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

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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

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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

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Press Release: How Many People Will Be Affected by the ULEZ? We Give the Answers:

ULEZ Sign

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced in the central London zone this month. But in 2021 it will cover the whole of London within the North/South Circular and there is nothing stopping the Mayor extending it to the rest of London soon after. But how many car and van drivers will be affected and have to pay the £12.50 daily charge?

To answer that question the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has done a survey of vehicles on the roads in a number of London boroughs, both within and without the North/South Circular. It showed that overall 30.2% of vehicles will be paying the ULEZ charge unless their owners buy a new vehicle before 2021.

Some vehicles would be scrapped anyway as it is estimated that 3% of cars are scrapped each year as owners replace them with new vehicles or stop driving altogether. But that still means that the vast majority of those currently using “non-compliant” cars and vans will need to buy new vehicles to avoid paying £12.50 every day. Often the people affected will be those least likely to have the money to buy new cars or vans as most of the non-compliant vehicles are older ones that the less wealthy have purchased.

Van owners are likely to be particularly hard hit because 52.3% of those were identified to be non-compliant.

Was there any difference between richer or poorer boroughs, or between those within the North/South Circular? In essence there was not which shows that those who drive within that ring road have not so far taken any notice of the impending ULEZ charge.

According to TfL provisional data from within the central zone in April show 70% of vehicles are compliant which surely demonstrates that it is having little impact on vehicle ownership as that is no different to those who drive in outer London.

It is clear that the impact of the London ULEZ charge, and other similar Clean Air Zone (CAZ) schemes in other major cities will have an enormous financial impact on vehicle owners. Most of those who will be affected seem to be unaware of what is going to hit them in their pockets very soon.

ABD Campaign Director Roger Lawson who is leading the fight against the Mayor’s tax raising measure had this to say: “There is no justification for the ULEZ scheme on environmental or health grounds. These statistics show exactly what the cost will be to Londoners. There are 2.5 million licensed cars in London alone, ignoring the large numbers who drive into London from outside. With 30% of those vehicles subject to the ULEZ charge you can see how big a money spinner the ULEZ charge will be for the Mayor and the devastating financial impact it will have on the vehicle owners if they wish to avoid paying the tax”.

There is of course no guarantee that the ULEZ scheme will not be amended to include currently compliant vehicles at a later date, or that the charge will not be increased (the Congestion Charge has more than doubled since it was first introduced). The Mayor will undoubtedly be keen to ensure the money keeps rolling in.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Notes:

  1. To check whether a vehicle is compliant with the ULEZ go here: https://tinyurl.com/ya4usuqr
  2. For more information see this page of the ABD’s web site covering our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ, the financial facts and spurious environmental claims: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm
  3. The survey was taken by recording the registration numbers of 245 passing vehicles on roads in the following areas of South-East London: Blackheath, Lewisham, Charlton, Chislehurst and Plumstead (the first two being within the North/South Circular, the latter outside). Only cars and vans were recorded. The registration number was later checked for whether the vehicle is complaint or not using the aforementioned link. There was no statistically significant variation between the locations although wealthier locations showed a slightly higher proportion of non-compliant vehicles (33.3%) perhaps because there is a higher proportion of relatively new, but not very new, diesel vehicles owned by residents in those areas.

Shaun Bailey’s Views, Self-Driving Cars and Climate Change

Shaun Bailey, the Conservative candidate to be the next Mayor London, today (24/4/2019) issued the following statement in the Evening Standard giving his views on the Ultra Low Emission Zone, and very reasonable they are too in this writer’s view. Here’s some of what he said:

Shaun Bailey: Expanded Ulez will hurt poorer

Let us agree on one thing: We need to clean up London’s dirty air.

Clean air is a perennial problem for London. My grandparents and parents suffered pea soup fogs. I had headaches in the days of leaded petrol. And today my boy and I struggle with asthma. We need strong action to this killer problem, in central London and beyond.

To his credit, Sadiq Khan has adopted Boris Johnson’s plan for a central Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) and is planning on expanding it to the North and South Circular Roads in 2021. I support the former but have concerns over the latter. Here’s why.

If we’re going to shift people’s behaviour using expensive taxes (and the ULEZ is £62.50 a week) there needs to be an alternative for those without the means to get a new vehicle or pay. The central ULEZ is relatively fair to poorer Londoners because central London is well served by cheap public transport. It is also home to the worst pollution.

Zones 1 and 2 also have the necessary enforcement infrastructure in place; cameras already police the congestion charge, so using the same tools to enforce a central ULEZ is easy and inexpensive.

