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

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Cab Driver Protests Escalating

I attended a meeting of PHV (minicab) drivers in Hackney last night (members of the UPHD – see www.uphd.org) . They had just finished blocking Tower Bridge for an hour or so, have done other similar demontrationss and plan more. Everyone’s realised that blocking London bridges is exceedingly easy.

Black cab drivers have also done demos outside Parliament and at Bank in the City – about roads being closed to them (and of course all other vehicles except buses) at Aldwych, Tottenham Court Road, Bank Junction, etc.

I promoted the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ and emphasised it’s all about raising taxes to fix holes in the Mayor’s budget in in a brief speech at the UPHD meeting. PHV drivers are very unhappy about losing their exemption from the Congestion Charge and of course the new ULEZ charges also. This could destroy their livelihoods, particularly of smaller operators. They think the black cab drivers are being favoured but they are not happy either.

But the demos both groups of drivers are running are not having much impact. The BBC TV news and press media aren’t even covering them of late, despite the major disruption they cause to traffic. Perhaps they need to escalate the demonstrations and block the roads for longer and in a wider area to ensure Transport for London (TfL) and Mayor Sadiq Khan pay attention!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor Sadiq Khan Refuses to Answer Questions

At a recent session of the Greater London Assembly where Sadiq Khan was supposed to answer questions, he repeatedly refused to answer simple questions about the ULEZ and his view on road pricing.

You can see the session here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oqCrWcZIF7I and it’s well worth watching to see just how bad is the current Mayor. He also grandstands to children who were in the audience and makes totally false allegations about the impact of air pollution.

The meeting was badly chaired by Tony Arbour but Sadiq Khan even abused him for being partial.

Bluster, pomposity and personal abuse is the approach of the Mayor to quite simple questions. I hope the general public will learn just what this man is like sooner or later.

Roger Lawson

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Air Pollution – A Crisis Created by Politicians?

biggs - paul 3

The following article is by Paul Biggs, ABD Director and Environment Spokesperson. It first appeared in Local Transport Today, the magazine for local road traffic engineers.

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”  H L Mencken

Imaginary might be a little harsh, but exaggerated certainly isn’t. The latest hobgoblin is the air quality ‘crisis’, which is being used to justify more taxes on some drivers in the guise of clean air zones (CAZ) such as the ULEZ scheme in London. If the much-delayed carbon dioxide hobgoblin doesn’t get us, which we were previously using diesel to help slay, then NOx and particulates (dust) certainly will, according to the likes of London mayor Sadiq Kahn.

In fact, London is where the hobgoblin meets the ‘zombie’ statistic in the form of the mayor’s false 40,000 air pollution deaths claim, which has been shot down by the likes of respiratory physiologist Professor Tony Frew, a former member of the Committee on the Medical Effects of Air Pollution (COMEAP) (http://tinyurl.com/y7coye43 ). This Frankenstein’s monster of statistical constructs doesn’t refer to real people, but is derived from the estimated 340,000 life years lost by everyone in the UK as a result of an average ‘early death’ of around three days due to air pollution, all things being equal, which in reality they are not.

In fact, there are a number of factors that can influence life expectancy in positive or negative ways. These include the likes of genetics, wealth, lifestyle, diet, environment, medical advances, etc. It’s clear from the increased life expectancy from birth that we enjoy as a developed nation driven by carbon fuels that the balance of all factors is strongly positive in favour of increased longevity.

Professor Frew also points out that just because pollution levels have been made illegal doesn’t mean that they are dangerous. There’s a lack of publicity for the latest report from COMEAP where experts can’t agree on any link between NOx and mortality, and the latest Office for National Statistics data shows that the North-South divide for life expectancy is clearly wealth-related rather than related to air quality.

Dates of birth and death are ‘hard’ data compared to junk epidemiological guesswork. Making people richer, rather than poorer with unjustified taxes, is the best way to make their lives longer and happier.

As for asthma, it was identified by the ancient civilisations of Egypt, Greece and China BC – Before Cars. There are many potential attack triggers for people who are genetically predisposed to asthma and it’s a well-known fact that indoor air quality, where we spend 90 per cent of our time, can be many times worse than outdoors. Also, individuals with compromised respiratory systems are susceptible to spikes in poor air quality due to very specific combinations of weather conditions.

To mayor Khan’s credit, he has recognised the stupidity of wood-burning stoves, which can emit 18 times as much pollution as a modern diesel car and six times as much as a diesel truck. But there is no sign yet of any wood tax or recognition of the impact of the ‘prettiest pollutant’ known as fireworks. It’s ironic that London bus shelters carry posters side-by-side advertising the ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) and firework displays. If there really was an air pollution emergency or crisis, wood-burning stoves and fireworks would be top of the banned list.

