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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National Accident Trends and Bus Accidents in London

Fatal accidents on Britain’s roads rose 4% to 1,792 last year. That’s the highest level since 2011 and is clear evidence that fatal accidents are not falling despite all the chest beating of politicians about excessive speeds, and millions of pounds spent on speed cameras, speed awareness courses and traffic calming.

The DfT say the change in fatalities are not statistically significant, but even more alarming is the KSI figure which was up 8% in 2016 over the previous year and which is more statistically significant. The slight injuries were only up 4% but that may have been particularly affected by a change in the reporting system and are notoriously senstive to “under-reporting”.

Explanations from the DfT are the impact of the weather, the fact that accidents tend to rise when the economy is bouyant, plus lots of other factors. Note that the growth in traffic is only a very minor possible factor, and more traffic congestion can actually reduce accidents.

So in summary, the UK road safety industry and its experts have been an abject failure since about 2011 when the accident figures started to flatline.

An example of political posturing that is irrelevant to tackling the real road safety problems is the ambition of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy to reduce injuries from bus collisions in London to zero. In reality data from TfL show the number of collisions have been rising – up from 22,676 in 2013 to 28,035 in 2016. The number of injuries also rose to 1,231 in 2016.

What might be the reasons for these increases? Possibly more cyclists on the roads, more pedestrians who cross the road without looking, many using their phones at the time, and lots of other factors. So the response of the Mayor is to look at speed limiting technology for buses and anti-collision sensors. Will they solve the problem? Nobody knows because there is no road accident investigation branch similar to those used for rail and aviation, as the ABD has repeatedly called for.

In my view, only when Government politicians, the Mayor and TfL stop looking for quick answers to complex problems will we get some sense back into the road safety debate. In the meantime, it’s just a disgrace that nobody in power seems to be facing up to the reality that the UK is going backwards in road safety.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Opposition to Mayor’s Air Pollution Plans

I have covered some of the dubious aspects of the Mayor’s approach to tackling air pollution in London before. The T-Charge and ULEZ plans will be very expensive for Londoners, may have little effect and will target private car users unnecessarily when they are very minor contributors to emissions.

Campaign group FairFuelUK have launched a fund-raising to finance a judicial review of the T-Charge. The Toxicity Charge is a £10 penalty to be paid from October by older vehicles that do not meet newer emission standards if they are driven into the central Congestion Charging area. In summary they argue that even TfL concede it will have little impact on air pollution so it’s another of those “political gestures” that will impose major costs on some of the poorer road users. Go here for more information and to help fund the case: https://www.crowdjustice.com/case/stop-toxic-taxes/

Their arguments are backed up by a recently published report from the GLA Conservatives under the title “Clearing The Air”. This is a comprehensive analysis of London’s air pollution problems, and Mayor Sadiq Khan’s proposals. It also makes some alternative suggestions which would lessen the financial impact of the plans.

They also argue that the T-Charge should be scrapped and plans to bring forward the ULEZ by a year and then extending it across most of London should be abandoned. They point out that just implementing the latter could cost as much as £810 million, i.e. £220 for every household in London.

Make sure you read their full report if you want to get a good understanding of the issues around transport and air pollution in London. See: http://glaconservatives.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/ClearingTheAir.pdf

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Garden Bridge Down The River

Yes that vanity project the Thames Garden Bridge has finally been cancelled. After it lost the support of Mayor Sadiq Khan it has not been able to get enough funding from private sources. The amount of money wasted is forecast to be about £46 million. And most of that came from public funds, i.e. your taxes, with nothing to show for it at all. But better late than never so far as cancellation is concerned.

It was a bridge sold on attracting tourists but was not in the right place and not useable by many people who might wish to cross the Thames at that point. No proper cost/benefit analysis was done on it. But like that other more grandiose vanity transport project, HS2, once these projects get launched they soon gain a momentum of their own as lobbyists for commercial groups who might benefit promote the project.

Now HS2 has only spent about £2 billion to date, without laying a single foot of track, but if it was cancelled now might save over £70 billion. As with the Garden Bridge, there are lots of other better uses to which the money could be put.

It’s not too late. Just time to make a tough decision.

Roger Lawson

Judicial Reviews invoked by Motoring Groups

T-Charge. The Sun has reported that FairFuelUK are planning to challenge the Mayor of London’s introduction of the “Toxicity Tax” (“T-Charge”) via a judicial review in the High Court. This is a tax of £10 on certain older vehicles that do not meet newer emission standards that is being imposed from October if they are driven into the central congestion charge area.

