Press Release: Mayor Sadiq Khan Ignores Objections to his Transport Strategy

The ABD has issued the following press release:

The response of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the public consultation on his Transport Strategy has been announced today. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been actively campaigning against certain aspects of his proposals.

We suggested that his proposals were a direct attack on the use of cars or indeed private transport in general and that not only were his proposals unrealistic but would not work. Our campaign attracted more responses to his proposals than any other campaign group.

Has he made any significant changes to his proposals? In reality NO. The response document (see below) is full of comments that say “no change” is proposed.

A Brief Analysis of Responses to the Public Consultation

The Mayor claims “broad support” for his Healthy Streets approach and the 80% mode share target for cycling, walking and public transport use. But then goes on to say “there were sometimes divergent views across issues”. Indeed, if you look at the details of the comments TfL received there was substantial opposition to many points, including much opposition to road user charging or congestion charging schemes.

There were clearly lots of opposing comments from outer London residents and although the Mayor has committed to respond to them by improving the bus network and surface rail in outer London, this is hardly likely to placate many objectors. Our experience is that many of those objecting are disabled or very elderly who often rely on private vehicles and who would have difficulty with public transport (most of them consider the suggestion that they should cycle as laughable). You can see some comments from our campaign supporters on our web site.

This is also evident from the Consultation Response Document where it says “there was a notable level of disagreement with the aim that by 2041 Londoners should be doing 20 minutes of active travel each day” (page 30 of the Consultation Report).

Opposition to road charging was evidenced by 566 “comments of concern” versus 250 supportive comments (see page 103). That’s good evidence of the level of opposition. That’s despite the repeated claims by the Mayor that the Congestion Charge system reduced congestion (see page 106), which is simply not true. But it is “no change” for his strategy to support charging schemes. His only concession is that it will be up to local boroughs to consider how or whether to implement them (see page 109). The ABD is likely therefore to be fighting these in individual boroughs in future as we successfully did in Greenwich when this was last proposed.

Even the Mayor’s environmental policies received a lot of negative comments (see page 110) and there were also many against “densification” of London which is a major concern in outer London boroughs (see page 162). The Mayor again proposes “no change” to his strategy on those.

In summary a disappointing outcome, with consultation responses minimised by the short timescale allowed. The outcome is much as one might expect when you have a Mayor who has dictatorial powers and who does not seem to understand the diverse population of London and those who live in outer London.

Postscript: It is noticeable on a more detailed study of the Consultation Report that the numbers responding to the specific questions, and the responses given, are not reported. For example, one of the questions posed in the consultation was “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the above plans for road user charging in London?”, and the options to respond were “Strongly Agree – Partially Agree – Neither Agree nor Disagree – Partially Disagree – Strongly Disagree – No opinion”.

Although the comments written in by respondents are classified, and in some cases reported, why are there no simple percentage numbers of the aforementioned responses given? What is TfL trying to hide? The ABD has submitted an FOI Act request to obtain this data.

More Information

The ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport is described here:

The Announcement from TfL and the Consultation Report document can be obtained from here:

For more information, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.


Who Is Responsible for Excessive Urban Vehicle Emissions?

Is it the vehicle manufacturers, or people buying cars and vans without thinking? The ABD has recently issued a press release on this topic which lays the blame firmly on Government. See . In London that means the Mayor of London supported by TfL, plus the local London boroughs.

In summary vehicle emissions have improved enormously in the last few years, but those improvements have been defeated by unwise policies for tackling traffic congestion. Traffic speeds have slowed, which increases pollution. The ABD suggests in our press release how pollution could be tackled with more sensible policies.

Roger Lawson


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South London Road Network

Residents of South London will know that they the road network in London suffers from major congestion, and it’s even worse in south London than the rest of the capital. Croydon resident Peter Morgan recently met with Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South. Here’s a note on the meeting which you may find interesting.

He found it was a positive and useful meeting, this is his understanding of what was agreed:

1    Acceptance that building sections of new road, and improving existing roads could deliver real and lasting benefits in terms of improved economic activity and productivity and reduced congestion and pollution. Road schemes can often deliver very high cost/benefit ratios. The Coulsdon Bypass was one good example of this.

2    South London between the M25, A3, A205 and A20 has been badly neglected compared with other parts of London and the wider country. This has led to very slow journeys in the south London quadrant, and this has a major negative impact on the lives and productivity of millions living and working in this area.

3    There is a systemic problem due to no-one with overall responsibility for movement in this area. Responsibility is divided between national government, Highways England, the M25 management group, Surrey and Kent county councils, the London Mayor and TfL, and local councils such as Croydon, Sutton, Tandridge and Reigate and Banstead. The Mayor of London has tended to ignore issues of movement crossing the GLA boundary, and instead focused on central and inner London – where very different travel and transport situations apply.

