Cutting Rail Fares by One Third

The latest bribe to the electorate from the Labour Party is a promise to cut rail fares by one third. This would be financed by diverting income the Government receives from Vehicle Excise Duty to the railways.

Motorists already pay much more in taxes than are spent on the roads (see https://www.abd.org.uk/road-investment-and-road-user-taxation-the-truth/ ). Railways have been massively subsidised ever since they were nationalised in 1947 – the “privatisation” of the railways has had little impact on that although rail passengers have been paying relatively more of late so as to finance improvement in the infrastructure.

Diverting VED tax to subsidise rail passenger fares will mean big cuts in spending on the roads, leading to even worse traffic congestion. Meanwhile reducing rail fares by one third will have very perverse effects. For example in London and the South-East it will lead to even more long-distance commuting as rail passengers find it cheaper to travel from far afield into the capital.

In summary this proposal is just bonkers economics as resources are diverted on irrational grounds.

Why should rail passengers not pay the real cost of their travel? Anyone who thinks their cost of using a car should not subsidise unrealistic train fares now knows who not to vote for in the General Election.

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London Congestion – It’s Only Going to Get Worse

London Population Trend

As anyone who has lived in London for more than a few years probably knows, the population of the metropolis has been rapidly rising. This has resulted in ever worse congestion not just on the roads but on public transport also. The roads are busier, rush hours have extended and London Underground cannot handle the numbers who wish to travel on some lines during peak hours. Even bus ridership has been declining as the service has declined in reliability and speed due to traffic jams.

The Greater London Authority (GLA) has published some projections of future population numbers for the capital and the conclusion can only be that life is going to get worse for Londoners over the next few years.

The current population is about 8.8 million but is forecast to grow to 10.4 million by 2041, i.e. an 18% increase. This increase is driven primarily by the number of births and declining death rates. The relatively high numbers of births in comparison with what one might expect is because London has a relatively youthful population. One can guess this is the case because of the high numbers of migration from overseas which results in a net positive international migration figure while domestic migration to/from the rest of the UK is a net negative, i.e. Londoners are being replaced by immigrants.

But population increase in London does not have to be so. The chart above shows you the trend over the last 100 years and as you can see London has only recently reached the last peak set in 1939. During the 1960s to 1990s the population fell. What changed? In that period there was a policy to reduce overcrowding in London and associated poor housing conditions by encouraging relocation of people and businesses to “new towns”. But when Ken Livingstone took power he adopted policies of encouraging more growth. His successors have continued with those policies and have promoted immigration, e.g. with Sadiq Khan’s “London is Open” policy.

Many Londoners complain about the air pollution in the London conurbation without understanding that the growth in businesses and population have directly contributed to that problem. More people mean more home and office heating, more transport (mainly by HGVs and LGVs) to supply the goods they require, more emissions from cooking, and many other sources. The Mayor thinks he can solve the air pollution issues by attacking private car use and ensuring goods vehicles have lower emissions but he is grossly mistaken in that regard. The problem is simply too many people.

Building work also contributes to more emissions substantially so home and office building does not help. But the demand for new homes does not keep pace with the population growth resulting in many complaints that people have to live in cramped apartments or cannot find anywhere suitable to live at all. Likewise new public transport capacity does not keep pace with the increased demand. There is some more capacity on the Underground but only on some lines and not much while Crossrail which might have helped has been repeatedly delayed.

The economy of London is still buoyant.  But all the disadvantages of overcrowding in London mean that Londoners are poorer in many ways. Those who can move out by using long-distance commuting or relocating permanently thus leaving London to be occupied by young immigrants.

Any Mayor who had any sense would develop a new policy to discourage immigration, encourage birth control and encourage emigration to elsewhere in the UK or the Rest of the World. But I doubt Sadiq Khan will do so because a poorer population actually helps him to get elected.

If Sadiq Khan wanted Londoners to live in a greener, pleasanter city with a better quality of life then he would change direction. But I fear only intervention by central Government will result in any change. In the meantime those who live in London might like to tackle their potential MPs, Greater London Assembly Members and prospective Mayors for what they would do about the problems covered in this article.