The same isn’t true in outer London, where the infrastructure will have to be built from scratch (at a cost of £130 million), and where our transport network isn’t as comprehensive. Hitting Londoners — many of whom are already struggling with the cost of living — with a tax on driving when they simply have no alternative is unfair; especially when there are other ways we can clean up our air. A tax alone won’t do.

Top of the list is greening our fleet of almost 10,000 buses and our army of taxis. Hybrid taxis are now a reality and more and more hybrid or low-emission buses are being rolled out too, but we need to move to zero-emission technologies more quickly than by the current target date of 2037.

Instead of setting up the massive surveillance system we’ll need to make the bigger ULEZ work we should be spending that money expanding our green bus fleet and routes.

To be sure, we need strong action. But in his rush to tax, Mr. Khan risks penalising a critical mass of Londoners — especially poorer Londoners — many of whom simply don’t have the money to change their mode of transport on a dime.

<End>

Self-Driving Cars

Another announcement this morning was from UK public company AB Dynamics. Their financial results were very good but it was interesting to read their comments on vehicle technology.

The company specialises in testing systems for major car manufacturers including a range of driving robots, soft vehicle and pedestrian targets and driving simulators. This is just what is needed to test the new Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) and autonomous vehicles (“self-driving” vehicles) that all car manufacturers are now investing a large amount of money in developing.

For example Elon Musk of Tesla recently predicted that his cars will have self -driving capability by mid-2020 – they just need the software upgrading to achieve that he claims. He also promised a fleet of “robo-taxis” by the same date. These claims were greeted by a lot of skepticism and quite rightly. This is what AB Dynamics had to say on the subject in today’s announcement: “There will be many phases to the development of fully autonomous vehicles and we foresee extended periods of time before they can satisfy a significant part of society’s mobility requirements.  There remain significant barriers to adoption including technical, ethical, legal, financial and infrastructure and these challenges will result in the incremental implementation of ADAS systems over many years to come. The ongoing regulatory environment and consumer demand for safety are also driving technological advancements in global mobility requirements and this provides a highly supportive market backdrop to the Group’s activities”.

I can tell you that the ABD is also very wary of self-driving vehicles. None of the vehicles under test offer anything like the reliability needed for fully-automated operation and expecting human operators to take over occasionally (e.g. in emergencies where the vehicle software cannot cope), is totally unrealistic. In other words, even “level 3” operation for self-driving vehicles which requires drivers to take over when needed is fraught with difficulties and offers little advantage to the user because they have to remain awake and alert at all times, something not likely to happen in reality.

Extinction Rebellion and their supporters who have been blocking London’s roads lately seem to want to remove all vehicles from our roads in the cause of reducing CO2 emissions which they claim is the cause of global warming (or “climate change”). I won’t even attempt to cover the latter claims although it’s worth stating that some dispute the connection and that climate change is driven by natural phenomena and cycles. But three things are certain:

  1. Reducing carbon emissions in the UK alone will have negligible impact on world CO2 emissions. China, the USA and other developing countries dominate the sources of such emissions and China’s are still growing strongly due to their heavy reliance on coal-fired power stations for electricity generation. China now produces more CO2 emissions than the USA and EU combined and is still building new coal-fired power stations. The UK now runs much of the time with no use of coal at all and rising energy contribution from wind-power and solar although gas still provides a major source.
  2. Environmental policies in the UK and Europe have actually caused many high energy consumption industries to move to China and other countries, thus enabling the UK to pretend we are whiter than white but not solving the world problem.
  3. A typical example of this approach is the promotion of electric vehicles. A recent article in the Brussels Times suggested that in Germany electric vehicles generate more CO2 over their lifespan than diesel vehicles. The reason is primarily the energy consumed in battery production – for example a Tesla Model 3 battery might require up to 15 tonnes of CO2 to manufacture. Electric car batteries are often manufactured in locations such as China although Tesla produces them in the USA.

In summary the UK and other western countries are being hypocrites and environmental campaigners are demonstrating in the wrong places and for the wrong reasons. The real problem is too many people in this world wanting to move to a high energy consumption lifestyle as we have long enjoyed in the western world. Population control is the only sure way to limit air pollution or CO2 emissions but nobody is willing to face up to that reality. In the meantime we get a lot of virtue signaling from politicians but a failure to tell the public the facts of energy consumption and production. Energy consumption is still growing world-wide and will continue to do so due to demographic changes and the desire for western lifestyles.

