Money Generation By Councils

The ABD has covered several examples of money generation by local Councils from PCNs. For example, for illegal turns, infringement of yellow box junctions, infringement of bus lanes and other “moving traffic offences”. See coverage of complaints about Bank junction in the City of London, and by Westminster and Hackney councils in our London blog. These often arise from poor signage that drivers fail to spot. These are rarely deliberate infringements but are simply caused by unfamiliarity with the road and simple oversight. By using automated camera systems, councils can quickly generate hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue. Appeals against the fines rarely succeed.

Sometimes it appears that changes to roads are often implemented by councils with the knowledge that drivers will be caught by unexpected route changes and poor signage.

A Parliamentary petition against the abuses that this is producing has now been created. It calls for an independent review of the law. Please sign it here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/232919

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Fighting For Air – Another Piece of Air Pollution Propaganda from the BBC

Last night the BBC broadcast a programme on air pollution entitled Fighting for Air (BBC2 on 19/8/2018). It was presented by Dr. Xand van Tulleken in a populist and dramatic style.

He first did a simple test by “cleansing” his system by donning a chemical weapons suit followed by 3 hours of deliberately breathing in traffic fumes. He did blood pressure tests, analysed blood composition and checked for brain function before and after. This unscientific and uncontrolled test apparently showed a slight increase in blood pressure and blood clotting and possibly a very small change in cognitive function. No actual data was given. Bearing in mind that such tests as blood pressure can vary significantly from hour to hour, and the other tests likewise, this proves nothing at all. Note that there have been a number of scientific studies of a possible link between blood coagulation and air pollution but no clear conclusions about which pollutants are relevant and no specific link to heart disease or stroke risk identified. That did not stop Dr van Tulleken alleging such a link.

He then moved to Kings Heath High Street near Birmingham. This road exceeds national legal limits for NOX apparently by a small amount at some times. It is used by a large number of diesel buses (no hybrids or electrics), and by significant numbers of HGVs. Traffic is stop/start with high congestion because of traffic lights that are not linked and road side parking as people move in and out of the parking spaces.

Dr van Tulleken persuaded the local council to suspend the parking bays for a day (filled with bay trees instead) and to synchronise the traffic flights to provide a “green wave” and he also persuaded the bus company to offer free tickets. The result was the volume of traffic remained the same, but NO2 fell by 10%. It is not clear to what extent any adjustment was made for other factors such as weather changes although mention was made that the changes were measured against wider area changes.

Local shopkeepers were not happy particularly a butcher who had traded in the road for 50 years.

Comment: In summary all this programme showed is that smoothing traffic flows may significantly reduce some emissions from vehicles. We already knew that, for example from studies of speed hump schemes. Replacing road side parking by off-street parking is clearly something that councils should look at. I only wish that removing such parking be done in my local High Street (Chislehurst in the London Borough of Bromley) which has been proposed in the past but never progressed (there is already plenty of off-street parking). It would both reduce the air pollution and reduce congestion by improving the flow of traffic.

What the programme did not demonstrate was that air pollution is a major health hazard or a public health emergency as the Doctor disclaimed. Indeed the High Street Butcher demonstrated how much cleaner his shop is than it used to be suggesting particulate emissions were lower than a few years ago.

In conclusion, another disappointing and hysterical programme on air pollution rather than a truly balanced study of the issues.

Roger Lawson

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Uber and London Airport – One Current and One Future Court Case

Uber have been appearing in court to appeal the loss of their licence to operate in London. The magistrate’s decision will apparently hinge on whether they are “fit and proper” persons to operate a taxi service, and with the weight of evidence about past failings, whether they have changed their management or the way they operate. A decision should be delivered in a few days.

It would seem unfortunate if they are not allowed to continue as it has proved to be a very popular service with many users, although no doubt competing firms would no doubt fill the gap rapidly.

A legal battle is now in prospect after Parliament voted yesterday to progress the expansion of London Heathrow Airport with a third runway. Local west London borough councils and the Mayor of London are queuing up to join a threatened legal action against the development on the grounds that it will be unable to meet environmental regulations.

An application for a judicial review looks likely from at least Hillingdon, Richmond, Wandsworth and Windsor & Maidenhead with support from Mayor Sadiq Khan. Hillingdon have already reserved a budget of £200,000 for the case.