4    We need to know what Croydon and TfL are planning or proposing for roads in Croydon – reference government money for schemes that reduce congestion and boost the economy. We are concerned that they may focus on the wrong sections of road, and they may propose the wrong kind of scheme, notably involving the promotion of the positive primacy of cycling ahead of all other modes and purposes.  TfL’s Fiveways scheme has a low benefit / cost ratio in part due to this. Commuting to work by car, and movement of goods by lorry are key elements of a successful and productive society. We looked at specific examples for concern, notably at Fiveways, Purley Cross, Thornton Heath Pond and the Lombard Roundabout.

5    We noted that building massive new roads may well not be feasible. Instead we should look at improving the A23 and its links.

6    Specific schemes to address these sections of road should be developed.

6A    A bypass for Hooley – a major scheme with big benefits. 6B    An improved means of movement between A23 north and M23 south, and M23 north and A23 south at Merstham, notably a free-flow u-turn facility using the currently unused over bridge.  This could be done quickly and cheaply with a huge benefit cost advantage. 6C    Improvements between Hooley and the southern roundabout at the end of the Coulsdon Bypass. 6D    Improvements to Lion Green Road and the junctions at either end. 6E    Improvements between the northern junction at the end of the Bypass and Purley Cross, and at either end of this section. 6F    Improvements on the A22 between Downscourt Road and Purley Cross, notably possible widening and using the northern bridge arch. 6G    Improvements on the A23 along the length of Purley Way.

7    Grade separation offers huge potential benefits by keeping traffic mooing, rather than stopping and waiting at red lights. Grade separation improvements do not need to involve massive property demolition, nor building huge new slip roads. Small scale 30mph and 40mph schemes can offer real benefits at relatively low cost. 6C and 6G are examples of this.

8    There were other schemes on the M25 which could deliver real benefits in Croydon, notably my suggested new junctions at Westerham and Walton on the Hill.

Peter is looking forward to the next steps to making our road network more fit for purposes. But he has surely identified some of the issues and the problems that should be tackled.

Roger Lawson


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Traffic Speeds in London – They Are Getting Worse

I was having a clear out today of my office, and I happened to notice a copy of Ken Livingstone’s Mayor’s Transport Strategy dating from July 2001. It made for both amusing reading and anger at the lack of progress made since.

This is the first sentence in his Foreword to that document: “The single biggest problem for London is the gridlock of our transport system. At the start of the 21st Century, traffic speeds in central London have fallen to less than ten miles an hour with knock-on effects on the speed and reliability of the bus system. Congestion is growing in outer London town centres. Rail services are in unprecedented crisis. The Underground is more over-crowded and unreliable…..”. He said the transport crisis threatened London’s economic prosperity and suggested London needed a “world class transport system”.

Have we got one now? Not exactly and traffic speeds have actually fallen below what they were in 2001. In central London traffic speeds were reported as being less than 9 mph in central London last year by various sources, and as low as 7.3 mph in one quarter in 2017.

The Underground is more crowded than ever with some stations having to be closed at peak times. Surface rail has improved in some regards on some lines, but certainly not if you are a Southern Rail user.

What did Mr Livingstone plan to do to improve the dire state of affairs he commented upon? Apart from the fine words about improving the capacity of the public transport network as in Sadiq Khans recently published Transport Strategy, he proposed to implement a Congestion Charge “to deter unnecessary vehicle journeys in central London”. That obviously did not work. You can find a lot more analysis of why on this web page: .

Excuses from the Mayor and Transport for London as to why it did not work are numerous but are false. It failed simply because London has such high unsatisfied demand for road space and lots of people willing to pay for it, that they simply soaked up the space. The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) has more than doubled since Ken Livingstone introduced it, and still it did not work. In addition, more road space has been taken up by buses which are massively subsidised and their numbers expanded under Livingstone (they are still high) and by the modern fashion for PHVs (Uber etc). The growth in the population of London, and of businesses in central London, have created major headwinds in addition while cycle lanes have taken up valuable road space but are often relatively little used.

Mr Livingstone, and his successors Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan have persisted with irrational and unproductive gestures without getting to the nub of the issue and producing policies that might actually work. Boris Johnson seemed to try to solve the problem by encouraging cycling, and Sadiq Khan’s added walking as a solution to both our transport and health problems. He also suggests road pricing or more congestion charging might help when we know from experience that those policies will not improve matters.

I suggest readers tell Sadiq Khan that a totally fresh approach is needed. Not more of the same regurgitated policies that emanate from Transport for London.

Roger Lawson


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Opposition to London Plan on Parking Levels

A report in Local Transport Today (LTT) has highlighted how some London Boroughs are strongly opposed to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan which is currently the subject of a public consultation (see for background). The main concern is the proposed new controls on parking provision in new housing developments. These have been substantially reduced such that many developments in central London will have exactly zero provision for parking (and that would be legally enforced). Even outer London where public transport access is high (PTAL levels 5 and 6) would also be covered by the zero rule, and even where PTAL levels are much lower parking provision will be severely restricted.

