Bank Junction Closed to Most Traffic

Bank Junction 4 2017-05-23On Monday (22nd May), Bank Junction in the City of London was closed to most vehicles. Only buses and cyclists are now permitted between 7.00 am and 7.00 pm.

It was very amusing watching a BBC reporter talking about this on the Monday evening news with the background of the junction in view – and clearly many vehicles were either not aware of the new restriction or were ignoring it. The infringers face a large fine.

On Tuesday it was similar as you can see from the photo above – just one example of many seen in just a few minutes.

The measure has certainly reduced traffic congestion at and around this junction, but of course spreads it elsewhere. Whether it will reduce accidents at this location remains to be seen. Cyclists and buses now speed through the junction.

The ABD did object to this closure as did taxi drivers. It’s one of the key road junctions in the City of London and there were other alternatives to simplify this complex junction and reduce accidents.

Roger Lawson

The Rise of Non-Travel

We all know that travelling in London has become more difficult in the last few years. Rising traffic congestion due to reductions in road space and cycle superhighways, and overcrowded public transport, have been very damaging. Population increase, and more business activity, have not been supported fully by new transport infrastructure and there has been little long-term planning or funding to improve the transport network.

Now Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed that travelling is now so difficult in London that the number of Londoners who spend all day at home has been rising. To quote (from LTT): “In particular, there has been a rise in non-travel, in other words, people staying at home all day and not making any trips”. It seems on any given day, around 20% of Londoners do not make any journeys nowadays.

It seems likely that there has been a reduction in travel for shopping purposes (hence the increase in van deliveries resulting from internet shopping). But there are more people probably working from home and using the internet and other communication media rather than going into a conventional workplace everyday. Also of course the increase in the elderly might explain the rise in non-travel, although many retired people move out of London.

New Cycling and Walking Commissioner

One other influence over future travel patterns may be a new “Cycling and Walking Commissioner” named Will Norman. Former Cycling Commissioner Andrew Gilligan has suggested the change of name for the role might indicate that Mayor Khan might have more interest in walking than cycling, particularly as some previously approved cycling schemes do not seem to be progressing. He also suggested that the Mayor wishes to avoid confrontation with the motoring lobby. But that surely seems very unlikely bearing in mind the Mayor’s plans over air pollution.

Roger Lawson

Air Pollution, Oxford Street Buses and Nanoparticles

The Government wished to delay publication of its revised UK Air Quality Plan until after the General Election but after a legal challenge it was forced to publish it. See https://consult.defra.gov.uk/airquality/air-quality-plan-for-tackling-nitrogen-dioxide/ on how the Government plans to improve nitrogen dioxide emissions in particular.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan promptly slammed the proposals as “woefully inadequate” before he could have barely had time to read the full document (air pollution is a technically complex matter and it is necessary to read the whole document and the supporting evidence). In the Evening Standard he said: “I welcome that the government has agreed to consult on introducing a targeted diesel scrappage fund, as I have modelled, to help drivers who bought diesel vehicles in good faith. However, the government has failed to give a firm commitment and, even if it goes ahead, this alone would go nowhere near fixing the problem. City Hall analysis shows that the proposals still mean air quality will be at illegal levels until at least 2026.”

I will provide further and more considered comments on the proposals at a later date.

Meanwhile I am still awaiting a response to my FOI Request on the ULEZ proposals so as to enable a properly considered response to be made to that. It should arrive by the 10th May, but we will see.

In the meantime Transport for London (TfL) has taken steps to reduce pollution on Oxford Street (which is one of the worst locations in London) by introducing proposals to cut the number of buses by 40%. TfL says bus numbers can be reduced because of higher underground frequencies and the new Crossrail service which will open in December 2018. The consultation is present here:

https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/oxford-street/?cid=oxford-street . Comments: it is undoubtedly the case that the number of buses on Oxford Street not only makes it a very unpleasant street for pedestrians but also creates road safety dangers. Current diesel buses are of course some of the worse emitters of air pollution. Whether the proposals will improve matters substantially is not at all clear.