Some readers were surprised by this writer’s previous comments opposing the expansion of London Airport. A good letter by Dr Sally Cairns in the Financial Times summarised the reasons very well – here’s a part of it: “Heathrow already subjects more than half a million people to significant noise annoyance; generates more than 30 million car journeys a year through a busy part of London with air pollution problems and is the UK’s biggest point source of carbon dioxide emissions. Objecting to Heathrow expansion is not about nimby-ism – it is about the lack of evidence for the benefits, and the strong likelihood of high social and environmental costs”. The letter writer gives an address in Wokingham, but it was painful to watch BBC TV News last night with some of the residents talking whose homes will be demolished as a result. That’s if it ever happens. In the meantime, they are stuck in limbo and probably for some years, being unable to sell their homes.

Note though that the air pollution problems around Heathrow are caused to a large extent by aircraft. Cars and goods vehicles do contribute but are getting cleaner very rapidly with electric cars now very viable for most drivers. Electric aeroplanes of any size are a long way from reality and the growth in air traffic is a major problem for toxic emissions.

The legal and other delays, such as the likely reluctance to fund the enormous cost, could mean years wasted when other solutions to increased travel demand are available and could be progressed more rapidly. The disruption caused by the expansion of road capacity to serve a larger airport and the need to divert the M25 into a tunnel will be a major problem for road traffic during the lengthy construction period.

Many factors mitigate against expansion of Heathrow, despite the apparent commercial benefits of doing so.

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No Benefit From 20-MPH Speed Limits

Hampshire County Council have reported that there is no road safety benefit from signed-only 20-MPH speed limits. The county have installed such limits in 14 residential areas since 2012. But this is what Stuart Jarvis of the Council said: “In terms of accident and injury data, the impact of the pilot schemes upon road safety is projected to be neutral and there is no evidence of enhanced road safety benefits compared with that observed for the entire road network maintained by the county council”. The overall accident rates for the pilot schemes have actually risen, although this is not considered to be statistically significant. There have been marginal, or nil, reduction in traffic speeds in the scheme areas.

The residents in the scheme areas seemed happy though so it is not proposed to remove the existing 20-mph limits. But it is unlikely that any new such schemes will be installed.

The full council report on the schemes is here:

http://democracy.hants.gov.uk/documents/s19310/Review%20of%20Residential%2020mph%20Pilot%20-%20Report.pdf

Comment: The ABD has consistently argued that such schemes cannot be justified on any sensible cost/benefit basis and that the large amounts of money spent on them would be much better spent on other road safety programmes. Not surprisingly perhaps, the latest Hampshire report does not mention the costs and links on the council’s web site to previous reports and decisions that might have mentioned the costs seem to no longer work. I wonder why that is?

It is regrettable that Transport for London (TfL), and local borough councils such as Croydon, have consistently ignored the mounting evidence that wide-area signed-only 20-mph schemes are a waste of money. TfL continue to finance them with taxpayers’ cash, and local borough councils in London are still implementing them. Why do they continue to ignore the evidence?

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The Menace of Potholes

Chislehurst High Street Pothole 2018-02-20A

You may not be aware of it, but today (8/3/2018) is National Pothole Day (twitter #natioonalpotholeday2018). This is an annual event dedicated to raising awareness of the problems caused by potholes.

Spending on maintaining roads across the whole country is being cut back by local councils to save money. As a result, potholes are increasing. This is creating dangerous roads. Cyclists are particularly at risk. There have been deaths reported of cyclists who ran into a pothole (pensioner Ron Hamer of Manchester is one such case). Roads Minister Jesse Norman reported to Parliament that 22 cyclists died and 368 were badly hurt between 2007 and 2016 where a factor in the accident was a “poor or defective road surface” and the numbers seem to be rising. Bicycles are vulnerable to damage and cars and other vehicles can also suffer very expensive damage.

Now it happens that I had cause to complain to the Leader of Bromley Council (my local borough) only a week ago. This was to Councillor Colin Smith who recently got the top job and I am confident he will do it well as he is more sensible than many Councillors. He was also previously responsible for the Environment portfolio which includes traffic issues so he should know about the subject.

I said in summary that Bromley’s roads seem to be getting much worse of late in terms of numbers of potholes – and that’s even before the recent bad weather. Bromley’s roads used to be better maintained than many other London boroughs but I do not think that is true any longer. But he did not exactly agree with me.

It is true that if one uses Bromley’s fix-my-street web site to report potholes, they are normally rectified relatively soon, particularly if they are dangerous ones more than a few inches deep. One I reported recently in Chislehurst High Street is shown in the photo above. But there are now so many potholes to report I could spend days doing so. In addition there are now so many repeated “patches” on some roads that the whole surface is poor quality and soon another pothole will develop. The general standard of the road surfaces is declining in my view.

