TfL Consultations and How to Influence Them

It has been apparent for some time that when Transport for London (TfL) undertake a public consultation they get many responses from cyclists and public transport users, but few from other road users. The result is that the ensuing consultation report shows a very biased picture of the views of the general public.

Why is this? It’s because TfL prompt responses by sending out emails. For example they sent out over 400,000 emails about the Hackney Cycleway proposals (described here: https://tinyurl.com/y6fxezmq ).

How did people get on their email contact list for this consultation? From an FOI Act request I can give you the answer. Some 81 people were bespoke to the consultation and were selected from “TfL’s Local Communities and Partnership” team. Another 4,875 came from statutory consultees (police, fire service, etc) and others who asked to be kept informed on TfL consultations. But the vast majority (473,210 to be exact) came from their Customer Database. That means everyone no doubt who has an Oyster Card or Freedom Pass or has opted to receive TfL travel information. So you can see why the result of the public consultations is biased towards public transport users.

How can private car users, taxi users, PHV users or LGV/HGV users influence the consultations? All you need to do is register to receive consultations by signing up on this web page: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/sign-up/0f3971fe/ . In addition you can sign up here for news updates: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/social-media-and-email-updates/email-updates .

Adding your name to both those lists should ensure that you get information on new consultations and enable you to have your say. MAKE SURE YOU SIGN UP NOW!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

The Latest On Hammersmith Bridge

Hammersmith Bridge in west London has been closed since April due to critical safety problems. This was a key part of the road network in west London and was used by 20,000 vehicles per day including many buses. There has been discussion between TfL and the London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham on what to do about the bridge, and it could cost as much as £120 million to restore the bridge to support previous traffic levels, or even more if it was substantially reinforced.

Construction work may not start until 2021 and it might take 3 years to complete so it looks like local residents will have to put up with the closure for some considerable time. However there is one alternative which gives a better solution. That is to build a temporary bridge alongside the existing one. This might only cost £5 million and could be put up very quickly. See https://tinyurl.com/y4fyrjwj for an article in the New Civil Engineer for more information. The Mayor says it is seriously being considered.

I am sure all readers will support prompt action on this matter, and a commitment to fund the projects. But note that tolls may be imposed on the bridge to fund the work required.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Driverless Vehicles, Air Pollution Claims and Scrappage Scheme

Streetwise Vehicle Ed

Residents of the London Boroughs of Croydon and Bromley need to look out from today (24/10/2019) because for the first time, driverless cars will be present on their roads. These will be operated by company FiveAI and may carry passengers but will always have somebody at the wheel ready to take over. These are basically trials run by a consortium named Streetwise.

How will they cope with the problem that London’s roads are very unlike the West coast of the USA where most such trials have been conducted to date. Stan Boland, CEO of FiveAI said “We have lower lighting, higher rainfall and greater density of road users and we also have to deal with erratic, medieval street plans that are nothing like the grid systems of the US”. However these trials are not quite so revolutionary as first appears because they will actually be on a “fixed route” – see  https://tinyurl.com/y4n8zfnq for more details.

Comment: Mr Boland did not even mention the occasional fog and snow. I remain sceptical of the general applicability of this technology when even my very intelligent TomTom satnav sometimes gets lost in central London. There are claims that it might save lives from reduced accidents, but Gill Pratt, CEO of Toyota Research has recently acknowledged that driverless cars might actually kill people. They may reduce accidents overall by removing driver error which is the cause of many accidents, but it seems software errors may still be  problem.

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has published claims that the ULEZ scheme in central London has reduced air pollution very substantially. He claims roadside NO2 pollution has fallen by 36% in the zone with no increase in the surrounding area. He attributes this to a large reduction in the number of older or polluting vehicles entering the central zone. This is hardly surprising as operators of older LGV vehicles will have found it financially wise to change their vehicles. But the ABD doubts the claims about the actual reductions in emissions which we believe are estimates based on vehicle numbers rather than actual air quality measurements. We have submitted an FOI Act request to obtain more information. There is likely of course to have been some reduction due to renewal of the vehicle fleet over time (newer vehicles generally have lower emissions) and specific changes in the bus fleet and a strong focus on higher polluting commercial vehicles such as HGVs. But many of the pollutants in the air come from other than road transport vehicle sources and much blows in from elsewhere in the central zone.