Go here for more details of the GLA projections of London’s population: https://data.london.gov.uk/dataset/projections-documentation

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Shepherds Bush and Kensington Consultation Responses and TfL Budgets

The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have published the results of their consultation on proposed changes to roads in Shepherds Bush and Kensington (Wood Lane, Notting Hill Gate, etc). The proposed changes will increase journey times for road users and hence also increase congestion – see https://tinyurl.com/yzxhb9m8 for our original report. As one person commented on that article: “Another example of the Mayor’s determination to punish the motorist under the misguided ploy of improving air quality. This latest proposal will in fact worsen air quality by delaying traffic flow”.

The TfL Consultation Report also correctly quotes our comments on the consultation where it says the ABD “Was very critical of the online consultation material, branding them a ‘disgrace”. There were no costs given for the scheme and the questions were biased to get the required answers.

There were 5,386 response to the consultation and many people agreed that it would encourage cycling, walking and use of public transport. That’s hardly surprising is it when they realised that private vehicles will be delayed.

The consultation was also biased because there were 58,539 emails sent out to people asking them to respond but it was only sent to “people who use public transport or cycle in the area”. In reality Oyster Card and Contactless customers, so private vehicle owners were excluded.

Even with all this manipulation, they still managed to get 2,151 people who argued that the proposals would cause traffic congestion or delays, and 1,565 people who said the proposals would worsen air quality. There were also particular concerns about the Holland Park area and the removal of trees.

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham supported the proposals but Kensington & Chelsea borough have objected. TfL have developed revised proposals which include saving more trees and discussions are continuing. At least this shows how strong local opposition to a scheme can cause TfL to reconsider. But the whole process of TfL consultations is ethically flawed.

You can read the TfL Consultation Report here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/wood-lane-notting-hill/ 

Crossrail delays and TfL budget impact

Other news is that TfL have announced that Crossrail (the Elizabeth Line) opening date is to be delayed yet again and it not going to open until 2021. It was originally scheduled to open in 2018. Problems with signalling systems seem to be the cause, and costs are ramping up so it is now likely to come in at over £18 billion. This demonstrates how large rail projects are enormously expensive and are approved with over-optimistic budgets and projected timescales. This is why HS2 should be cancelled now before even more money is wasted on a scheme with a poor cost/benefit ratio.

The additional delay to Crossrail opening will result in another big hole in TfL’s budget because there were many millions of pounds of income expected from fare paying passengers on the new line.

But TfL have devised one way to improve their cash income. They are changing the auto top-up level for Oyster Card users from £10 to £20. This will mean that TfL will be holding much higher balances of customer money than before. The exact impact has not been disclosed but I hope to report more information on this at a later date.

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Pelican Crossing at the War Memorial Junction in Chislehurst – Council Decision

As mentioned in a previous blog post (see https://tinyurl.com/y56v2rty ) a petition signed by over 3000 people was submitted to Bromley Council for a Pelican crossing to be installed on the War Memorial Junction in Chislehurst. The previous blog post gives a full analysis of why it was not necessarily a good idea.

Tonight the full Council met to consider the petition. Chris Wells who promoted the petition was allowed to speak for 5 minutes but clearly did not convince Councillors to change their minds. He reiterated his past arguments on the need for a pedestrian crossing phase. A resolution was passed by a very large majority of Councillors to let the previous response from the Council stand. In addition a motion from Councillor Dunn to require the Environment Portfolio holder to submit a proposal within 6 months was also defeated.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher who holds that position explained that the junction had been the subject of several studies but most were unable to be progressed due to the restrictions on land usage imposed by the Chislehurst Commons Trustees. However, they will continue to look at the junction but no immediate change is proposed.

He stated they had modelled traffic flows at the junction (which Chris Wells claimed had not been done) and if a pedestrian phase was added the traffic queues could triple in length. [Comment: that would certainly be a major annoyance to many people as they could stretch for much more than a mile and would also generate a lot of “rat-running” down side roads which was a concern for road safety]. Councillor Huntington-Thresher said we need a “holistic” solution.

He also stated that despite the claims of road safety danger, the relevant section of the A222 was actually only the 40th most dangerous in the borough. There was no trend in accidents and there were no injury accidents in 2018. In other words, resources might be better spent elsewhere to improve road safety. He also said it was not necessarily possible to submit a proposal within 6 months so opposed Mr Dunn’s motion.

Councillor Katy Boughey who represents the Chislehurst Ward spoke in support of the aforementioned response and said that they were actively working with all relevant parties to find a solution. Council Leader Colin Smith seconded the motion to make no change to the previous response and referred to regrettable “excitable hysteria” on Twitter on the subject.

