they subsidise public transport users, not the other way around.

It is very obvious from the contents of the MTS and the result of past promises by the Mayor (partly to help get elected no doubt) that TfL faces major budget problems. The Mayor proposes how to fix that though. He is asking for:

  • Revenue raising powers. (Note: the Congestion Charge and ULEZ proposals are not technically revenue raising regulations even though they have turned into a tax on motorists. In practice they have been distorted to perform that function). The Mayor is asking for more powers to raise tax than they alone provide.
  • A development rights auction model on major infrastructure projects. This expands the ability to obtain funding from developers (at present only covered by Section 106 agreements).
  • In addition, he is asking that revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) be “devolved to TfL”. That would include “powers to change how VED is levied” which means the Mayor could set the charge rate for London residents presumably, or charge it in a different way to an annual fee, i.e. based on a new road pricing model. 

Needless to point out that these proposals would give the Mayor the ability to build a financial empire and dictate the lives of Londoners much more extensively than at present. Such wide ranging and sweeping financial powers for someone who, once elected, has dictatorial powers is surely inappropriate.

However one looks at this, the financial plans to underpin the MTS look likely to be very dubious indeed. That hole can only be fixed by more taxation on Londoners as it seems unlikely central Government would wish to help.

Many of the London’s transport problems are being caused by the rapid growth in population, which the Mayor is happy to let continue – indeed to promote. But such growth increases air pollution.

MTS GraphicIt is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of the Mayor’s vision (see example above). 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 unless they are unavoidable.

In summary, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy contains not only a number of glaring defects, but is yet another missed opportunity to develop an integrated transport strategy. London has needed an improved road transport network for many years, but there is nothing in the document to support that. It is mainly about attacks on private vehicle owners and users (including PHVs).

This is of course a common approach by Mayors, and their advisory staff in TfL, who live and work in central London. They simply do not understand the problems faced by residents of the outer London boroughs.

The Mayor also seems keen to bully us into living a healthier life style. But that should be a matter of personal choice and it is not at all obvious how moving people onto overcrowded public transport will significantly assist. To get Londoners to be more active should be more about education than dictatorship. The freedom of individuals to choose their transport mode should not be constrained.

The ABD’s full analysis of the MTS is present here:

http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Analysis-of-Mayors-Transport-Strategy.pdf

Make sure you respond to the public consultation here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

Roger Lawson

Waterloo Roundabout Removal

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing to remove the roundabout at the south end of Waterloo Bridge (the IMAX one, between Stamford Street and York Road).

This is how TfL explain the proposals:

It would:

  • Create a new tree-filled public square supporting civic and cultural life of the area by moving the existing bus stops from Tenison Way to an improved bus station on Waterloo Road, closing the south-west arm of the roundabout and changing the remaining carriageway to two-way traffic.
  • Introduce segregated cycle lanes making cycling around Waterloo roundabout safer.
  • Create new pedestrian routes and permanently remove some subways (but keep others) to help create more direct walking routes towards the river Thames. The subways can be unpleasant and divisive, inaccessible to large sections of the community.
  • Widen the footways on Waterloo Road to give more space to pedestrians and waiting bus passengers by narrowing the carriageway through removing a section of bus lane.
  • Relocate northbound and southbound bus stops to keep traffic moving on Waterloo Road.
  • Ban the right turns from Waterloo Road into Stamford Street and from Concert Hall Approach (except for buses) to keep traffic moving.

They also say it would create “a new, high-quality, traffic-free, green public space to become a focal point for Waterloo supporting the civic and cultural life of the area”.

The impact on journey times for general traffic will be mixed although west bound from Stamford St to York Road will be substantially delayed. Even cyclists and bus passengers may experience extra delays. In the view of the ABD better proposals could have been developed to improve the environment at this major junction, without such negative impact on traffic flows.

And as usual nowadays with TfL consultations, there is no information provided on the cost, nor any cost/benefit analysis.

You can obtain more information and respond to the public consultation here:

https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/waterloo-roundabout/

Roger Lawson

Lambeth Bridge Changes Proposed

Transport for London (TfL) are proposing to change the roundabouts at the north and south end of Lambeth Bridge to signalised junctions with traffic lights. This is to improve road safety but it will also provide more space for pedestrians. There will also be restrictions on right and left turns on some roads at each end of the bridge. There are a large number of accidents involving cyclists at these roundabouts.

In addition, they are considering a 20 mph speed limit on the bridge (the ABD have objected to this as unnecessary as no evidence is provided that there is a road safety problem or that it would cut accidents).

The impact on journey times (for both motor traffic and cyclists) seems mixed.

You can see more details, including projections of how the new road layout will look, and respond to a public consultation on the proposals here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/lambeth-bridge/?cid=lambeth-bridge

As usual though with TfL consultations of late, there is no information provided on the cost, or estimates of the cost/benefit analysis.

Roger Lawson