The Mayor has also announced a £25 million scrappage fund for low-income Londoners. This is aimed at helping them move to less polluting vehicles. Motorists will be able to get up to £2,000 for scrapping older, more polluting vehicles. How many people will be able to take advantage of this scheme? Only a minority in essence because only people who are receiving means-tested benefits or disability allowances will qualify and as the fund is limited in size it may be on a “first come, first served” basis. In addition it’s probably needless to point out that £2,000 does not buy you a new car, and not even a good second-hand one. The conclusion is only people on benefits with cash in the bank to help buy a new vehicle may find it helpful. It’s surely a token political gesture which is what we tend to see from Mayor Sadiq Khan.

The latest scare story about air pollution is that on high pollution days in London it might cause an extra 87 cardiac arrests per year, an extra 144 strokes, and 74 children and 33 adults ending up in hospital with asthma-related issues. This is a claim made by researchers at King’s College London based on a study relating high pollution days to medical events.  NHS England boss Simon Stevens said it was evidence of “a health emergency”. But this is a very simplistic analysis of complex data. Such days might also be very hot ones which are known to trigger medical events. Even the claimed numbers are very small. In London. For every 100 cardiac arrest ambulance call-outs on low-pollution days, they would expect to see 102 on high-pollution days. It’s basically a statistical fraud derived from epidemiology.

Regrettably we seem to be suffering from air pollution hysteria at present. Few people look at the evidence from an unbiased scientific viewpoint and most of the claims made do not stand up to scrutiny by anyone with a scientific background.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Westminster Proposes 20 MPH Limit Everywhere

The City of Westminster is proposing to implement a 20 MPH speed limit on all its roads. The only exception will be those roads they do not control which are TfL controlled roads and where TfL may impose such a limit anyway. This move is despite the fact that a report published by the Department of Transport shows there is no road safety benefit in signed-only 20 MPH limits and there is also no evidence of any other benefits.

Readers should oppose this move, which is in essence a waste of money that would be better spent on other measures, by responding to the public consultation here: https://www.westminster.gov.uk/20mph

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

 

Londoners May Face £100 For Engine Idling and Decriminalisation of Speeding Offences

London Boroughs may gain powers to fine motorists £100 who leave their engines running under a Bill introduced in the House of Lords. That’s up from the maximum £20 at present. In addition those who run diesel generators when air pollution is high may be banned – Extinction Rebellion please note as they ran a portable generator recently to support a demonstration.

The installation of new ‘combustion plant’ machinery, which includes gas boilers, solid fuel boilers, combined heat cooling and power plant, and stationery generators would only be permitted if the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emitted by the plant did not exceed a limit set by the Secretary of State.

These measures are aimed at overcoming the defects in the current Clean Air Act that are ineffective in controlling some pollution when non-transport related emissions are likely to become the majority very soon. Note that the Mayor of London is also looking for more powers in this area but it would surely be better if such powers were given to the boroughs rather than the Mayor.

Comment: these measures are not unreasonable although the impact on air pollution of engine idling is probably minimal even though it causes a lot of annoyance to residents when people park outside their homes and do it. But enforcement is difficult so little practical impact may be the result. See https://tinyurl.com/y2meb4s4 for more details. There is also no mention of wood-burning stoves which are one of the biggest problems at present.

The aforementioned Bill is being introduced in the House of Lords as a private members Bill so progress is not guaranteed. Another Bill being introduced in that way is one to decriminalise speeding offences. That should surely be opposed as it would lead to an even greater number of fines for speeding with the sole motivation of extracting more money from motorists. That is what happened when parking offences were “decriminalised” so that Local Authorities could enforce them. See https://tinyurl.com/sr37oef   for more information

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

No Justification for 20 MPH Limits in Safer Speeds Proposals

I have written previously on the proposal to introduce a 20 MPH speed limit on major roads in central London, and probably in the rest of London later. I criticised the failure by Transport for London (TfL) to publish any cost/benefit justification and submitted an FOI Act request to obtain that information which TfL refused. See References below for the full story.

After appealing to the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) about the refusal by TfL to provide the requested information, which should have provided a justification for their proposals in advance of the public consultation, I have had my complaint upheld by the ICO and have now received the requested information. See Reference 5 below which contains the Business Case published very recently. This is very similar to a draft published in 2012 which was available well before the consultation was launched and hence should have been made available (See Reference 6). However, the numbers in the later version on which the cost/benefit is calculated were much different with the capital cost being reduced very substantially and the collision reduction benefit almost doubling. The outcome is of course a very clear positive benefit as a result.

