Permit Parking Charges to be Hiked in Camden


The London Borough of Camden is proposing sharp increases in permit parking charges. That will particularly apply to larger engined or older vehicles that emit more than 225 g/km of CO2/km. Charges for those will rise from £296 p.a. to £475 p.a. and there will be an increased “diesel surcharge” of £102. Smaller vehicles face even larger increases on a percentage basis. These proposals are part of the councils Clean Air Action Plan. This is some of what one local resident had to say to Councillor Brenda Busingye:

“1. The proposed charges represent an increase of over 70% (in my case) which is an outrageous increase for any tax under any administration.

2. There is no justification for increasing this tax other than your stated ‘vision’ which is based on a narrow, highly politicised and anti-car ownership bias. Millions of ordinary people depend on private transport and the alternatives simply do not provide the facilities required. I am one of them.

3. There is no recognition in either the existing or proposed charges that, with Euro VI standards and new technology, diesel cars are now amongst the cleanest, producing far less CO2 than petrol equivalents and far less NOx emissions (note that it was a Labour government that whole-heartedly promoted diesel as a means of reducing greenhouse emissions which is one of the reasons I bought one).

4. Although it is true to say that electric vehicles are the future (and I am a big supporter), the technology in terms of range (a particular issue for me), charging infrastructure and cost means this option is still years away for most people. That is unless you happen to be very wealthy (I am not) in which case for such individuals the parking permit charges would not be an issue.

5. I have no choice not just because I need my car but also because I cannot stop you. Therefore Camden will continue to ‘gouge the motorist’ simply because we are an easy target. This is lazy administration and fundamentally unfair. Also I have no choice not just because I need my car or because I can’t stop you but also because I can’t vote this administration out of power. Camden is a solid Labour council and constituency. Therefore I am and have always been politically unrepresented and unprotected from policy excesses such as this one.”

Comment: this is certainly an unjustifiable increase and is probably unlawful in that it appears to be a revenue raising measure rather than just covering the costs of administration and enforcement. Residents should consider legal action.

Full details here: . Residents have until the 29th March to object.

Roger Lawson


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Bus Accidents Kill Too Many People

The trade union GMB have complained about the number of people killed or seriously injured by buses on London’s roads. There were 45 people killed and 1,017 seriously injured in the last 5 years, which is certainly a large number which should be tackled.

The GMB, which represents bus drivers, claimed one of the causes is the pressure put on bus drivers to drive fast so as to meet schedules and punctuality targets. They also blamed the culture at TfL. GMB regional secretary Warren Kenny was quoted as saying “Sadiq Khan has to get a grip on the problem he inherited from the past managers who designed the outsourced killing machines that TfL presides over”.

But is the problem as simple as suggested? Many of these accidents involved pedestrians stepping off the pavement in front of buses without looking. Others are cyclists hit by turning buses or being squeezed under the wheels. Other accidents arise from injuries to bus passengers as they are jolted by abrupt braking or turns, or from pedestrians being clipped by bus wing mirrors.

It is possible that drivers are having difficulty in meeting timetables as buses have been slowed by increasing traffic congestion of late. But it seems unlikely that bus drivers are deliberately driving more dangerously. They can be traumatised by accidents to pedestrians so no experienced driver would risk such an accident. Perhaps there is an issue of driver recruitment and education.

But all the above are hypotheses. Clearly more research is needed into the causes of such accidents and how to prevent them. It is an unfortunate fact that when it comes to road traffic accidents, those with little knowledge are all too quick to jump to conclusions without examination of the detailed accidents statistics, and research into specific accidents and their causes.

Roger Lawson


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ABD Directors Speak to the Express

Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here:

In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.

Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”

They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.

Roger Lawson


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Legal Action Against Mayor by Minicab Drivers

PHV (Minicab) drivers are incensed by the recent steps by the Mayor of London and TfL to make them pay the London Congestion Charge while licensed taxis will continue to receive an exemption. That and the proposed ULEZ charges will threaten the livelihoods of minicab drivers who are relatively poorly paid already. Many will have to give up and end up out of work.

They are supported by the Independent Works Union and have issued a “pre-action” letter to Mayor Sadiq Khan, prior to the launch of a judicial review.

