Legal Action Against Mayor by Minicab Drivers

PHV (Minicab) drivers are incensed by the recent steps by the Mayor of London and TfL to make them pay the London Congestion Charge while licensed taxis will continue to receive an exemption. That and the proposed ULEZ charges will threaten the livelihoods of minicab drivers who are relatively poorly paid already. Many will have to give up and end up out of work.

They are supported by the Independent Works Union and have issued a “pre-action” letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan, prior to the launch of a judicial review.

They are also claiming that as most minicab drivers are BAME (black, coloured or from ethnic minorities) while most taxi drivers are white, this is indirect discrimination.

Comment: Such drivers are certainly incensed by this proposed change as I saw at a recent meeting I attended (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2019/02/12/cab-driver-protests-escalating/ ). There does not seem to be any rational reason for treating one set of cab drivers different to another, particularly as the likely impact on the number of PHV drivers in central London is not forecast to change much, which was the justification for the change. It will of course affect some drivers much more than others.

I wish them the best of luck with a judicial review although these are not easy legal proceedings (I have been involved in more than one), and depend on a lot more than the moral arguments.

Could it perhaps be about money rather than traffic congestion, or principles?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor’s Dubious Gesture and Taxi Age Consultation

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced more money for his “scrap for cash” fund. Previously this trade-in scheme for older more polluting vehicles had funds allocated of £25 million but it’s now £48 million. This is particularly designed to help small business owners to replace vans and to help “low-income Londoners scrap older cars”, i.e. the vast majority of vehicle owners will not be eligible.

However, details of the additional scrappage scheme won’t be available until later in the year, despite the fact that the central zone ULEZ commences in April. Details of even the first scheme for vans do not seem to be available from TfL. In reality the amount of money being offered will not cover the vast majority of costs incurred by people in replacing cars and vans, so this looks like a token gesture.

The Mayor did of course promote this scheme at a recent Clean Air Summit meeting where he had children support his actions in the audience. Likewise at a recent London Assembly Committee meeting. They had clearly been well-rehearsed by their teachers. Some of these children came from Henry Maynard Primary in Walthamstow. If you think it is wrong for uneducated children to be used to promote dubious policies which are primarily aimed at raising taxes rather than solving real air pollution issues, you could contact the school here: http://www.henrymaynardprimary.co.uk/contact-details/

The Mayor is a serial offender in using children to support his political campaigning as the ABD has covered previously. Does he have no ethics?

The Mayor has also launched a public consultation on changes to the age limits of taxis – see https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/tph/taxi-age-limits/?cid=taxi-age-limit . Older diesel taxis are undoubtedly some of the most polluting vehicles in central London, but will his changes actually have an impact on pollution? There is a very long phase in time which means that the taxi vehicle fleet might change substantially anyway. There is also still only one electric charging point for taxis in central London so any taxi owner would be unlikely to move to an electric vehicle until that issue is resolved.

Note that these proposals replace previous ones that have not worked. As the Consultation says: “in spite of previous steps to reduce taxi emissions, the required reduction in emissions has not been achieved”. But there is no clear estimate provided of the impact of the new proposed measures on air pollution. And as usual with TfL consultations of late, no cost/benefit justification provided as there should be.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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More Tax Raising by Sadiq Khan – Changes to the Congestion Charge

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has decided to proceed with his proposed changes to the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax). Private hire vehicles (PHVs – minicabs including Uber vehicles) will no longer be exempt from the Charge from April 2019.

This change is justified on the basis that congestion will be reduced after the number of vehicles, particularly PHVs has increased substantially in recent years. Now only 50% of vehicles entering the central zone pay the Charge. But how much will the number of vehicles be reduced – about 1% according to TfL.

The fact that taxis (registered black cabs) will continue to be exempt but PHVs will not be is a most peculiar anomaly. A legal challenge may well be mounted over that issue. But taxi drivers are also unhappy with the latest announcement because the Mayor is going to limit the age of such vehicles to 12 years when the current maximum is 15 years.

Another change is that the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) from the Congestion Charge for low emission vehicles is being scrapped and replaced by a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD). The latter discount will only be available to zero emission (i.e. electric vehicles) from 2021 to 2025 after which no discounts at all will apply.

These changes are going to mean substantial extra revenue to the Mayor and TfL and are surely more about tax raising than the claimed objectives. These changes are simply irrational and will have no impact on either air pollution or congestion in central London.

