National, and London Infrastructure, Both Deplorable

Just to emphasise how bad the transport infrastructure is in this country, and particularly in London, here are some recent comments from Lord Adonis, Chairman of the National Infrastructure Commission (a think-tank set up by the Government to advise it).

He said traffic speeds in London had fallen dramatically over the past five years and in much of the City were lower than in 1914. In addition, between 2012 and 2015, speeds on inner London roads fell by up to 9% (and that’s before the full impact of the Cycle Superhighways).

Another example is that overcrowding on rail services in London was up by 45% between 2011 and 2016.

He especially pressed the need to address “perhaps the most serious infrastructure failure of all” and reach a firm decision on expanding Heathrow Airport – an issue yet to be resolved 13 years after the initial statement of policy for a third runway.

He effectively suggested that without action the UK faced gridlock accompanied by worsening air quality and that “we’ve got to get real about tackling congestion and with it, air pollution….”.

Comment: There are two things that are required to solve these problems: a) Government commitment and real action rather than more debate; b) sensible plans that might improve matters rather than political gestures that talk about making “London’s streets places for active travel and social interaction….” which is the key foundation of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Transport Strategy. That has little to do with improving the transport network for the efficient movement of goods and people which is what it should really be for.

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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New Cycle Superhighways

Transport for London (TfL) have published their proposed plans for two new Cycle Superhighways. These are:

Taking CS4 first, this will add substantially to journey times for both general traffic and buses. For example, up to 6 minutes extra journey time eastbound in the evening from Tooley Street to Surrey Quays Road (i.e. a 50% increase!) although there are some savings at other times and in other directions.

There will be increased traffic on Jamaica Road and more congestion at the Rotherhithe Roundabout (near the entrance to the Tunnel due to reconfiguation). However, TfL have already introduced an extra entrance lane northbound from the roundabout to the tunnel road which should assist.

But reduction in road space on Jamaica Road to accommodate a segregated dual flow cycle lane, plus the introduction of “bus bypasses” will surely cause all traffic to be slowed to that of buses. (Historic note: I objected to the introduction of bus lanes on Jamaica Road which were unnecessary and substantially increased traffic congeston. Jamaica Road became one street to avoid, and the latest proposals will make that even more true).

Anyone affected by these proposals should study them and respond to the public consultation as soon as possible, as the ABD will be doing.

Here’s one comment already received from a member of the public on this scheme: “Since when has Jamaica Road been free of traffic as they pretend to show in their consultation photos when in fact the traffic is pretty much stationary all along that road all day long? This is a major commuter route for people and businesses from the east and south east who use the Rotherhithe tunnel to cross the river – and they want more people to use bikes? Really do they expect people to cycle from Essex and Kent? Why not revert back to horse and carts or why not just pedestrianise the whole of London and open it to cyclists only? This is an utterly disgraceful proposal thought out by people at Tfl that clearly have never been down to Jamaica Road to see with their eyes the reality of the traffic”.  

There are also complementary changes to support CS4 to Tanner Street and Druid Street which there is a separate public consultation on – see: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/tanner-druid-street/?cid=tanner-druid-street

As regards CS9, TfL’s journey time modelling suggests less of an impact than the time increases on CS4, but again some journey times worsen while others improve. London residents affected by these changes should respond to the consultation as soon as possible, as the ABD will be doing. I also hope to publish more detail comments on this blog at a later date, but anyone who has any views on it should let me know please.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Uber Kicked Out of London

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that Uber’s licence to operate in London will not be renewed. That means their service will terminate in a few weeks and 40,000 drivers will be put out of work. There are as many as 3.5 million Uber users in London and a petition to reverse the decision has already been established on Change.org which has collected 450,000 signatures in about 24 hours – see https://www.change.org/p/save-your-uber-in-london-saveyouruber

TfL, supported by Mayor Sadiq Khan, claim Uber is not a fit and proper organisation to hold a license due to its failure to report incidents, failures on vetting drivers and other grounds. Uber have 21 days in which to appeal, and no doubt there will be a legal challenge as well if TfL do not back down.

TfL previously announced that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license, so it is clear that the Mayor is attacking Uber via more than one channel. Why is he doing this? It is clear from the Mayor’s recently published Transport Strategy (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm ) that Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) such as Uber operate are contributing to traffic congestion in London in a big way. But it is also clear that the Mayor objects to all private vehicles whether you drive them or someone else drives them for you.

Are there alternatives to Uber? Lyft is a big similar operator in the USA but does not operate in London yet. Taxify launched in London recently but then had to suspend operations after TfL queried its license. There is a service called Hailo that operates to call conventional taxis (don’t bother trying to use it in outer London though in my experience), and numerous local PHV operators plus larger operators such as Addison Lee who have a ride hailing app.

Comment: I am not totally convinced that the allegations against Uber are serious enough to warrant refusal of a license. Perhaps Uber should up its game in several areas, but is it any worse than other PHV operators? As a relatively new service, with lots of new drivers, there are likely to be some teething problems. Other penalties could surely have been considered. For example, a grant of a new license for a limited period on certain conditions being met.