The challenge will be on the basis that it is unfair discrimination against a small minority of road users when other vehicles (e.g. TfL buses) and other sources (e.g. construction machinery and diggers) generate more pollution. In other words, it is an unreasonable attack on car users.

FairFuelUK may be looking for financial support to enable them to fight this case (judicial reviews are expensive), so anyone interested in this matter should keep an eye open for further news.

Croydon 20MPH. Another judicial review where the case has already been filed in court is that over the public consultation in Croydon on implementation of the blanket 20 MPH speed limit. The ABD supported an active local campaign against the proposals (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Croydon20.htm ) and we have also complained to the Council about the defective consultation process. The process was changed from one area to another, apparently with the objective of obtaining the desired result, the information provided to residents was biased, the results ignored, and objections not considered properly. There are established legal principles about how public consultation should be run to ensure they are fair and unbiased, which is no doubt the basis of the challenge.

Both cases are in essence about illogical and unreasonable attacks on car and van drivers in the name of environmental improvement when there will allegedly be negligible advantage but significant costs imposed on drivers.

Roger Lawson

 

H&F Air Quality Consultation and Surprising News

The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham have produced an Air Quality Action Plan which is now open to public consultation. In summary, their proposals include:

  • Launching an electric vehicle hiring scheme – with a year’s free membership for local people,
  • Encouraging people to use electric vehicles by extending their network of charging bays,
  • Fining drivers who leave their engines running unnecessarily
  • Becoming the leading cycle-friendly borough in London with cycle quietways, cycle storage and cycle superhighways,
  • Encouraging more walking by tackling congestion, traffic speeds and by providing more greenery,
  • Reducing fossil-fuel boilers by replacing them with ultra-low nitrogen oxide boilers and ensuring energy plants are regulated through the planning process.

Not too many surprises there apart from the last one perhaps. But in the detail of the plan there is some surprising information. For example, it shows that as regards the impact of road transport on PM10, some 76% of them come from tyre and brake wear rather than engine tailpipe emissions.

Even more noteworthy is a statement on page 13 that they estimate that by 2020 emissions from road transport will reduce so much that it is projected that domestic and commercial gas sources will become the largest contributor of NOX in the borough, relegating transport to second place.

So will Mayor Sadiq Khan penalise inefficient and older heating boilers soon by forcing users to upgrade them, or imposing “emission charges” on them in the same way he has done for older car users?

It would be rational if he did, and clearly much more needs to be done to suppress dust on London’s streets. It was interesting watching an old film recently on television, the Blue Lamp, set in 1950, which showed water being sprayed from tankers to do just that. Perhaps we should reintroduce them. Other European cities use them. Or are they already being used in London but I don’t get up early enough to see them?

The H&F Draft Action Plan can be read here: https://www.lbhf.gov.uk/sites/default/files/section_attachments/hf_draft_air_quality_action_plan_2018-2023.pdf

Local residents should submit some comments.

Roger Lawson

 

The Social Costs of Air Pollution

A very good paper on the costs of air pollution in the UK, and the costs likely to be imposed on the public by the proposed measures nationwide, particularly in London, has been produced by Neil Lock. It is entitled “The Social Costs of Air Pollution from Cars in the UK” and is available here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Social-Cost-Cars.pdf

Mr Lock in his Conclusion to the note says the following: “If my figures are right, then on the specific issue of air pollution from cars in the UK, there may be a case for charging drivers of Euro 3 and perhaps Euro 4 diesel cars to enter certain very limited areas like central London. There is no social cost case for any such charges for Euro 5 or 6 diesels, or for any petrol cars. There is a case for charging drivers of diesels, and of petrol cars which do not meet the latest standard, an amount equivalent to the social cost of the pollution they cause (excluding the part of the pollution from diesels which is the manufacturer’s fault). There is no case for charging any more than this.”

He also says: “It is high time, I think, for the good people of the UK and of the world to wake up. To see the deep green agenda for what it is. To reject it and its proponents. And to seek to set up in its place just measures based on good science, honesty and common sense.”

The paper is well worth reading, particularly by those who live in London and who will be affected by Sadiq Khan’s plans. More technical data is available to support his case if you need it. Mr Lock can be contacted at e-mail: neillock@aol.com.  Mr Lock is a software consultant, with a degree in mathematics. He lives in Surrey and drives a diesel car, which he says he would not have bought if he could have found a petrol one of the model he wanted at the time.

Roger Lawson