Another step to improve air pollution in London is the introduction of rapid electric vehicle charging points. TfL has appointed five suppliers to build such a network. These charge points can recharge a vehicle battery in 30 minutes and the plan is to have 300 installed by 2020, although some will be dedicated for use by taxis. All new London taxis must be zero-emission by January 2018.

The latest environmental scare story is the impact of nanoparticles on human health. An article in the New Scientist reported that these microscopic particles can enter the blood stream and they can remain there for over 3 months. The impact they have on health was unknown but the hypothesis given was that they could be having a major impact. In effect the article suggested that we might need to worry not so much about Nitrous Oxides or larger particulates, but about nanoparticles from vehicle pollution.

Nanoparticles are quite difficult to detect, but it is known that they are present everywhere. Indeed normal activities in the home, business activities and certainly industrial activities give off large amounts of nanoparticles which are simply invisible.

A very interesting article in the Financial Times on the 29th April explained how our homes can actually be one of the most polluted locations, often worse than the air outside even in the worst polluted cities. It said “A study published in the European Respiratory Journal in 2012 showed that concentrations of some air pollutants can be up to five times higher indoors than outdoors“. As we spend 90% of our time indoors, versus 10% outdoors, this is of concern. Cooking on gas, food cooking emissions, dog hairs, dead skin particles, lint particles from tumble dryers, deodorant sprays  and scented candles were all named as culprits. Log burning stoves are a particular problem which have become popular even in London of late. The solution is apparently to purchase an electric air purifier.

In summary, pollution is everywhere and always has been. Even green fields and trees can be a menace because of pollens and dust. Indeed I do recall reading a study many years ago that showed the prevalence of asthma was more common in rural areas than in cities.

So it’s easy to become paranoid about air pollution. It’s necessary to separate fact from fiction so that the picture is clear about which pollutants are of real concern and which are not. Otherwise we will get lost in a fog of hysteria.

Roger Lawson

Croydon 20 – Pushing Ahead Regardless of Objections

Croydon Council are pushing ahead with implementing wide-area, signed-only 20 MPH speed limits in the rest of the borough despite enormous numbers of objections.

The consultation process on Area 1 was clearly subject to fraud, and on Area 2 the vote in favour narrowed very substantially. So for areas 3, 4 and 5, which by their nature were more likely to oppose the proposal, they abandoned the previous consultation process and moved straight to a “statutory consultation”. That meant people had to take the trouble to write in with specific objections rather than simply respond to an on-line poll. The other advantage of that change is that objections to statutory consultations can be ignored so long as the council simply gives reasons to do so.

Was this process ethical? Absolutely not.

And what was the result of the formal statutory consultation on Areas 3, 4 and 5? They got 3,357 representations in total from 2,050 individuals, but only 103 of the representations were in support of the proposals. In detail there were a total of 18,862 objections of different kinds. These numbers are enormous for such a relatively small geographic area.

But are the Councillors and Council Officers going to reconsider? Absolutely not. A typical example of how dogma and policy decisions overrides the will of the people in some councils. The recommendation in a report to the Traffic Management Advisory Committee is to proceed regardless – see the report here which will be considered at a meeting on the 9th May – see Meeting-Agenda (Item 7 on the Agenda).

Residents of Croydon should go along to the meeting to show their concern about this anti-democratic approach, or make their feelings known to their local Councillors. And next time there is a vote for local Councillors, just bear in mind which Councillors and which political party (the Labour Party) have taken this stance in Croydon.

The last time I saw this ignoring of the electorate take place was in the London Borough of Richmond where the LibDems pushed through an emission based permit parking scheme against strong public opposition. They were subsequently removed from control of the Council by popular vote. And a very good thing that was too.

You can see more about the scheme in Croydon on this web page and our objections:  http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Croydon20.htm . The ABD did make written submissions on these schemes including on the latest 3 areas.