This is of course part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to drive car usage out of London altogether. In addition he is reducing the ability of local Boroughs to make their own decisions on what is most appropriate for their boroughs, thus increasing the centralised dictatorship or the Mayor and TfL. This is what Lisa Fairmaner of L.B.Kingston had to say to councillors “[It is] a direct challenge to local government in London with the mayor taking over a detailed planning policy role that should be carried out by local authorities through their local plans”. She suggested the Mayor was exceeding his powers.

The Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Colin Smith, issued a statement in December which criticised the housing targets and impossibility of providing the necessary infrastructure to support many more residents. The maximum parking provision was also criticised by Bromley in the LTT report, including the inability of councils to set minimum parking provision standards.

It is surely no surprise that outer London boroughs, and their residents, are not happy with the Mayor’s proposals which are as usual developed with a mindset that cycling, walking and public transport are the only transport modes that should be used in London. This simply takes no account of the needs and desires of many residents, particularly the elderly and disabled of which there are enormous numbers in London. Restricting parking provision does not stop people owning cars but just causes the roads to be clogged up by parked vehicles with obstructive parking becoming commonplace. Parking provision should be dictated solely by market demand for it, as the ABD said in our submission to the London Plan consultation.

Roger Lawson


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Enormous Numbers of Fines at the Dartford Crossing

Income reported by the operators of the Dartford Crossing on the M25 grew substantially last year. This was partly due to increased numbers of users, but also because of higher “enforcement” activity – chasing up people who fail to pay.

In fact the numbers who don’t pay are very large, and as a result the fines issued were 45% of the total income. There were 48,491,894 users in 2017 but 2,045,840 did not pay in advance. Even though first-time users who don’t pay are only issued with a warning letter and given more time to pay, this generates £92 million in enforcement income.

The numbers mean that about 5% fail to pay as required, although that is better than the 10% that applied in the first few months the free-flow system was in operation. Bearing in mind that such systems are likely to be used for new Thames crossings at Blackwall (the Silvertown Tunnel) and further down river, it is necessary to consider whether it is fair and reasonable to operate such systems.

There also seems to be a particular problem with non-UK registered vehicles where the compliance rate was only 82%. There was also £50 million in charges and penalties that had to be written off as uncollectable, many of whom were no doubt foreign drivers.

Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, was quoted in publication LTT as saying: “No one using the Dartford Crossing looks back with nostalgia at the days when payment involved throwing coins into a basket. Users of the crossing might well question the eye-wateringly large sums coming in as penalty charges resulting from enforcement action – at £92m that’s more than the total paid by account holders, and is up by 50% over 2015/16.

Looked at as management information, such a high level of enforcement action suggests something is going very wrong with the message to road users, many of whom may well think the prominently displayed congestion charge ‘C’ signs relate to the nearby London scheme rather than the crossing itself.

While the cognoscenti readership of Local Transport Today might recognise the fine distinction between a charge and a toll, perhaps it is time for Highways England to revert to the latter as terminology most drivers – domestic and international – would understand.”

One cannot but agree with him, but I don’t think improving the signage would assist. People expect the road network to be free to use, and quite rightly. How can someone from France, or the North of England, be expected to know about this system?

The tolls should be removed as was promised by the Government years ago, just like they have been on the Severn Crossing and on others.

Roger Lawson



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TfL to Lose £1 billion per Year

 “TfL expects £1bn deficit by next year”. That was the headline in an article in today’s Financial Times. Apparently they have seen an internal email written by finance director Patrick Doig that the organisation faced an operating loss of £968 million in 2018/19 which he said was “clearly not a sustainable position…”. The deficit in the current financial year is expected to be £785 million this year which shows how rapidly its position is being eroded.

There are several reasons given for this erosion in their financial position – the Mayor freezing public transport fares (estimated cost £640m) did not help, but the big problem is falling revenue from users. Both bus and underground journey numbers have been unexpectedly falling.

Is this because more people are not travelling, e.g. doing internet shopping and working from home? Or is it because they have chosen to travel by bike (usage is growing), or find it is as cheap and a lot more comfortable to call Uber? Or perhaps it’s because some London residents are selling up and moving to the country with house prices peaking in London, or returning to homes in the rest of Europe. Perhaps those French, Polish, Romanian and other residents are worried about their future after Brexit? Perhaps they just got tired of life in London, unlike Dr Johnson who did not have to suffer the mediocre standards in TfL’s public transport provision.

The Mayor has only recently published his Business Plan for the years to 2022/23 (see this article: ). But you can see exactly why the Mayor is so keen to raise as much as £300 million from Londoners via the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charges. As we have said before, the ULEZ is about money, not about improving the health of the population or cleaning up London’s air.

A comment in the FT article was by Gareth Bacon, London Assembly Conservative Members, who said there was now “serious cause for concern” about Mr Khan’s “cavalier” financial stewardship of TfL.

Roger Lawson


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