The above is a brief summary of the meeting to debate on this subject. Let us hope that those who support Mr Wells actually listen to reason and engage with councillors, council staff and other local stakeholders to develop a good solution to improve this junction. Any solution needs to take into account road safety issues, traffic congestion problems and the interests of both pedestrians and road users. Any criticism of councillors or council staff would be misguided. You don’t solve road safety and traffic management issues by emotive hysteria.

I hope the above is a reasonably accurate note of what happened but anyone else who was there can correct me or add further comments if required.

Roger Lawson

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Press Release: London and Paris Have The Same Problem: Their Mayor

Smog

Paris ‘smog days’ have increased from 5 to 22 per year in the past 4 years as a direct result of the Mayor’s anti-car policies and despite a low emission zone (Ref. 1).

Paris now has fewer cars, but emissions have increased due to more congestion caused by cycle lanes, pedestrianisation and 8000 construction projects. Hamsa Hansal, who owns a fleet of 10 cabs, describes the Mayor of Paris as “a hysteric. Nothing but bicycle lanes and construction sites. Total chaos. Such BS. Traffic jams 24/7” (Ref. 2).

ABD Environment spokesman Paul Biggs said: “It’s well known that increasing congestion increases emissions. This fact seems to have escaped successive London Mayors and the Mayor of Paris, who seem hell-bent on grinding economically essential traffic to a halt – traffic that can’t be replaced by walking and cycling. This results in a vicious circle of increasingly punitive air quality measures against drivers costing orders of magnitude more than even the claimed benefits. It seems that obstructing traffic and raising revenue from drivers takes priority over improving air quality.”

Notes for Editors:

(1) Paris Low Emission Zone (ZCR):

https://www.lez-france.fr/en/information-about-the-critair-vignette/french-environmental-zones-zcr/paris-zone-zcr.html

(2) New York Times – The Greening of Paris Makes Its Mayor More Than A Few Enemies:

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/05/world/europe/paris-anne-hildago-green-city-climate-change.html

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Is a Pelican Crossing Justified at the War Memorial Junction in Chislehurst?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A petition signed by over 500 people has been submitted to the London Borough of Bromley. It requests a push-button request for pedestrians (a “Pelican” crossing) be installed at the traffic light junction on the A222 – the Chislehurst war memorial junction. The petition is to be discussed at a full council meeting on the 14th October.

Is such a change justified and what would be the impact?

Anyone familiar with the junction will be aware that this is a heavily congested part of the road network in Bromley. It is key route between Sidcup and the A20 into central Bromley and vice versa. During rush hours queues of traffic back up from the existing traffic light controlled junction to the A20 in the mornings, and back down Summer Hill in the evenings. This already causes some vehicles to take routes on narrow roads around the junction, e.g. via Bull Lane/Church Lane/Watts Lane or via Prince Imperial Road/Ashfield Lane. Traffic on the other arms of the junction (the A208) also experiences lengthy queues during busy times of the day.

However, there are common complaints that pedestrians perceive it as unsafe or difficult to cross at the junction, e.g. schoolchildren heading for Coopers School or St. Nicholas Primary School from central Chislehurst, or disabled people. The schools have clearly supported this petition.

It is obvious that the current junction cannot cope with the current volume of traffic but plans to improve it have always been blocked by the Trustees of the Chislehurst Commons who are reluctant to give up land to enable widening of the junction.

The impact of incorporating a pedestrian phase into the existing traffic lights might be very significant and it would presumably need to be installed on all four arms of the junction. Traffic modelling could be undertaken to see the likely impact on traffic delays and vehicle throughput, but that is quite expensive to undertake.

How should one judge the merits of this proposal? Like all allegations of road safety hazards, one should start by looking at the accident record and try to determine the likely cost/benefit. The last time I looked at the detail statistics related to road traffic accidents in Chislehurst, this junction had been the scene of a number of accidents and the A222 is like many of London’s A roads in that it runs through heavily congested areas with pedestrians often present. Thus Perry Street has seen several fatal accidents and there was one at the Memorial junction when the traffic lights had failed in the night. You can see other accident information at the junction by looking at the Crashmap web site (www.crashmap.co.uk).