The report from Croydon Council does not adequately deal with all the objections, and in some regards is grossly misleading. For example, in Para 3.1.8 it says Manchester reported falls in cyclist and pedestrian casualties in 20 mph zones but due to the average speed reduction being only 0.7mph the further roll-out was being halted. In actual fact what Manchester City Council actually said (you can find their report on the web) was “Overall the results show that casualties in the phase 1 20mph area have not reduced as much as the casualty numbers citywide“. In other words, there was absolutely no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualties despite very high expenditure and if anything it made accident numbers worse.

Both ethics and democracy have clearly be thrown out of the window in Croydon.

Roger Lawson

Thames Crossings – One Closer But Another In Doubt

The Department for Transport (DfT) have announced their preferred route for a new Lower Thames Crossing to relieve congestion on the Eastern side of the M25. Other options have been discarded and the chosen route is leaving the M25 at North Ockendon, via Orsett and Tilbury, a tunnel under the Thames and linking to the A2 near Shorne (the start of the M2). This route will mean that traffic from the Channel Ports will be able to avoid the Dartford Crossing area altogether. Money will also be spent on widening the A13 and on improving roads around the Dartford Crossing.

No timescale for delivery has been given and it might take as long as ten years, assuming the Government can actually find the money to build it.

As expected, not everyone is happy with the chosen route citing more air pollution, take up of green landscape and the impact on local communities. But it was always going to be a difficult choice when some action surely needed to be taken to cope with the projected extra demand on the existing river crossings. There was a large number of responses to the consultation on Route “C” to which both the ABD (London) and ABD (Kent) responded – we supported option “C” with some additional suggestions. You can see all the responses in a document on the web.

The Thames Garden Bridge in central London now looks even less likely to proceed even though £46 million has already been spent on it after a damning report commissioned by Major Sadiq Khan. Written by Labour MP Margaret Hodge it suggested the project should be scrapped. She suggested it would have difficulty raising the funds (projected cost now about £200 million) and would not be able to cover its running costs and hence might require a Government bail-out.

Comment: as in my previous report on this project, I can see many better uses for the money that spending it on this “vanity” project.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Latest Announcements on ULEZ

On the 4th April the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, made his latest announcements on how he intends to reduce air pollution from road vehicles in London. Not a mention of how he intends to reduce the 50% of air pollution caused by things other than road transport which is still growing as the population of London increases, but let us say no more about that for the present.

Mr Khan has revised his previous proposals somewhat, presumably based on the last public survey which did show overall support for his proposals with some reservations. But he is now definitely committed to:

– The introduction of a “T-Charge” of £10 for older vehicles (pre-2006) commencing in October this year. This will only apply within the existing Congestion Tax area of central London.

– The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for all vehicles from April 2019, which will again only apply to the central London zone and replace the “T-Charge” mentioned above. The ULEZ daily fee to drive in the zone will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and apply to all vehicles that do not meet the following standards:

a) Petrol Euro 4/ IV

b) Diesel Euro 6/ VI

c) Powered Two Wheelers Euro 3

These standards mean that petrol cars more than around 13 years old in 2019, and diesel cars over 4 years old in 2019 will have to pay a charge which will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 for heavy vehicles such as HGVs and coaches.

They will be in addition to the Congestion Charge where applicable. The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis, which are already being made cleaner through licensing restrictions. From next year all new licenced taxis must be zero-emissions capable.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, which only applies for limited hours on weekdays, these charges will apply all the time. So trips into central London for the evening will cost you £12.50.

There is again a public consultation on the above which everyone who drives in London should respond to and it is present here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/airquality-consultation . PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 

In addition to the above the Mayor is considering expanding the ULEZ to nearly all of Greater London in respect of heavy diesel vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries to be implemented in 2020. Also he proposes to consult on extending the ULEZ to all other vehicles including cars within the North/South Circular, to be implemented in 2021. So you could be paying £12.50 just to drive within that ring road, although a lot of the previous respondents to the last consultation suggested a lower charge.