I have used Uber a few times and the service is both efficient and low cost (Uber loses money in a big way I understand). For example, I called Uber recently to take my wife home at 3.00 am in the morning from an outer London hospital. The driver arrived in about 3 minutes. Great service at very reasonable cost.

Many people will see this act by the Mayor for what it is. A simple attack on a service that the Mayor and those in TfL would like to put out of business so that people have to walk, cycle or use public transport (i.e. use many less safe alternatives) if you read his Transport Strategy. That is why the ABD is so opposed to it.

It is true that the number of PHVs is contributing to traffic congestion, but there are other ways to ration their numbers and usage (e.g. on price).

I recommend that you sign the petition, as I shall be doing.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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ABD Response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

The Alliance of British Drivers has published its formal response to the public consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS).

The Mayor’s proposals are completely distorted because he does not seem to understand what roads are for. This is our answer to the first question posed in the consultation: “It states on page 11 that “London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction….”. This is nonsense. Streets are built and maintained at great public expense to provide an efficient and cost effective transport system for people and goods. If people need exercise, or social interaction, there are many other ways they can obtain that without taking up scarce road space. The priority should be on providing a transport network in London that meets the business needs and preferences of the public. It should not be distorted to meet other objectives.”

The full document is present here: ABD-Response. It’s well worth reading.

The MTS has a very heavy emphasis on environmental issues and one useful contribution on the debate about air pollution in London and how to tackle it has recently been published by the GLA Conservatives. It is present here: Clearing-the-Air . It shows there are good alternatives to the Mayor’s proposals which would not put such a heavy financial burden on London’s residents and businesses.

You can already see the impact of some of the Mayor’s policies in the news from TfL that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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A Vision in a Dream, After Coleridge

 

The following manuscript has recently come to light, perhaps written by an acolyte of poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.

Roger Lawson

<A Fragment>

In London did Sadiq Khan

A stately Transport Strategy decree:

Where the Thames, the sacred river, ran

Through caverns measureless to man

   Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground

With walls and tower blocks girdled round;

And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,

Where blossomed many a conker tree;

And here were roads ancient as the Romans,

Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

But oh! that deep romantic chasm which slanted

Down among the City streets!

A savage place! As Mammon rampaged free

As e’er beneath a waning moon was haunted

By women wailing for West End shopping!

And from this chasm, with ceaseless turmoil seething,

As if this earth in fast thick pants were breathing,

A mighty fountain momently was forced:

Amid whose swift half-intermitted burst

Huge fragments vaulted like rebounding hail,

Or chaffy grain beneath the thresher’s flail:

And mid these dancing rocks at once and ever

It flung up momently the sacred river.

Fifty miles meandering with a mazy motion

Through East End industry and London’s suburbs,

Then reached the caverns measureless to man,

And sank in tumult to a polluted North Sea;

And ’mid this tumult Sadiq heard from far

Ancestral voices prophesying air pollution doom!

   The shadow of the dome of the GLA

   Located nigh the sacred river;

   Where was heard the mingled pleas

   From politicians left and right.

It was a miracle of rare device,

An un-costed Transport Strategy at the behest of Sadiq!

   A damsel with a dulcimer

   In a vision once I saw:

   It was an East European maid

   And on her dulcimer she played,

   Singing of Mount Street Mayfair.

   Could I revive within me

   Her symphony and song,

   To such a deep delight ’twould win me,

That with music loud and long,

I would build anew that dome,

Upon a new democratic model!

With freedom to ride the roads at will,

And all should cry, Beware the wrath of Khan!

His flashing eyes, his floating hair!

Weave a circle round him thrice,

And close your eyes with holy dread

For he on honey-dew hath fed,

And drunk the milk of Paradise.

<End>

The ABD’s comments on Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy are present here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm . Please register your opposition.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Quentin Wilson Savages Transport Policies in London

Taxi trade magazine Taxi Leaks have published a very good article by Quentin Wilson on the anti-car legacy of past and current Mayors. It starts by him saying: “To lay the blame for the quality of London’s air on passenger car drivers is a ponderous whopper of some magnitude. Every transport usage survey going tells us that car use in London has actually declined yet congestion and pollution has risen”. He’s certainly right on that point.

He also says “The capital’s road system didn’t become the snarling constipated and polluted ruin it is today without considerable help from politicians and legislators. What we’re now seeing (and breathing) are the unintended consequences of decades of deliberate anti-car policies” and he’s undoubtedly right on that too.

He rightly blames the mess we now have on inept politicians from “I hate cars” Ken Livingstone, through to the current Mayor Sadiq Khan whose latest Transport Strategy Proposals will make matters worse (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm if you have not yet objected),

Quentin also attacks the Congestion Charge for being a poor tax in terms of the revenue it generates, although he accepts that the reason congestion has not improved as a result is from road space reallocation. But that is the excuse TfL give when in reality such schemes are basically ineffective because there is such an excess of unmet demand just waiting to fill up any space left by people deterred by the congestion charge.

Apart from that minor error, the article is a very good explanation of the defects in London’s traffic and transport policies over the last twenty years. The full article can be read here: http://taxileaks.blogspot.co.uk/2017/08/london-anti-car-legacyby-quentin-willson.html

Roger Lawson