Emirates Cable Car, Bike Hire and TfL Finances

The London Evening Standard recently ran an article that suggested the Emirates Cable Car might be sold off or scrapped. The Cable Car runs across the Thames at Greenwich, cost about £60 million to build and opened in 2013. Passenger numbers have been lower than forecast with it mainly being used by tourists. I used it once but it’s a very slow means to get across the Thames at that point, even allowing for delays at the Blackwall Tunnel.

Does it lose money? According to the information provided by a recent FOI Act request, the numbers are as follows for the 12 months to Jan 2017: Income £9.2 million, Operating Costs: £6.0 million. But £3.3 million of the income comes from Emirates Airlines sponsorship under a deal that runs to 2021, so it barely breaks even ignoring the sponsorship money. Why an airline would wish to subsidise this slow and unreliable mode of transport (it frequently breaks down or has to stop in high winds) was never very clear.

On break-even if they don’t renew sponsorship it might be argued it is worth retaining, but obviously the construction cost will never be recovered, and even exceptional maintenance costs might be unaffordable. The Mayor and TfL have some tough decisions to make on this one.

The Standard also suggested that the Santander Bike Hire (formerly Barclays) might be scrapped to save money. It costs £21 million per year to run, of which TfL pays £3.6 million according to the Standard article. It might have encouraged more cycling in London, although users of these bikes are some of the worst behaved cyclists from my observations – perhaps because tourists unfamiliar with London traffic and road rules tend to use them. However, there are now some commercial alternatives who operate a “dockless”, pick up and drop off anywhere system. It might must be that after just a few years the technology is obsolescent.

Both subjects are of course under the spotlight because of the pressure on the Mayor’s Transport Budget where he has seriously miscalculated the funding needs and the impact of his past promises to his electorate. Another aspect that TfL are examining according to an FT article is the exemption from the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. “tax”) for taxis and PHVs (mini-cabs). The latter have proliferated with such operators as Uber creating a lot more traffic congestion. Why they should be exempt was never very clear, although the argument is perhaps that they offer a public service similar to buses. But it’s not very clear why buses should be exempt either, particularly as they create a lot of congestion.

Bearing in mind the need for the Mayor to raise money, and the fact that he is threatening to cancel Uber’s licence, the expected outcome is surely going to be something like this: Yes we won’t cancel your licence after all but you’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge, or a specially large annual licence fee. Is that a deal?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: Mayor Sadiq Khan Ignores Objections to his Transport Strategy

The ABD has issued the following press release:

The response of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the public consultation on his Transport Strategy has been announced today. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been actively campaigning against certain aspects of his proposals.

We suggested that his proposals were a direct attack on the use of cars or indeed private transport in general and that not only were his proposals unrealistic but would not work. Our campaign attracted more responses to his proposals than any other campaign group.

Has he made any significant changes to his proposals? In reality NO. The response document (see below) is full of comments that say “no change” is proposed.

A Brief Analysis of Responses to the Public Consultation

The Mayor claims “broad support” for his Healthy Streets approach and the 80% mode share target for cycling, walking and public transport use. But then goes on to say “there were sometimes divergent views across issues”. Indeed, if you look at the details of the comments TfL received there was substantial opposition to many points, including much opposition to road user charging or congestion charging schemes.

There were clearly lots of opposing comments from outer London residents and although the Mayor has committed to respond to them by improving the bus network and surface rail in outer London, this is hardly likely to placate many objectors. Our experience is that many of those objecting are disabled or very elderly who often rely on private vehicles and who would have difficulty with public transport (most of them consider the suggestion that they should cycle as laughable). You can see some comments from our campaign supporters on our web site.

This is also evident from the Consultation Response Document where it says “there was a notable level of disagreement with the aim that by 2041 Londoners should be doing 20 minutes of active travel each day” (page 30 of the Consultation Report).

Opposition to road charging was evidenced by 566 “comments of concern” versus 250 supportive comments (see page 103). That’s good evidence of the level of opposition. That’s despite the repeated claims by the Mayor that the Congestion Charge system reduced congestion (see page 106), which is simply not true. But it is “no change” for his strategy to support charging schemes. His only concession is that it will be up to local boroughs to consider how or whether to implement them (see page 109). The ABD is likely therefore to be fighting these in individual boroughs in future as we successfully did in Greenwich when this was last proposed.

Even the Mayor’s environmental policies received a lot of negative comments (see page 110) and there were also many against “densification” of London which is a major concern in outer London boroughs (see page 162). The Mayor again proposes “no change” to his strategy on those.

In summary a disappointing outcome, with consultation responses minimised by the short timescale allowed. The outcome is much as one might expect when you have a Mayor who has dictatorial powers and who does not seem to understand the diverse population of London and those who live in outer London.

