ULEZ Revenue and Benefits – Not As Expected

ULEZ SignTransport for London (TfL) have released some figures for the first six months of the ULEZ scheme (for April to September 2019). The bad news for the Mayor is that the income from the scheme in fees paid by non-compliant vehicle owners and penalty charges is much less than expected.

There was revenue of £31 million from charges paid (12.50 per day for cars, vans and motorcycles and £100 for HGVs and buses). Plus there was £11 million from penalty charges. One driver managed to collect 81 penalty charges but otherwise it is the typically high figure you see from camera enforced schemes where many people don’t realise they have entered the charging zone or forget to pay.

But the overall income of £41 million, equivalent to £82 million per annum, is much less than originally anticipated. Income in the first year was originally estimated to be £174m and costs £47m, producing a surplus of £127m. So the surplus is likely to be a fraction of that originally anticipated at only £35 million. See https://tinyurl.com/y4w6pwuk for the original estimates.

It would seem likely that more vehicle users than anticipated have switched to newer vehicles with the proportion of non-compliant vehicles falling rapidly to only 25% in September. The overall number of vehicles also appears to be falling. The low numbers of non-compliant vehicles means that the income will also fall substantially in the second half of the year thus reducing even further the anticipated surplus so it could be much less than even £35 million. This will put yet another hole in the Mayor’s financial budget for TfL which is already in a dire state.

The good news (at least for those who believe that NOX air pollution is a major health hazard – the ABD does not), is that NOX emissions from road transport in the central zone are estimated to have fallen by 31%. That is probably consistent with the original estimates that there would be a fall in NOX emissions of 17% by 2021 as only about half of such emissions come from road transport and such emissions are falling rapidly anyway as the vehicle fleet is renewed.

Only a small reduction in CO2 emissions is reported, and no figures on particulates (PM) are yet reported. You can read the full TfL report here: https://tinyurl.com/y2h63dxc

The ABD still believes that this is a very expensive scheme that is imposing enormous costs on many vehicle owners with very marginal benefits in terms of air pollution. It is unclear whether NOX actually has any negative health impacts – see our report here that covers the air pollution issue in depth: https://tinyurl.com/yx9bk9kg . We would also like to see some actual measurements of NOX rather than just estimates.

There has never been any proper cost/benefit justification for this scheme but the Mayor no doubt saw it as a means to plug the holes in his TfL budget with the ULEZ tax. In reality it’s going to raise a lot less than anticipated.

Readers should make sure they oppose the expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular in 2021 which will cover many more people.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

Driverless Vehicles, Air Pollution Claims and Scrappage Scheme

Streetwise Vehicle Ed

Residents of the London Boroughs of Croydon and Bromley need to look out from today (24/10/2019) because for the first time, driverless cars will be present on their roads. These will be operated by company FiveAI and may carry passengers but will always have somebody at the wheel ready to take over. These are basically trials run by a consortium named Streetwise.

How will they cope with the problem that London’s roads are very unlike the West coast of the USA where most such trials have been conducted to date. Stan Boland, CEO of FiveAI said “We have lower lighting, higher rainfall and greater density of road users and we also have to deal with erratic, medieval street plans that are nothing like the grid systems of the US”. However these trials are not quite so revolutionary as first appears because they will actually be on a “fixed route” – see  https://tinyurl.com/y4n8zfnq for more details.

Comment: Mr Boland did not even mention the occasional fog and snow. I remain sceptical of the general applicability of this technology when even my very intelligent TomTom satnav sometimes gets lost in central London. There are claims that it might save lives from reduced accidents, but Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research has recently acknowledged that driverless cars might actually kill people. They may reduce accidents overall by removing driver error which is the cause of many accidents, but it seems software errors may still be  problem.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has published claims that the ULEZ scheme in central London has reduced air pollution very substantially. He claims roadside NO2 pollution has fallen by 36% in the zone with no increase in the surrounding area. He attributes this to a large reduction in the number of older or polluting vehicles entering the central zone. This is hardly surprising as operators of older LGV vehicles will have found it financially wise to change their vehicles. But the ABD doubts the claims about the actual reductions in emissions which we believe are estimates based on vehicle numbers rather than actual air quality measurements. We have submitted an FOI Act request to obtain more information. There is likely of course to have been some reduction due to renewal of the vehicle fleet over time (newer vehicles generally have lower emissions) and specific changes in the bus fleet and a strong focus on higher polluting commercial vehicles such as HGVs. But many of the pollutants in the air come from other than road transport vehicle sources and much blows in from elsewhere in the central zone.

