Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Another Attack on Private Transport

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy yesterday. It is now open to public consultation – see:

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

Here’s a brief summary of its contents (a fuller report will be in our next newsletter):

  1. 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 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.
  2. Parking provision will be restricted in new developments – yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking.
  3. There is a target of a zero emission transport system by 2050 (helpful if you can live that long perhaps).
  4. 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. How much will it cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask?
  5. The target is to reduce freight traffic in the central London morning peak by 10 per cent on current levels by 2026, and to reduce total London traffic by 10-15 per cent by 2041.

It is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of this vision. 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 and will be suggesting an alternative strategy in response.

But Londoner’s might get what they voted for as after electing Mayor Khan they should not be surprised at this latest attack on personal liberty.

Roger Lawson

The Rise of Non-Travel

We all know that travelling in London has become more difficult in the last few years. Rising traffic congestion due to reductions in road space and cycle superhighways, and overcrowded public transport, have been very damaging. Population increase, and more business activity, have not been supported fully by new transport infrastructure and there has been little long-term planning or funding to improve the transport network.

Now Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that travelling is now so difficult in London that the number of Londoners who spend all day at home has been rising. To quote (from LTT): “In particular, there has been a rise in non-travel, in other words, people staying at home all day and not making any trips”. It seems on any given day, around 20% of Londoners do not make any journeys nowadays.

It seems likely that there has been a reduction in travel for shopping purposes (hence the increase in van deliveries resulting from internet shopping). But there are more people probably working from home and using the internet and other communication media rather than going into a conventional workplace everyday. Also of course the increase in the elderly might explain the rise in non-travel, although many retired people move out of London.

New Cycling and Walking Commissioner

One other influence over future travel patterns may be a new “Cycling and Walking Commissioner” named Will Norman. Former Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan has suggested the change of name for the role might indicate that Mayor Khan might have more interest in walking than cycling, particularly as some previously approved cycling schemes do not seem to be progressing. He also suggested that the Mayor wishes to avoid confrontation with the motoring lobby. But that surely seems very unlikely bearing in mind the Mayor’s plans over air pollution.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Latest Announcements on ULEZ

On the 4th April the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, made his latest announcements on how he intends to reduce air pollution from road vehicles in London. Not a mention of how he intends to reduce the 50% of air pollution caused by things other than road transport which is still growing as the population of London increases, but let us say no more about that for the present.

Mr Khan has revised his previous proposals somewhat, presumably based on the last public survey which did show overall support for his proposals with some reservations. But he is now definitely committed to:

– The introduction of a “T-Charge” of £10 for older vehicles (pre-2006) commencing in October this year. This will only apply within the existing Congestion Tax area of central London.

– The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for all vehicles from April 2019, which will again only apply to the central London zone and replace the “T-Charge” mentioned above. The ULEZ daily fee to drive in the zone will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and apply to all vehicles that do not meet the following standards:

a) Petrol Euro 4/ IV

b) Diesel Euro 6/ VI

c) Powered Two Wheelers Euro 3

These standards mean that petrol cars more than around 13 years old in 2019, and diesel cars over 4 years old in 2019 will have to pay a charge which will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 for heavy vehicles such as HGVs and coaches.

They will be in addition to the Congestion Charge where applicable. The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis, which are already being made cleaner through licensing restrictions. From next year all new licenced taxis must be zero-emissions capable.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, which only applies for limited hours on weekdays, these charges will apply all the time. So trips into central London for the evening will cost you £12.50.

There is again a public consultation on the above which everyone who drives in London should respond to and it is present here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/airquality-consultation . PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 

In addition to the above the Mayor is considering expanding the ULEZ to nearly all of Greater London in respect of heavy diesel vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries to be implemented in 2020. Also he proposes to consult on extending the ULEZ to all other vehicles including cars within the North/South Circular, to be implemented in 2021. So you could be paying £12.50 just to drive within that ring road, although a lot of the previous respondents to the last consultation suggested a lower charge.

Mr Khan is calling on the Government to deliver a nationwide diesel vehicle scrappage scheme but there is no sign yet that the Government is listening. There is some concession to residents who live within the ULEZ and for disabled vehicle users who will have a “sunset” period until 2023.

Comment: some information required to make any intelligent comments on these proposals is not apparently available. For example what is the likely impact of these proposals on the level of air pollution within the zone or outside it? What is the cost/benefit justification? What is the cost of implementing this scheme and how much revenue and profit will TfL obtain from it as a result?

These questions are very important because the Mayor has a very strong financial interest in these proposals as the additional charges will no doubt raise much needed revenue for the Mayor and TfL whose budgets are currently under pressure.

It is most regrettable that this is yet another example of asking the public’s views on a matter without giving them the full facts to enable them to make a reasoned judgement on the proposals.

I have asked TfL to provide this information and will let you know if I receive it.