More Information

The ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport is described here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Announcement from TfL and the Consultation Report document can be obtained from here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/mayors-transport-strategy/?cid=mayors-transport-strategy

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

Street Lights, Charging Points and Electric Taxis

One of the problems in London for vehicle owners who wish to buy an electric one is how to recharge it. Many Londoners do not have off street parking facilities but park in the road near their house. One solution is for local councils to implement charging sockets in street lamps. Two London boroughs are trying out such arrangements.

Kensington & Chelsea are installing 50 charging points in street lighting columns next to pay and display parking bays on a trial basis. Users have to purchase a cable and pay a subscription plus a charge for the electricity used. Wandsworth is likewise to install 50 charging points on a similar scheme.

These installations are only possible where the lamp posts are next to the kerb to avoid cables crossing the footpath. Unfortunately in many roads the street lights are not at the kerb but are on the side of the footpath next to front gardens and moving them, plus the electricity supply, would be enormously expensive. Different councils seem to have adopted differing policies on street lighting positioning in the past.

London Electric Taxi

Meanwhile electric black cabs have hit the streets of London. Initial deliveries of the £55,000 vehicles from the London EV Company have commenced. The taxis can travel up to 80 miles on electric charge alone, but have a back-up petrol engine that enables them to continue thereafter. The new taxi got very positive reviews in the media in terms of facilities and comfort. All new taxis have to be zero emission capable from the start of 2018.

But there are only a couple of recharging points that the new cabs can use in central London at present. An £18m scheme to install 75 rapid charging stations by the end of this year is behind schedule and Steve McNamara of the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association was quoted as saying “The whole thing is just a farce, you couldn’t make it up”. TfL claim there will be up to 200 such points by the end of 2018.

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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Is Khan Trying to Kill the Private Hire Industry?

Gareth Bacon, leader of the Conservatives in the London Assembly, has published a revealing article on the policies of Mayor Sadiq Khan under the headline “Is Khan trying to kill the private hire industry – or is he just incompetent”. It suggests that Khan is pursuing short term flashy policy gimmicks but he is hampered by his election promise to freeze public transport fares. This means he is “scrambling around to make savings and raise money”. One victim of this is the private hire (minicab) industry where proposed increases in license fees are astronomical. This could force hundreds of mid-size PHV operators out of business.

The costs for larger operators such as Uber will rise enormously – as much as 102,500 per cent the article suggests. That’s assuming they even manage to retain their license which is under threat.

The recently published Mayor’s Transport Strategy indicates he wants us all to walk, cycle or use public transport as it’s more “healthy” than getting in a car or PHV. So his tactics are certainly consistent if nothing else. He not just wants you to stop owning and driving a car, he wants you to stop using private hire vehicles and taxis also no doubt.

But like all good politicians, he is not proposing a simple ban, but attacking them indirectly by raising their costs and getting tough on licensing conditions.

The full article is here and it’s well worth reading:

https://www.conservativehome.com/localgovernment/2017/11/gareth-bacon-is-mayor-khan-trying-to-kill-the-private-hire-industry-or-is-he-just-incompetent.html

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Bank Junction Closure – Make Sure You Object

I was in the City of London last week, and walked through the Bank Junction area, as I often do. It was very clear that the “experimental” closure of that junction to all traffic except buses and cyclists during the hours of 7.00 am to 7.00 pm had certainly reduced the volume of traffic. But it was also obvious that some vehicle drivers were still not aware of the restriction (and the fines they will collect) as I reported back in May (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/05/24/bank-junction-closed-to-most-traffic/ ).

This junction is of course the central hub of the road network in the City so closing it was bound to disrupt the network and cause congestion elsewhere. For example, it has noticeably worsened traffic congestion on the alternative routes such as Cannon Street and Gracechurch Street/Bishopsgate. These were already badly congested before this experiment was implemented but now you often get stationary traffic for much of the day. And that includes buses resulting in appalling bad air pollution.

This closure also causes major problems for delivery drivers and taxi drivers. A representative of The NED Hotel has contacted me about their difficulties. This is a new luxury hotel which recently opened on Poultry very close to the junction. The front entrance cannot even be reached by taxis without incurring a fine. Although there is a rear entrance, visitors obviously have great difficulties persuading taxi drivers or other vehicles such as PHVs (minicabs) to go anywhere near the location. They probably would not have opened the hotel if they had known the roads around Bank would be closed.

Comment: A large proportion of the accidents and casualties, which this closure was aimed to reduce, are caused by pedestrians stepping into the road without looking. It is undoubtedly the case that with rising numbers of pedestrians in this location, and with pavements that are too narrow, it would make sense to redesign this junction. In addition, the traffic congestion that existed before this scheme was introduced caused high air pollution. A better solution would be to reduce the complexity of the junction so as to smooth traffic flows.