The ABD has pointed out before that the London Congestion Charge is a totally ineffective solution to traffic congestion and has just turned into a revenue raising scam. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm

The ABD, along with many other organisations, submitted objections to the changes which have simply been ignored. See this web page for a more details and a link to the consultation responses: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/private-hire-charge-exemption/

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City of London Becomes Paranoid – It’s 15MPH Everywhere

The City of London Corporation, who govern the square mile, have published their proposed Transport Strategy. It is surely one of the most paranoid attacks on all forms of transport vehicles ever proposed. It includes the following proposals:

  • A City-wide speed limit for all vehicles of 15 mph, with Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) being used in all buses and public service vehicles to enforce it.
  • Priority given to pedestrians, even over cyclists, in most of the City’s streets.
  • Encouraging the Mayor of London to implement a central London zero emission vehicle zone, or if he does not doing it themselves for the City, i.e. only electric vehicles would be permitted.
  • Reducing vehicular traffic by 25% by 2025.
  • Expanding the City’s cycle network with wider cycle lanes.

As I said in my previous report on consultation meetings for the development of the Transport Strategy: “The road network will be degraded in the alleged interests of cyclists, pedestrians and environmental dogma”. See https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/07/01/degrading-the-road-network-in-the-city-of-london/ . One of the “key themes” that the Corporations officers say came out of these events were that motor traffic levels on the City’s streets are too high. That’s not how I recall the meetings. There were more concerns expressed about dangerous cycling than road traffic. There was of course no mention of a wide-area 15 mph speed limit in any of their consultations or meetings.

Bearing in mind that the vast majority of City workers do walk to work from main line or underground stations, and that some locations are overcrowded, improvement in pedestrian facilities does make some sense. But ignoring the needs of vehicle users is wrong. Very few people drive in the City unless they need to. The City is even going to discourage taxis and PHVs and it is going to work with TfL to reduce the number of buses. Likewise there are proposals to reduce the number of service and delivery vehicles in the square mile.

The proposed 15 mph speed limit is surely not going to be complied with, and that applies to pedal cyclists as much as vehicle drivers. It is very difficult to drive a car at 15 mph or less consistently if for no other reason than vehicle speedometers are not accurate or easy to read at very low levels. The only reason it might be complied with is because of traffic congestion which reduces vehicle speeds already to below that level for much of the time. But I would also question whether such a limit is legally enforceable. Signs to indicate that limit would be required but there are no legally approved signs of that nature (only 20, 30 etc.). Driving vehicles at less than 15 mph will of course increase air pollution so it’s also contradictory to their other transport policies.

The City Corporation will be undertaking a public consultation on their Transport Strategy in November. Readers are encouraged to respond to it. You can read the draft Transport Strategy document here: http://democracy.cityoflondon.gov.uk/documents/s102969/Draft%20TS%20Local%20Plan%20Sub%20091018%20combined.pdf

In the meantime, the City’s Planning and Transport Committee confirmed that the closure of Bank junction will be made permanent despite that fact that numerous vehicle drivers are clearly not aware of the restriction and collect a fine from driving through it.

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan Popularity Falling Rapidly

According to a poll commissioned by Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and published a week ago, London Mayor Sadig Khan’s popularity has dropped dramatically. In March 2017, he had a net positive satisfaction rating of +35 which is quite exceptional but that has disappeared. Overall the rating is still positive, but only just. Now only 44% think he is doing well versus 40% who say he is doing badly. The Mayor’s rating is now negative among working-class Londoners, the over-50s and those in Outer London.

What is the reason for this decline? It seems likely that the ABD’s campaign on the Mayor’s Transport policies (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) is having an impact as we continue to deliver hundreds of thousands of leaflets across London. The Mayor’s policies such as the ULEZ will particularly affect those groups where his rating has been declining most sharply. Folks are waking up to the Mayor’s attack on all forms of private transport – not just cars but motorcycles, PHVs (minicabs) and taxis and the costs that they will incur as a result.

Other contributions have probably been his mismanagement of Transport for London’s budget which is heading for a massive deficit and has been focussed on by some politicians, and his record on tackling rising crime levels in London has also been criticised. Similarly, his record on housing is no better than his predecessor and very different to what he promised. His promise to freeze public transport fares and improve public transport which he made to get elected have been shown to be mistakes or unachievable. Surely the apt quotation here is “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time” (Abraham Lincoln). Voters are now becoming disillusioned with the Mayor as he is seen to be good at rhetoric and photoshoots with children but bad at actually managing the metropolis.

London needs a Mayor who does not just spout fine words, but can actually tackle London’s problems and get them solved.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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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

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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.