But having walked the streets of the City of London last week I certainly think something needs to be done about air pollution because my lungs were definitely affected and I have not suffered from asthma for many years. The problem was that all the roads such as Cannon Street, Eastcheap, Bishopsgate and around Aldgate were just gridlocked in the middle of the day with stationary traffic which consisted mainly of buses, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles. This happens quite regularly now because of the impact of the Cycle Superhighways, road closures, removal of gyratories and other measures promoted by the previous Mayor and local authorities over the last few years.

Vehicles may have been getting cleaner, only somewhat confounded by the Government’s misconceived promotion of diesel vehicles so as to save CO2 emissions. But if transport planners create gridlock then the inevitable will happen – air pollution will continue to get worse until only zero emission and expensive electric vehicles are allowed. We also need to tackle other sources of air pollution and the best way to do that is to stop the growth in the London population or even reduce it.

Postscript: on 9/4/2017:  This interview with Professor Tony Frew, a respiratory expert on TalkRadio is definitely worth listening to if you want the facts about air pollution and its sources: http://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory

Julia Hartley-Brewer whom conducted that interview also attacked the promotion of the 40,000 deaths per year in the UK from air pollution in an article in the Daily Telegraph on the 7th April. She said “This 40,000 figure is alarmingly high. It is also alarmingly wrong”.

And as of today I am still awaiting a response from TfL on the data requested giving the data on the impact of the ULEZ on air pollution. Not even an acknowledgement of my request so far so I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

Roger Lawson

Publicity for Traffic Management Proposals

The ABD has set up a petition on the government website demanding that traffic authorities should be required to give greater publicity to proposed traffic management measures, such as reduced speed limits, traffic calming schemes, waiting restrictions etc, so that all road users, including drivers who use the roads but don’t live in the area, are made aware of them and have the opportunity to object.  The petition is now live and is at:

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/186407

Please consider signing the petition and passing the details on to others who may wish to do so.

Roger Lawson

More Cyclists and More Delays

Transport for London (TfL) have published a report giving the impact of the new East-West and North-South Cycle Superhighways. Although these have attracted large numbers of cyclists, they have also led to major delays for motor vehicles. For the latter, some journeys across London take 15 minutes longer (e.g. as much as 50% longer). This is particularly so in the evening peak rush-hour on the eastbound journey. This is mainly due to removal of one traffic lane.

Comment: Yes this was one of the most ill-conceived changes to the London road network one could imagine. It is was introduced without any justification by a proper cost/benefit analysis and by a Mayor keen on cycling. It just demonstrates what can happen when so much power is put in the hands of one person with little democratic control over what they do. Who would have thought when he was elected that he would promote such an ill-conceived and damaging scheme.

Roger Lawson

London Assembly Recommends Solutions to Traffic Congestion

The London Assembly Transport Committee have been conducting an inquiry into Reducing Traffic Congestion in London. Their report that invited comments and suggestions contained data showing that congestion in London has significantly worsened in the last couple of years. Indeed many of the comments submitted provided further evidence of that and few people who have driven in London of late would disagree. Average daytime traffic speeds on weekdays in London are now down to 7.8 mph. See previous blog post for more information.

You can see the ABD’s submission to the inquiry here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/GLA-Transport-Committee-Traffic-Congestion-2016-09-13.pdf

So what bright ideas did the Committee come up with to tackle congestion (i.e. what are their recommendations)?

Firstly the Chair, Caroline Pidgeon, suggested that the Congestion Charge was initially successful but it was “no longer fit for purpose”. It has been undermined by various changes such as the increase in private hire vehicles, and more goods vehicle deliveries driven by internet buyers having goods delivered to their offices. These were common themes noted by others.

Comment: The “initial success” of the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) is a myth as we first reported in 2006 and repeatedly thereafter – see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Congestion.htm . Instead of reducing congestion it has just been used as a money raising measure by TfL to support the Mayor’s budgets – and the new Mayor is even shorter of money than the last having made some rash promises to get elected. Despite more than doubling the tax from that originally imposed, traffic continued to grow for the reasons given above and because of the general increase in the population and business activities. One can therefore agree it was not “fit for purpose” and it was also a very poorly designed system where one had to pay the charge just by driving a few yards into the central zone and spending one minute there, while another driver who drove around all day within the zone paid the same, i.e. the charge was not related to road usage, or focussed on the most congested areas.

Flat rate pricing is seen not to be effective so the Committee is recommending a more general “road pricing” scheme. How this would be technically done is not explained (Comment: politicians don’t have to worry about the practicality of what they are proposing). They are also talking about covering a wider area than the existing central area with such a scheme, i.e. a congestion tax across the whole of London! And they want it integrated with the new ULEZ enforcement system.

They also wish TfL to encourage local boroughs to implement a Workplace Parking Levy along the same lines as in Nottingham.

As regards the problem of delivery vehicles, they suggest TfL should encourage more consolidation, and also pilot a ban on personal deliveries to staff. (Comment: this may be sensible if they are a real problem but surely more evidence on what the impact of such deliveries is should first be ascertained). Click and collect at tube and other stations should also be encouraged.