The Mayor has also announced a £25 million scrappage fund for low-income Londoners. This is aimed at helping them move to less polluting vehicles. Motorists will be able to get up to £2,000 for scrapping older, more polluting vehicles. How many people will be able to take advantage of this scheme? Only a minority in essence because only people who are receiving means-tested benefits or disability allowances will qualify and as the fund is limited in size it may be on a “first come, first served” basis. In addition it’s probably needless to point out that £2,000 does not buy you a new car, and not even a good second-hand one. The conclusion is only people on benefits with cash in the bank to help buy a new vehicle may find it helpful. It’s surely a token political gesture which is what we tend to see from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The latest scare story about air pollution is that on high pollution days in London it might cause an extra 87 cardiac arrests per year, an extra 144 strokes, and 74 children and 33 adults ending up in hospital with asthma-related issues. This is a claim made by researchers at King’s College London based on a study relating high pollution days to medical events.  NHS England boss Simon Stevens said it was evidence of “a health emergency”. But this is a very simplistic analysis of complex data. Such days might also be very hot ones which are known to trigger medical events. Even the claimed numbers are very small. In London. For every 100 cardiac arrest ambulance call-outs on low-pollution days, they would expect to see 102 on high-pollution days. It’s basically a statistical fraud derived from epidemiology.

Regrettably we seem to be suffering from air pollution hysteria at present. Few people look at the evidence from an unbiased scientific viewpoint and most of the claims made do not stand up to scrutiny by anyone with a scientific background.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

Sadiq Khan’s Election Manifesto – Have Your Say

The Labour Party are inviting everyone to have their say on Sadiq Khan’s Manifesto for re-election as London Mayor in 2020. You can read about his achievements to date and submit answers to their questions via this web page: https://tinyurl.com/y29yu999 . It is of course a very biased document like all consultations that Mr Khan presides over, but anyone can respond – you don’t need to be a Labour Party member.

Perhaps the Mayor is short of ideas to ensure he gets re-elected. His last big vote winner was freezing public transport fares but after three years of holding the tide back of inflation in King Canute fashion he has managed to dig a deep hole in Transport for London’s finances which simply cannot continue. Bus services are being reduced as a result while traffic congestion increases. His policies on Congestion Charging and the ULEZ will impose higher costs on many Londoners with minimal public health benefit. He has also clearly failed to tackle rising violent crime and not solved London’s housing problem – indeed his only proposal for the latter is to introduce rent controls which would make matters worse.

But he does admit to increasing the Council Tax Precept (what you pay to the Mayor from your local council taxes) to the maximum allowed. No thanks Mr Mayor. All his other claimed achievements are quite trivial in relation to the problems Londoners perceive as key issues.

All the way through the document, the Mayor emphasises that he has limited powers over many aspects and clearly wants more. But it would be very dangerous to give him more.

Here are some of the questions and how you may care to respond to them (I have only covered those questions that are relevant to transport):

Environment and Climate Change:

Question: How do we take the next steps to clean up London’s air and oversee a massive shift from polluting cars to walking, cycling and electric vehicles at the same time?

Answer: concentrate on fixing the vehicles over which you have control and which are major contributors to air pollution, i.e. diesel buses. You also need to tackle air pollution on the Underground. Otherwise any measures should be justified on cost/benefit grounds and scare-mongering over an imaginary public health crisis as the justification for higher taxes should be stopped. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular should be halted and the introduction of more Cycling schemes that create more traffic congestion (and hence air pollution) should be halted.

Transport:

Question: How else can Sadiq make London’s transport system affordable and accessible to all Londoners?

Answer: Stop wasting money on schemes with very poor cost/benefits (such as the proposed Rotherhithe bridge and most of the Cycle Superhighways the finance for which has to come out of public transport fares. He needs to stop spending money and imposing taxes on road users to make the transport system more affordable for everyone. That includes halting the investment in 20 MPH speed limit schemes and cycle schemes that have poor cost/benefits. He should also cease support of road-pricing and workplace parking levies.