The City of London Corporation is looking at some longer-term options for this junction, although they are all very expensive. These include:

  • Closure to motor vehicles on the North/South Axis (King William Street/Princes Street).
  • Closure on the East/West Axis (Poultry, Queen Victoria St, Cornhill, Threadneedle Street)
  • Closure on Cornhill and Poultry.
  • A reduction in available capacity, perhaps by use of a “shared space” scheme.

It is not clear why those roads are proposed for closure rather than say Victoria Street, Lombard Street and Threadneedle Street. But reducing the number of roads feeding into the junction is clearly a priority to simplify the junction and increase the pedestrian space. A shared space scheme may be a viable option and the ABD has no objections to such schemes so long as they are carefully and well designed, which sometimes they are not. At present pedestrians in the area take little notice of formal crossing points so reflecting that in the road design may make sense.

In summary, we would support development of solutions that ensure that this junction remains a key and useable part of the road network. In other words, not just a “place” as the transport planners might desire. It is simply not acceptable to corrupt and damage the road network in the way currently happening.

There is a public consultation being undertaken on the current experimental scheme. Please go here for more information and to respond to it: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank-On-Safety.aspx

You need to do that before the 24th November so do it now!

Postscript: The City of London Corporation have published an initial report on the closure of Bank junction to most traffic, here are some more comments having read the report entitled “Update on Monitoring” authored by Gillian Howard:

  1. From Figure 3 in the report it is obvious that although the number of infringers dropped from the initial level, it has now stabilised and is still running at around 4,000 per week, i.e. 800 per working day. This is obviously an unacceptable level and indicates that either the restriction is inadequately signed or that drivers simply do not expect to meet such a restriction. One problem is that SatNav systems may not be updated for many months if not years and in the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are likely to be issued with fines for contraventions every year. This is simply unacceptable.
  2. As regards the initial collision data, although this shows a reduction (which it should do because of the reduction in traffic volumes), to try and interpret such data over such a short period of time after a change in the road layout would be inappropriate. Any road safety expert knows that after a road layout change, the immediate result tends to be a reduction in accidents for a few months but that often the change disappears over time as drivers become familiar with the new layout and revert to old habits. That is why 3-year before and after data is normally used to identify any real impact.
  3. One very unsatisfactory aspect of the reported data is that no information on traffic volumes through the junction is reported (before and after) so one could examine whether the change in accident figures is due solely to removing traffic or not.
  4. The report also refers to meeting the “success criteria”. But these have clearly been chosen to ensure that the outcome is beneficial. Nowhere in the criteria is the need to maintain a viable road network for all traffic on what is a key junction in the road network. Nor is there any criteria to minimise the additional journey times imposed on all traffic. This is clearly a biased approach to judging the merits of this change to the road layout.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Campaign Report

The formal consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) is over but responses to our campaign against it are still coming in. Thanks to all those who have submitted objections to TfL or the Mayor or have helped in other ways. Here is a summary of what has been achieved. More information on our campaign is present here: AGAINST-MTS

The campaign hasn’t been an easy one. The public consultation on this very important issue was launched in the Summer months and with minimal publicity by Mayor Sadiq Khan. As a result, media coverage was low. In addition lots of information about the proposals was concealed and requests under the Freedom of Information Act frustrated. In summary, a defective public consultation both legally and morally.

Myself and Brian Mooney put in a lot of work on social media, getting circulation on email lists and delivering tens of thousands of leaflets (with the assistance of other volunteers) so as to raise awareness of what Sadiq Khan is planning – effectively an attack on all private transport modes using the “healthy streets” concept and environmental scare stories in support. One way or another, we reached into all 32 London boroughs, despite working against the clock. We got positive responses in support from all parts of London and all sections of the community. You can read some of the comments received here: PUBLIC-COMMENTS

We will wait to see the results of the public consultation in the next few weeks and let you know what is published. But the Mayor may well ignore public criticisms of his plans (he can do that as he is effectively a dictator in London), so we will have to continue to fight on the individual proposals as they are progressed.

For example, allowing local boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans may provide further battlegrounds and there will be Borough elections in May next year where you can express your opinions. The Mayor has admitted that he is in discussion with unnamed boroughs to bring forward congestion charging plans. This will not just create problems in an individual borough because to avoid being charged traffic will divert into neighbouring boroughs and create pressure for charging in that borough too. This disastrous domino effect has already been shown with CPZs. A similar pattern could occur if boroughs are forced to remove parking spaces.

It is important to communicate your views on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to your local borough councillors, London Assembly Members and even your local Members of Parliament over the next few months. If you don’t know who they are, contact us for assistance (go to CONTACT ).

But we do need more financial support if we are to continue this fight (the campaign has already cost the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) several thousands of pounds and we could have done a lot more with more resources.

PLEASE DO MAKE A DONATION NOW HERE: DONATE

THE ABOVE IS VERY IMPORTANT. TO PUT UP A GOOD FIGHT WE NEED BETTER FINANCIAL SUPPORT AS WELL AS ENTHUSIASTIC VOLUNTEERS!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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