Finally just one comment on the Extinction Rebellion demand for a “people’s assembly” or “citizen’s assembly” as it is sometimes called. Is not the parliamentary democracy that we have at present such a system? Or is it simply a case that they want unelected people to decide on future policies? It has been suggested that such an assembly would be chosen at random from the population which hardly seems a very practical idea to me. This demand is a classic example of how muddled the thinking actually is of Extinction Rebellion supporters.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: ULEZ – A Tax to Fill the Mayor’s TFL Budget Black Hole

The Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) was introduced on the 8th April in the central London zone. Non-compliant car owners will have to pay £12.50 per day in addition to the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) of £11.50. Penalties for not paying are severe. Vans and HGV vehicle drivers will pay even more and even owners of older motorcycles have to pay even though their emissions are very low.

There are numerous anomalies in this tax which will particularly affect those who drive older cars who are typically the poorer members of the community. Those who drive very expensive modern supercars or luxury vehicles with large engines will not be paying even though the emissions from them are high.

Those who bought diesel vehicles only a few years ago, encouraged by the Government because of their lower CO2   emissions, will now find they are paying this tax or will have to buy a new vehicle.

In reality the ULEZ is a tax designed to bolster the Mayor of London’s income to fix his mismanagement of the Transport for London budget. The tax could take over £1 billion per year out of the London economy and yet it is unlikely to significantly improve the air quality in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan claims there is a public health crisis from air pollution in London so as to justify these new taxes but that is simply not true. He is even using ill-informed children to promote his claims.

In 2021 this tax will be extended to everywhere within the North/South Circular which will affect millions of car owners in London. The Alliance of British Drivers has been opposing the ULEZ scheme since it was announced. But the public is only now waking up to the ULEZ and other aspects of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. The ABD has opposed similar schemes in Birmingham, Bath and elsewhere. Some have already been reconsidered due to local opposition, but the Mayor of London is not listening.

ABD Campaign Director Roger Lawson had this to say: “The Mayor is dressing up this new tax as a way to improve our health when it will not. It’s blatant misleading of the public by a Mayor good at rhetoric but bad at actually managing the capital’s finances. The Mayor has manufactured a false emergency so he can say that he is taking urgent and bold action to “save” people from it.

Notes:

To check whether your vehicle is compliant go here: https://tinyurl.com/ya4usuqr

For more information see this page of the ABD’s web site covering our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy and the ULEZ, the financial facts and spurious environmental claims: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Mayor Lies at the People’s Question Time in Bexley

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA On the 14th March there was a “People’s Question Time” in Bexley where Mayor Sadiq Khan answered questions from the public (photo left).

It commenced by the Mayor suggesting that London’s roads were unsafe because he had no control over road safety in response to a question on junction improvement. He claimed that 95% of the roads are controlled by local boroughs, suggesting it was their fault. But in reality, the Mayor via TfL controls almost all the money spent on roads and road safety. TfL dictates what projects local boroughs can spend on by only funding what they like. In addition they dictate transport strategy directly. As a result, boroughs are forced to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on 20 mph wide area speed limits that have been proven to be totally ineffective, on cycle lanes, speed hump schemes and other pointless measures.

The Mayor was also criticised for spending £400 million on the proposed Rotherhithe cycle/pedestrian bridge, and when it came to policing there was applause from the audience when one person suggested he could solve the crime problem overnight by just diverting money spent on cycle lanes to the police.

When discussing public transport the Mayor said that London is the only city in the world that is not subsidised by Government. That is simply not true. TfL receives £3.2 billion in grants which is 31% of TfL’s income. Most of that money comes from taxes and much comes from central Government – see https://tfl.gov.uk/corporate/about-tfl/how-we-work/how-we-are-funded .

In response to questions on the environment the Mayor said that London air is a killer which is a gross exaggeration. But he got one point right – namely that diesel buses are a major problem. He said the worst areas for air pollution in London are those with the most buses. He said they are not buying any more diesel buses and are retrofitting existing ones.

He got criticism on the ULEZ but apparently expects central Government to bail out folks who cannot afford to buy a new car, which is highly unlikely to happen.

His final major point was to promote another referendum on Brexit. What a pity that Parliament ruled it out the same day which probably pleased the audience and certainly pleased me.

You can see a recording of the meeting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lmqgw6OjMD4

Mayor’s Tax Precept Rises

There were a number of criticisms of the Mayor’s financial policies at the meeting described above. London residents may have just realised that their local Council Tax is rising significantly this year and one reason is that the Mayor’s tax precept that you pay in your Council Tax, and is passed through to the GLA, is rising by 8.93%. That’s way ahead of inflation and is another example of the Mayor’s financial incompetence.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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