Regressive taxes, which is what CAZ charges are, target the less well-off who can’t afford new or newer vehicles. CAZ policies also fail to pass any cost-benefit analysis. Close to home for me personally, but not affecting my Euro 6 car, the planned Birmingham CAZ is projected to provide purely theoretical health and environmental benefits of £38m over ten years against a negative overall cost of £122m. This makes Birmingham’s EU-threatened fine of £60m for failing to tackle levels of air pollution declared illegal (by an EU we were supposed to be leaving) look like a bargain. Additionally, areas outside the Birmingham CAZ are likely to lose thousands of free parking spaces and the 6,000 free parking spaces within the zone could also face charges or restrictions.

UK vehicle emissions have declined significantly over the past 40 years against a background of increased vehicle usage. The fact that urban pollution ‘hot spots’ remain can to a large extent be blamed on deliberate congestion-causing policies, which have been designed to obstruct and slow traffic.

Banning all transport in London, for example, would only reduce particulate levels from the current average 14 micrograms per cubic metre to 12, the worldwide background level being 7 micrograms per cubic metre.

The potential air quality benefits of a ULEZ or CAZ will therefore be insignificant. We should instead be pleased with the significant improvements in air quality that have been achieved thanks to advances in vehicle technology and look forward to continued improvement from reduced vehicle emissions driven by technology.

Our tax- and restrictions-obsessed politicians should recognise the longer, happier lives that people in the UK are enjoying largely due to the economic benefits of carbon fuels. But we won’t be holding our breath waiting for that to happen!

Paul Biggs is environment spokesman for the Alliance of British Drivers. He is a biological sciences graduate and retired cancer researcher.

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Motorists Fuming and Heathrow Expansion

The SUN newspaper has reported on the concerns of London drivers over the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) under the headline “FUMING!”. The article says that London diesel motorists will have to buy a new car or face paying thousands in a new pollution tax – see https://www.thesun.co.uk/motors/8241278/motorists-new-car-pollution-tax/ . The article includes good quotes from me and from Howard Cox, Gareth Bacon and Shaun Bailey.

Interesting to note that TfL previously claimed that the capital cost of extending the ULEZ to the North/South Circular was £38 million. But it seems that TfL Manager Paul Cowperthwaite is now suggesting it could be between £90 million and £130 million. On a cost/benefit analysis that will make it even more uneconomic than was even forecast previously (see our previous articles on that issue). Mr Cowperthwaite’s comments about the alleged air quality crisis and his estimate of what it costs are just figments of his imagination that bear no relation to reality. As I am quoted in the SUN article, “The ULEZ is a giant con to raise more taxes to fix the Mayor’s budget problems”.

A big contributor to air pollution, particularly in west London is from aircraft landing and taking off at Heathrow airport. The airport is planning to increase the number of such aircraft numbers even prior to their proposed construction of a third runway. They plan to do this by using new technology to alternate runway use. This could mean an additional 25,000 flights per year with the associated pressure on the road network as most passengers arrive via vehicles.

It may also mean more aircraft noise affected more London residents as landing and take-off flight paths will change. There will still be no ban on night flights that disturb residents. Will the Mayor and TfL be objecting? I hope so.

See https://afo.heathrowconsultation.com/ for more information and to respond to the public consultation.

Roger Lawson

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Unblock Meeting, Bank Junction, Moor Lane and Sadiq Khan’s Antics

Yesterday I attended a meeting of the Unblock the Embankment Group (see https://unblocktheembankment.co.uk/ ). This was a group formed to oppose the closure of the Embankment and Lower/Upper Thames Street route for 6 months, a key east-west route through London, for the construction of a new Super Sewer. It seems they were successful in that regard. But they are now focussed on trying to persuade TfL and the City Corporation to reroute the Cycle Superhighway (CS3) to relieve the congestion on that route. There were representatives of the City Corporation at the meeting including Chris Hayward who chairs the Planning and Transportation Committee. He actually said in the meeting that CS3 has unquestionably made congestion worse, with which I don’t think anyone would disagree. Journey times across London (e.g. City to Westminster and back) have increased very substantially and there are no good alternative routes.

One issue raised was that cyclists on the CS3 superhighway have to suffer the high pollution levels when it is known that pollution levels on Upper/Lower Thames Street are some of the worst in London and exceed legal limits. Cyclists might prefer an alternative route and bearing in mind that the City Corporation is planning to improve cycle routes through the City as part of its Transport Strategy, it was suggested that the CS3 could be relocated. Naturally that would require some funding (perhaps £10 million) but it seems HM Treasury might provide some funds to improve traffic flows in London. But will the Mayor of London and TfL support such a move even if funding is available?

Has CS3 reduced accidents to cyclists? It was noted that it has not.

The City Corporation’s Transport Strategy was discussed and there have been many thousands of responses to their public consultation on that – which is more than expected. The ABD promoted responses among our supporters so perhaps we helped in that regard. The consultation has now closed and it’s too early to give any analysis of responses. It might be March/April before a report is published.