Many of these accidents are not at the junction itself but some distance away as pedestrians choose to cross elsewhere than at the traffic lights or vehicles collide for other reasons. Clearly a review of the latest police reports of road casualties (the STATS19 records) could be examined for more information, but I do not recollect that there have been any serious accidents involving pedestrians at the junction itself.

I suspect the answer would be, if such an analysis as I suggest be done, that the cost/benefit of spending money on a change to this junction would not be justified, particularly if the value of the additional delays to vehicles was taken into account as they should be. It is also unlikely that pedestrians would change their habit of not crossing at the junction lights.

There is one simple question that can be answered now though. Do pedestrians actually have any difficulty crossing at this junction? This writer has personally walked across the junction at the traffic lights at least once per week for the last 20 years. I do not find any difficulty in doing so. It just requires one to wait until the lights change.

One can argue that improving pedestrian facilities might encourage people to walk rather than use other modes of transport but I doubt that this would have any significant impact in this case. Nobody who can walk would be deterred from using that junction at present. Do the disabled or visually impaired have some difficulty in crossing this junction? Perhaps but that will be the case even if a Pelican Crossing was introduced and the rights of a minority cannot be taken solely into account. The thousands of other people that will be affected by the change have also to be considered. In practice even if a Pelican system was installed at these lights, disabled people would likely have to cross other unsignalized junctions to get to the war memorial crossing.

Readers might wonder who the organisation named Chislehurst Safer Streets are who organised the petition. It is led by Chris Wells who is also a supporter of 20sPlenty and who has campaigned for a wide-area 20 mph signed only speed limit covering Chislehurst. That suggestion has been rebuffed by both Bromley Council and the Chislehurst Society. You can see what Mr Wells had to say about that proposal on the Visit Chislehurst web site. This is what it says about the Atkins study of 20 mph zone published by the Department of Transport (DfT): “In summary, what Atkins found is that 20mph zones that are poorly implemented have little appreciable effect on traffic speed or accidents”. This is grossly misleading. The study was solely focused on signed-only 20 mph schemes and made no comments on how they were implemented – only signs can and are used in such schemes. This kind of special pleading is common among those who are less concerned with the truth than in arguing and winning their case.

Note that Bromley Council had already responded to the petition on the War Memorial junction by Mr Wells. They say that adding a pedestrian phase would “lead to exceedingly long queues at peak times resulting in increased pollution and likely diversion of vehicles into residential areas”. You can read their full response here with details of the Council meeting: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieIssueDetails.aspx?IId=62672&PlanId=0&Opt=3#AI62776 . Clearly diverting traffic onto other narrow roads might be a road safety hazard in itself.

Readers are encouraged to attend the meeting as members of the public, as I shall be doing, or Bromley residents should contact their local councillors. It is important that those who shout loudest do not override a sensible and rational analysis of this issue and the needs and views of the vast majority of the residents of Bromley and its visitors.

Photo above shows long queues of traffic even at lunchtime on a Tuesday.

Roger Lawson

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Silly Season News – Cars Banned in London

In the UK the “silly season” is the period lasting for a few summer months typified by the emergence of frivolous news stories in the media. This was exemplified by an item on BBC London TV News this evening.

Leo Murray from an organisation called 10/10 Climate Action was interviewed about his proposal to ban all private cars in London. Mr Murray is an eco-warrior of the extreme kind and why the BBC should give a platform to such a person to promote such views is beyond me. They certainly must be desperate for news stories.

When challenged on how the disabled would get around, he suggested they would be given free taxi rides subsidised by paying taxi users. That of course leaves all the other people who find cars essential for some trips banned. But he would not ban goods deliveries or buses so the impact on air pollution would be negligible and taxis would grow in numbers offsetting the benefit altogether.

I have suggested to the BBC that they interview me on a proposal to ban all buses, HGVs and LGVs to improve the air, plus of course all planes that fly over London. I can make out a good case for that proposal. Those who use buses would need to walk or cycle, but we know that’s good for their health so there are clear benefits. That would solve the traffic congestion problem at a stroke. That’s surely a good enough story for the BBC to cover? It’s just as daft as Mr Murray’s but if one is short of interesting news…….

But if you think the BBC should not provide a platform for such eccentrics as Leo Murray, here’s where to go to if you wish to complain: http://www.bbc.co.uk/complaints/

Roger Lawson

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