It is clear that TfL deliberately concealed the earlier version because it provided marginal benefits. But both versions are seriously defective because they do not include all the costs in the analysis. For example, they do not include:

  • The economic costs of increased journey times. Although average speeds during a lot of the day are less than 20 mph on these roads, they are higher at other times and ignore the fact that between junctions and traffic lights/pedestrian crossings, the speeds are higher.
  • No costs are included for enforcement of the 20 MPH limits.
  • No costs imposed on drivers from paying fines for exceeding the limits are included, which will likely be quite substantial.
  • They discount the suggestion that lower speeds would increase emissions from vehicles and hence have not evaluated it which is contrary to readily available evidence on that issue.

In other words, TfL concealed the original “Business Case” on spurious grounds thus defeating a fair public consultation and then adjusted the numbers to give the required answer while not including all the associated costs. This demonstrates exactly why TfL are not to be trusted and should be reformed.

But one moral for readers is do not accept refusals to FOI Act requests. Such refusals are often unreasonable and are just a mechanism to delay answering and hence concealing information until it is too late to be useful. This is of course unprincipled in the extreme. TfL do this repeatedly and perhaps the ICO will deal properly with this issue if they get enough complaints.

In the meantime the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who is a party to this dubious activity should ensure TfL act more responsibly. I will be sending him a complaint on this issue.

Reference 1: Consultations in Name Only and Safer Speeds: https://tinyurl.com/y3gqh5hh

Reference 2: Consultations in Name Only: https://tinyurl.com/y6lpuusp

Reference 3: 20 MPH Speed Limits in London on Major Roads: https://tinyurl.com/y5ntxu4a

Reference 4: 20 MPH Speed Limits Spreading in London: https://tinyurl.com/y3r9bddp

Reference 5: Business Case 2019: https://tinyurl.com/yxt9fy2d

Reference 6: Business Case 2012: https://tinyurl.com/y2zd7hko

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.

Pelican Crossing at the War Memorial Junction in Chislehurst – Council Decision

As mentioned in a previous blog post (see https://tinyurl.com/y56v2rty ) a petition signed by over 3000 people was submitted to Bromley Council for a Pelican crossing to be installed on the War Memorial Junction in Chislehurst. The previous blog post gives a full analysis of why it was not necessarily a good idea.

Tonight the full Council met to consider the petition. Chris Wells who promoted the petition was allowed to speak for 5 minutes but clearly did not convince Councillors to change their minds. He reiterated his past arguments on the need for a pedestrian crossing phase. A resolution was passed by a very large majority of Councillors to let the previous response from the Council stand. In addition a motion from Councillor Dunn to require the Environment Portfolio holder to submit a proposal within 6 months was also defeated.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher who holds that position explained that the junction had been the subject of several studies but most were unable to be progressed due to the restrictions on land usage imposed by the Chislehurst Commons Trustees. However, they will continue to look at the junction but no immediate change is proposed.

He stated they had modelled traffic flows at the junction (which Chris Wells claimed had not been done) and if a pedestrian phase was added the traffic queues could triple in length. [Comment: that would certainly be a major annoyance to many people as they could stretch for much more than a mile and would also generate a lot of “rat-running” down side roads which was a concern for road safety]. Councillor Huntington-Thresher said we need a “holistic” solution.

He also stated that despite the claims of road safety danger, the relevant section of the A222 was actually only the 40th most dangerous in the borough. There was no trend in accidents and there were no injury accidents in 2018. In other words, resources might be better spent elsewhere to improve road safety. He also said it was not necessarily possible to submit a proposal within 6 months so opposed Mr Dunn’s motion.

Councillor Katy Boughey who represents the Chislehurst Ward spoke in support of the aforementioned response and said that they were actively working with all relevant parties to find a solution. Council Leader Colin Smith seconded the motion to make no change to the previous response and referred to regrettable “excitable hysteria” on Twitter on the subject.

The above is a brief summary of the meeting to debate on this subject. Let us hope that those who support Mr Wells actually listen to reason and engage with councillors, council staff and other local stakeholders to develop a good solution to improve this junction. Any solution needs to take into account road safety issues, traffic congestion problems and the interests of both pedestrians and road users. Any criticism of councillors or council staff would be misguided. You don’t solve road safety and traffic management issues by emotive hysteria.

I hope the above is a reasonably accurate note of what happened but anyone else who was there can correct me or add further comments if required.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right.