Question: What are the future major schemes that Sadiq could focus on delivering?

Answer: The Silvertown Tunnel is one which will be a major benefit for east London. Repairing the Hammersmith Bridge is another for West Londoners. Improving major east-west and north-south road routes such as the Embankment rather than degrading them with 20 MPH speed limits and cycle lanes should be another key objective.

Question: What more can be done to promote walking and cycling?

Answer: Some youth elixirs for the elderly and inform would help and concealing the dangers or cycling is another. That is of course just a witty response to a proposal that is unnecessary and has major disbenefits.

Question: When asking for more powers and devolution from Government on transport issues, where should Sadiq focus his energies?

Answer: Give the Mayor powers to introduce policies to reduce the population of London so as to reduce pressure on the transport, housing and public health systems. Specifically redistribution of business and people out of London and powers to reduce immigration and encourage birth control.

He should also argue for a commitment to devolve more powers to local boroughs so as to avoid TfL dictating local borough policies and more funds financed by central Government to be given to local boroughs solely to be used on improving the road network in London. In addition the Mayor should be given the power to set sensible minimum parking standards for new developments (not maximum ones) in London boroughs.

Those are just a few ideas to help Mr Khan, or indeed his opponents, to get elected.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

Mayor Rakes in Money from the ULEZ

The Evening Standard have published some data from TfL on the impact of the ULEZ on vehicles entering central London. The number of “non-compliant” vehicles, i.e. those that do not meet the emissions standards and therefore have to pay, has fallen by 35% since the scheme was launched in April.

Clearly many people are avoiding paying by either driving around the central zone, using public transport, not travelling at all or changing their vehicle. As regards the latter there has been a 9.7% increase in compliant vehicles which represents those who upgraded their vehicle. Many regular business users who work in central London, e.g. van drivers, will have found it is more economic to change their vehicle.

About 75% of vehicles in the central zone are now compliant. What impact has this change had on the air pollution? The report does not say. The ABD suggests it will be very small as pollution comes from many sources, not just vehicles, some blows in from elsewhere and the worst vehicles are buses, HGVs and taxis where change is slow. But it is clearly a big money spinner for the Mayor. In July it was generating about £180,000 every day in taxation to help fill the Mayor’s budget problems – that’s equivalent to £66 million per year.

The ABD has consistently argued that the ULEZ scheme is motivated by the desire to raise more tax, and was sold on false claims about major health impacts from air pollution. Air pollution in London has been falling rapidly, the population has been living longer and air pollution is only a minor problem on a very few roads. See this page for the truth of the matter and a full analysis: https://www.abd.org.uk/air-quality-vehicles-truth/

There was an interesting report in the Financial Times on the 7th September where they used reporters in several major cities to travel around carrying a monitor device and measure air pollution levels. This is what Leslie Hook had to say about London: “When I first moved to London in 2018, I was surprised that friends complained about air pollution. I could see blue skies from my window and admire the clear views over Southwark Bridge as I commuted home” (he previously worked in Beijing). But he complains about the dangerous levels of nitrogen dioxide reported by his measuring device even though there is no scientific consensus that NO2 has any medical danger. Most of his exposure to air pollution was during his commute to work but he says “the biggest surprise was when I hopped on the underground: the air on the tube was terrible”. The device indicated worse air pollution levels there than anywhere else, and particulate levels were very high.

When is the Mayor going to force London Underground to fix this problem? You can guess why he does not because if he taxed the tube he would be paying as the owner. That tells you why he is taxing vehicle owners alone.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

 

Heathrow Airport Expansion, M25 Diversion and HS2

Heathrow Airport has announced a public consultation on its plans to expand by building a third runway. This will require diversion of the M25 into a tunnel over which the new runway will be built.

The western side of the M25 is one of the busiest sections of the national motorway network and has regular congestion at present. The additional traffic generated by the airport expansion plus the construction traffic and the disruption caused by the diversion is surely going to make congestion worse both in the short term and long term.