One aspect of the Transport Strategy is the proposed 15 mph speed limit across the City, but it was acknowledged that this would require legislation, i.e. the City Corporation cannot impose without an Act of Parliament.

With more cycle routes in the City and closure of Bank Junction, even more traffic might be diverted to Upper/Lower Thames Street, making congestion and air pollution even worse.

There was some discussion of air pollution trends on the CS3 route, and in London as a whole, on which data seemed to be limited. Incidentally a new initiative on that is to equip Google’s Street View cars with air pollution sensors. This would enable a real time and very localised view of pollution to be obtained. There will also be more fixed sensors attached to lampposts and buildings to obtain even more data.

Of course the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is forcing all taxis to become zero emission capable (hybrid/electric) in the near future but surprisingly there are still no electric charging points for taxis in the City. TfL are dragging their feet on providing it seems.

There was some discussion on the closure of Bank Junction, and proposals for a zero-emission limit for vehicles on Moor Lane in the Barbican. The City Corporation have now published a report on longer-term proposals for Bank Junction that includes three suggested options – total pedestrianisation, pedestrian priority with some vehicle movement, and thirdly retaining existing vehicle movements. Option 2 includes closure of some of the “arms” of the junction which seems eminently sensible – see illustration provided below – you can see other ones in the Committee Reports obtainable from here: https://tinyurl.com/y96stsvu

bank junction option 2

But there is still a commitment to turning this key road junction into a “place” and reducing vehicles to improve road safety so it is not at all clear whether even the third option would support taxi movements.

Another subject briefly discussed was the proposal to close Moor Lane to all vehicles other than zero emission ones. Apparently there was a majority of respondents opposed to the scheme in a public consultation (see the Committee Report mentioned above). Confusion between that and TfL’s ULEZ scheme was one objection. What was the response of the City Corporation? They are not dropping the proposal, but intend to either go-ahead or simply postpone it. As I commented in the meeting, will the City Corporation and its elected members actually take account of responses to the public consultation on the City’s Transport Strategy? To date they have not shown any willingness to listen.

Is Sadiq Khan responding to the air pollution concerns that he spends so much time talking about? Amusingly there was a report on the Guido Fawkes web site (which is usually accurate) saying that his official vehicle is a 4.4 litre BMW on which the MOT has expired. Not exactly environmentally friendly as Guido pointed out.

Meanwhile the Mayor continues to spend money as if it’s going out of fashion on public relations and social media consultants. That includes promoting his views on Brexit very vigorously and Guido also revealed that the Mayor had given £20,000 to a group called “The3million” representing EU citizens in the UK who want to stop Brexit. The Mayor continues to waste money while interfering in national politics rather than sticking to his job of Mayor of London.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Life Expectancy Data Says There Is No Air Pollution Health Crisis

There have been many scare stories published about how air pollution in London and other major cities is shortening lives. London Mayor Sadiq Khan certainly believes there is a major public health crisis that he needs to tackle by aggressive measures against vehicle owners. But data published by the Office of National Statistics simply contradicts these claims.

If such claims were true, one would expect to see shorter life spans for people living in those parts of the country where air pollution was known to be bad. For example some of the central London boroughs such as Camden, Westminster and Kensington & Fulham. But in fact the opposite is true. Residents of those boroughs have longer life expectancies than most of the rest of London, or the rest of the country. The Daily Mail has published an article that covers this subject in depth and even suggests that rather than retiring to the country, you can live longer if you move to central London – see link below.

Women born in the London Borough of Camden have the highest life expectancy overall at 86.5 years, with Kensington & Chelsea at 86.2 years. That’s longer than women who live in the outer London borough of Bromley at 85.3 years. Males live somewhat shorter lives but there is a similar advantage to living in the more polluted boroughs.

London as a whole has a life expectancy of 84.3 years for women and 80.5 years for men and expectancy has been rising until very recently – see ONS statistics link below. That compares with 84.0 years and 80.6 years for the wider south-east of the country. Both London and the wider south-east are much better than all other UK regions apart from the south-west. For example, in the north-east the figures are only 81.6 years for women and 77.9 years for men, perhaps negatively affected by working in former heavy industries in that region.

The Daily Mail article contains a useful interactive map so you can see what the figures are for where you live.

Now there are clearly other influences at work on life expectancy such as the quality of local healthcare and the wealth of the local population (wealthier people are known to live longer) but this data demonstrates that air pollution has no measurable impact on life expectancy at current levels even in the most polluted London boroughs. If it did one would expect to see this revealed in the data recently published by the ONS.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Ultra Low Emission Zone is more about raising taxes on long-suffering vehicle owners than improving the life expectancy of the population.

Daily Mail article: https://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-6487389/Women-Camden-longest-lives-UK.html

Office of National Statistics Life Expectancy Data: https://tinyurl.com/n6gls4t

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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