Mr Khan is calling on the Government to deliver a nationwide diesel vehicle scrappage scheme but there is no sign yet that the Government is listening. There is some concession to residents who live within the ULEZ and for disabled vehicle users who will have a “sunset” period until 2023.

Comment: some information required to make any intelligent comments on these proposals is not apparently available. For example what is the likely impact of these proposals on the level of air pollution within the zone or outside it? What is the cost/benefit justification? What is the cost of implementing this scheme and how much revenue and profit will TfL obtain from it as a result?

These questions are very important because the Mayor has a very strong financial interest in these proposals as the additional charges will no doubt raise much needed revenue for the Mayor and TfL whose budgets are currently under pressure.

It is most regrettable that this is yet another example of asking the public’s views on a matter without giving them the full facts to enable them to make a reasoned judgement on the proposals.

I have asked TfL to provide this information and will let you know if I receive it.

But having walked the streets of the City of London last week I certainly think something needs to be done about air pollution because my lungs were definitely affected and I have not suffered from asthma for many years. The problem was that all the roads such as Cannon Street, Eastcheap, Bishopsgate and around Aldgate were just gridlocked in the middle of the day with stationary traffic which consisted mainly of buses, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles. This happens quite regularly now because of the impact of the Cycle Superhighways, road closures, removal of gyratories and other measures promoted by the previous Mayor and local authorities over the last few years.

Vehicles may have been getting cleaner, only somewhat confounded by the Government’s misconceived promotion of diesel vehicles so as to save CO2 emissions. But if transport planners create gridlock then the inevitable will happen – air pollution will continue to get worse until only zero emission and expensive electric vehicles are allowed. We also need to tackle other sources of air pollution and the best way to do that is to stop the growth in the London population or even reduce it.

Postscript: on 9/4/2017:  This interview with Professor Tony Frew, a respiratory expert on TalkRadio is definitely worth listening to if you want the facts about air pollution and its sources: http://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory

Julia Hartley-Brewer whom conducted that interview also attacked the promotion of the 40,000 deaths per year in the UK from air pollution in an article in the Daily Telegraph on the 7th April. She said “This 40,000 figure is alarmingly high. It is also alarmingly wrong”.

And as of today I am still awaiting a response from TfL on the data requested giving the data on the impact of the ULEZ on air pollution. Not even an acknowledgement of my request so far so I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

Roger Lawson

20 MPH – It Makes Very Little Difference

The roll out of 20 mph zones in Manchester is being halted because the impact on traffic speeds has been negligible – indeed in some cases they have gone up. And the cut in pedestrian and cycling accidents is less than the drop across Manchester as a whole.

Some £1 million has been spent to date, but planned spending of another £700,000 has been halted.

Traffic speeds in the implemented areas have only reduced on average by 0.7 mph.

A report to be considered by the Council recommends “that additional measures to create safer roads across the city should be considered, while work is undertaken to better understand the full benefits of creating further 20mph zones”. No admission of failure there of course.

To quote: “20mph zones on more than 1,000 roads and 138 schools have been introduced in Manchester and, since 2014, an average speed reduction of 0.7mph has been recorded where the lower speed limit is in effect.  However, analysis shows that so far, the amount of accidents experienced in 20mph zones has not fallen as quickly as initially hoped.”

Comments: an enormous amount of money has been spent to achieve no obvious benefit whatsoever. The speed reductions and accident change are not untypical of signed-only 20 mph schemes. Yet the ill informed continue to press for their introduction. Will campaigning group 20sPlenty be advertising this latest evidence of how pointless they are? I suspect not.

But the really disgraceful aspect is that one million pounds has been spent for no benefit when it could actually have been spent on other measures such as road engineering or education to actually cut accidents, reduce injuries and save lives.

For more information, see: http://www.manchester.gov.uk/news/article/7641/review_recommends_new_road_safety_measures_to_complement_manchesters_20mph_zones

Roger Lawson