In addition the additional planes flying in and out of the airport will add to air pollution in the area which is already one of the worse such spots in London. The airport plans “no significant increase in parking at the airport despite the scale of growth” which seems somewhat unrealistic. But they plan to deter people from driving to the airport by introducing a ULEZ charge for most visitors. Effectively folks using vehicles will be targeted as a way to offset the additional emissions from planes.

As regards the general merits of expanding the airport, the ABD has no official stance as there are differing opinions on the subject. But the impact on the M25 and surrounding roads will clearly be negative and should be opposed.

For more information and to respond to the consultation, go here: https://aec.heathrowconsultation.com/

HS2

Boris Johnson, our potential future Prime Minister, is drawing up plans to have an independent review of HS2 which many people oppose. But it is likely to be run by Douglas Oakervee who chaired HS2 between 2012 and 2013. This looks like a future “whitewash” and a sop to those who oppose HS2 on economic and environmental grounds.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

The Cost of Khan – 3

The Conservative Group on the Greater London Assembly have produced their latest report on the 3-year record of the Mayor in the “Cost of Khan”. It analyses the performance of Mayor Sadiq Khan in the job. Anyone who thinks he is performing well in the role should read it. For those who think he is performing badly, it provides the evidence.

I’ll focus on a just a few of the issues in this note. Khan’s war on the suburbs with the new “London Plan” is covered where housing density is increased and back gardens are allowed to be built on. It includes proposals to limit car parking provision which shows the Mayor’s lack of awareness and consideration for outer London residents and their needs.

Financial incompetence is highlighted such as over Crossrail, the pay of TfL employees and the ULEZ scheme. The staff in City Hall have gone up from 897 when he became Mayor in 2016 to what will be 1,232 staff in the next financial year. That’s a 37% increase and pay in total has gone up an even more staggering 59%. That’s one reason you are paying more in Council Tax!

Even his record on the environment and air pollution is poor with promises of tree planting not met, and the very high pollution from diesel buses which account for 20% of NO2 emissions is not falling as replacement is slow. The ULEZ scheme will be very expensive to implement and operate and is not likely to have a great impact on air pollution.

In summary, the Mayor is a great expert at blowing his own trumpet by spending large sums on PR and social media. He also spends a lot of time on politics that are outside his remit such as Brexit and the Trump visit. Perhaps he just wants to distract the public from his failings to do his job effectively?

You can read the detail report here:

https://www.glaconservatives.co.uk/cost-of-khan.html

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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

Heathrow Airport Plans £15 ULEZ Charge

Heathrow plane

Heathrow airport has announced plans for a charge on some cars and PHVs from 2022. It will apply to those that enter the airport to park or drop off passengers. The charge could be as much as £15 and will be similar to the central London ULEZ charge – in other words focussed on older petrol vehicles and diesels more than 4 years old that are not Euro 6 compliant. Just like the ULEZ, it will apply every day and 24 hours per day. Black cabs will be exempt.

The airport claims this will be used to fund public transport improvements. They also say that road transport is the main source of local air pollution but according to AutoExpress Heathrow Airport had greenhouse gas emissions of around two million tonnes of CO2 in 2017, 1.3 million tonnes of which came from planes taking off and landing.

Comment: It seems exceedingly unlikely that the contribution to air pollution of road vehicles actually going to and from London Airport is significant in comparison with that spewed out by the numerous jet planes taking off and landing. There is also the adjacent traffic with high numbers of HGVs and buses on the M25, M4 and M3 which have nothing to do with the airport and this charge will have no impact on them. Meanwhile the airport is planning to increase flights from the existing runways and wants to open a third runway as soon as possible. If they really wanted to reduce air pollution in this area then they have an easy solution – halt the expansion of the airport.

Penalising those vehicle owners who purchased cars that were perfectly legal at the time is unfair and unreasonable. Diesel cars were encouraged by the Government to reduce CO2 emissions but buyers are now being targeted. Like the central London ULEZ, this scheme just looks like an excuse to raise money from vehicle users by suggesting it will cut air pollution when it will have no significant impact. It’s a pointless gesture which will cost some drivers a great deal.

See here for the press release issued by Heathrow Airport on this topic for more details: https://tinyurl.com/y6qrxtrm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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