Coincidentally Bromley Council recently published a report on their use of the “Pothole Action Fund”. This is grant funding via the Government Department for Transport to local councils. Bromley will receive £113,000 in 2017/18 and a similar amount in 2018/19. They do plan to use it to “supplement revenue budgets”. But they expect expenditure on general maintenance of roads will be reduced because the Mayor of London has cut it back – local boroughs won’t get money from him for that purpose (this is part of Sadiq Khan’s budget restrictions arising from his financial difficulties as a result of past poor decisions which I have covered elsewhere).

So we may see less major road resurfacing projects, but more patching in Bromley. Will £113,000 help a lot? It seems unlikely to me. Anyone who has any knowledge of the cost of road works would not expect that to cover more than a few rushed patches.

Drivers are advised to purchase a car sticker that I saw recently on an ABD Member’s vehicle which reads “I’m not drunk – I’m just avoiding potholes”. It’s available from Amazon.

Roger Lawson

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Road Reopening and Closure

Transport for London (TfL) have announced a proposal to re-open St. Thomas Street in Southwark. The road lies between London Bridge Station/ The Shard and Guy’s Hospital. It was a key east/west route before the road was closed about 6 years ago.

To reach the Shard taxi drivers now have to enter the road from the west and then turn around. The proposal is to allow one-way operation west bound, but only for vehicles that wish to access premises along the road and then only at 10 mph. Cyclists will also be able to use it.

Pedestrian traffic is quite high across the road at the exit from the Station to Guys but even so it would not seem impossible to allow shared usage in a safe way. But the consultation talks about “Healthy Streets” and “rat running” so you know it’s going to be biased.

You can obtain more information and respond to the consultation on the proposals here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/thomas/ . The ABD has suggested it could be reopened to all traffic with suitable street design.

Church Street / Isleworth

Hounslow Council closed Church Street in Isleworth a couple of years ago even though there was a petition signed by almost 2000 people against it. Now local resident Philippa Auton is planning to stand as a Councillor in the May elections on a platform suggesting it should be reopened.

The closure caused traffic on other roads to increase and meant circuitous routes for some residents.

The ABD is of course consistently opposed to road closures of all kinds unless there is very good justification for doing so, e.g. on road safety grounds.

Roger Lawson

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More Money For Cycling

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has announced a commitment to spend £142 million on new cycle routes. He claims this will benefit cyclists and pedestrians, but why the latter is not clear.

These are the routes where money will be spent:

  • Lea Bridge to Dalston – This 3km route would link the City and Waltham Forest by filling the gap between Lea Bridge Road and Cycle Superhighway 1 at Dalston
  • Ilford to Barking Riverside – This 8km route would link two bustling outer London town centres and a major growth area with up to 10,800 new homes and a new London Overground connection – while enhancing access to the Elizabeth line and London Overground services
  • Hackney to the Isle of Dogs – This 8km route would stretch from Hackney to the Isle of Dogs via Canary Wharf, Mile End and Victoria Park
  • Rotherhithe to Peckham – This 4km route would link Peckham with key and growing destinations such as Canada Water and Surrey Quays, and connect up other cycling routes such as Quietway 1 and the proposed Cycle Superhighway 4
  • Tottenham Hale to Camden – This 8km route would connect major town centres and will cover seven junctions identified as being among the 73 with the worst safety records
  • Wembley to Willesden Junction – This 5km route would be north-west London’s first major cycle route, connecting Wembley, Stonebridge Park and Willesden Junction. Future sections will connect to planned infrastructure in west London such as CS9 and CS10.

The Mayor has also committed to providing a new river crossing between Rotherhithe and Canary Wharf for pedestrians and cyclists. Note that we commented on this project previously here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/11/new-thames-river-crossing-at-rotherhithe/ . It is surely a financially unjustifiable project, but needless to say the Mayor says the initial analysis of the consultation results shows substantial support – surely a case of folks voting in favour of something when they think they don’t have to bear the cost.

Note that the Mayor has committed to spend similar sums on cycling, if not more, over the next 5 years – an average of £169 million per year. Meanwhile budgets for road maintenance have been cut and projects put forward by local boroughs are being cut back. As usual these days, there is no cost/benefit justification provided for this expenditure.

It is not clear what the nature of these cycle routes will be. Will they be fully segregated as are the Cycle Superhighways or simply minor improvements such as blue paint and junction improvements. It seems some of the routes may be partly on “Quietways” (i.e. back roads with little traffic).

But one thing is for sure from past experience of similar projects. Road space will be removed from motorised traffic and traffic congestion will increase as a result.

Roger Lawson

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