There is also a suggestion that Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs or “mini-cabs”) should pay the Congestion Charge. At present all licensed taxis and PHVs are exempt from the Congestion Charge. Why? Well it’s probably because it was a sop to the vociferous taxi lobby to prevent them objecting when the scheme was introduced, but it seems odd that they should have such an exemption. After all they contribute to congestion very substantially. Private cars are a now a small proportion of traffic in central London (roughly 18%). It’s all the HGVs, LGVs, taxis, PHVs, and buses that are the major contributors to congestion, and air pollution of course.

The Committee accepted that one of the contributions to traffic congestion was road space reduction in recent years. Lots of respondents complained about the impact of the Cycle Superhighways which has been one major cause.

In summary, this is a very disappointing report, with proposals to spend money on replacing the Congestion Charge with a new, larger system when it won’t reduce congestion. The unsatisfied demand is so huge that any road space will quickly fill up however the charge is structured.

You can read the Committees Report and all the responses here: https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assembly-publications/london-stalling-reducing-traffic-congestion

Note that one Committee member, David Kurten from UKIP, made a contrary statement to the Committee’s recommendations. He supported reform of the congestion charge system but not a wider road pricing scheme. He also opposed Work Place Parking Levies, and expressed concerns about the Cycle Superhighways. Comment: Very sensible reservations indeed.

If you want to read some of the comments submitted by various organisations to get some idea of how difficult it is to drive in London nowadays, try the one submitted by the “Driver-Guides Association” on page 84 – they mentioned the closure of Shorter Street for example which the ABD has also attacked; and the one submitted by the Professional Tourist Guides on page 159 – they quote an example of it taking 2 hours to drive from the National History Museum to St. Pauls (approx. 5 miles) – I can believe it and I doubt that is exceptional at all now the Embankment has been reduced to one lane.

Postscript: The GLA later published an Addendum to their report that indicated opposition from another Member. This is what it said: “Views of Steve O’Connell AM GLA Conservatives: would like to clarify his views on Recommendation 1 of report, London stalling: Reducing traffic congestion in London. Whilst Steve O’Connell is willing, in the interests of cross-party working, to see proposals brought forward for how road-pricing in London might work, he remains strongly opposed to the principle of road-pricing and would be almost certain to oppose any specific proposals.”. Why was this not published in the initial version of the report? We do not know

Roger Lawson

Bank Junction Closure

As first reported back in December 2015, the City of London Corporation are proceeding with a plan to close Bank junction to all but buses and cyclists. Black cab drivers are incensed by this proposal and ran several demonstration at that junction and near the Houses of Parliament last week. This caused widespread traffic chaos.

According to a report by the City of London Corporation, the benefit will be a significant reduction in casualties (often pedestrians and cyclists) around the junction, and average traffic journey times will be neutral or slightly positive. It will also improve bus services based on the modelling done.

All general traffic will be banned from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm from travelling through the junction, which is one of the key parts of the road network in the City of London. Although much traffic already avoids it because it is very heavily congested, it will certainly cause a lot of difficulties for taxi drivers. Diverting traffic will surely make other alternative routes busier.

The scheme will start in April, and last for 18 months on an experimental basis but such schemes tend to become permanent. The Corporation’s report says “The experimental scheme will not solve all safety aspects at Bank, but will make a significant difference without the need for infrastructure changes, which will take more time to plan and deliver”.

What’s the cost of this project? It is budgeted to be £792,000. More information is present here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/traffic-management/Pages/Bank.aspx

Comment: One of the key sources of congestion at Bank are in fact buses of which there are many and who move slowly. The configuration of the junction and the narrow pavements (insufficient for the number of people exiting Bank underground) are major problems and a cause of the poor accident record. So one cannot dispute that some measures needed to be taken to tackle these problems.

However there were other alternatives, such as simplifying the junction, or allowing entry only from certain directions that would have surely helped. Closing this key junction to traffic will be similar to the redesign of other key junctions in central London such as Trafalgar Square and Aldgate which has contributed so much to reduced journey times in central London.

Taxi driver David Morris was quoted in the Financial Times as saying “We are part of the London public transport system and yet we will be denied access”. He suggested there would be horrendous gridlock as a result and questioned where all the traffic will go. One cannot but be sympathetic to his views because this looks like another step that will reduce the capacity of the road network of London. One cannot continue to remove road space and expect congestion to do anything but get worse.

If you wish to object to these plans, I suggest you write to Gillian Howard, at City of London Corporation, Guildhall, PO Box 270, London EC2P 2EJ. Or send an email to bankarea@cityoflondon.gov.uk . There does not appear to be any formal consultation process as yet and given the timescale for implementation it would seem they are not going to bother with one.

The ABD has already submitted an objection, but the more they get, the better.

Roger Lawson