They are also claiming that as most minicab drivers are BAME (black, coloured or from ethnic minorities) while most taxi drivers are white, this is indirect discrimination.

Comment: Such drivers are certainly incensed by this proposed change as I saw at a recent meeting I attended (see ). There does not seem to be any rational reason for treating one set of cab drivers different to another, particularly as the likely impact on the number of PHV drivers in central London is not forecast to change much, which was the justification for the change. It will of course affect some drivers much more than others.

I wish them the best of luck with a judicial review although these are not easy legal proceedings (I have been involved in more than one), and depend on a lot more than the moral arguments.

Could it perhaps be about money rather than traffic congestion, or principles?

Roger Lawson


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London Air Pollution Alert, or Perhaps Not

This week (on 26/2/2019) Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, issued an “Air Pollution Alert” in a press release (see ). He claimed that this is evidence of London’s air quality crisis and why we need the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) which will result in Londoners paying millions of pounds in charges.

But if you read further down the press release it says: “This is due to a combination of poorly dispersed local emissions and sustained import of particulates from Germany and France” and he goes on to say this will get worse on Tuesday. But he omitted to mention that the winds from the south are also bringing dust from the Sahara. This was covered in the Financial Times where Alexander de Meij of MetClim is quoted as saying “it is a rare phenomenon because of the Sahara dust” and added that local and European pollution were contributing factors.

Despite all these hysterics, at Wednesday lunchtime, when air pollution was forecast to be “high”, according to the London Air Quality Network it was in reality only “moderate”. The lack of the normal wind and rain in London does not help perhaps but that will change tomorrow.

Readers are reminded that emissions from vehicles are only one contributor to outside air pollution in London and are in decline as they have been for many years. We reported recently on how air pollution on the Underground is much worse and noted how air pollution inside people’s homes is also relatively poor. That was confirmed in a recent report from the University of Texas in the USA where a study of cooking in a typical American home showed high levels of pollutants was the result. Even simply cooking toast raised particle levels substantially.

Meanwhile, you might be surprised to learn that the UK Government is funding activist lawyers ClientEarth through the Foreign Aid Budget – that’s an organisation that has actually been launching legal actions against the UK Government. See this report from the Taxpayers Alliance for more information:

As a result, local councils have been introducing Clean Air Zones with charges on vehicle users, such as the ULEZ in London. But do they have any impact, such as protecting the health of children or anyone else? The answer is no according to this report from the Taxpayers Alliance:

The conclusion must be that these impositions are about extracting money from vehicle users rather than a motive of improving health because they will not do so. The Mayor latest scaremongering is just another example of how he is using scare tactics to get people to support the ULEZ.

The Mayor is promoting London as an “Open” city, but perhaps he should try closing it to air pollution from the EU and North Africa. An imitation of King Canute would be appropriate perhaps?

Roger Lawson


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3D Zebra Crossings

The first 3D zebra crossing has been installed in the UK on St. Johns Wood High Street (borough of Westminster) – see . They have been used in other countries such as Iceland and are designed to look like the road contains vertical boxes. They won’t fool anyone after the first drive over them, but might cause unfamiliar drivers to slow down, or brake abruptly which might be positively dangerous.

These are using the same principle as painted speed humps (they look like real road humps until you drive over them). They are of course much quieter than conventional humps. They have been used in a few streets in the UK, including some in London. But the lack of widespread adoption rather suggests that they are less effective in slowing traffic.

Roger Lawson


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Dockless Bike Hire Schemes Fading Away, and TfL Scheme Economics

Cycle - Ofo.jpgDockless bike hire is where cycles can be picked up, used and then discarded anywhere on the streets of a city, for a small fee. That contrasts with the TfL/Santander bike hire scheme in London where you can only retrieve and return bikes from docking stations. Dockless bike hire has taken off in some cities across the world, and a number of operators launched such schemes in London.

The Guardian ran an interesting article recently on the success, or otherwise, of such schemes in the UK under the heading “Life cycle: is it the end for Britain’s dockless bike schemes? See:

Many operators who launched in the UK have found to their cost that there are high levels of theft and vandalism of bikes. In addition, many local councils (i.e. boroughs in London) have opposed their introduction because it means that bikes get abandoned on streets, often causing obstruction. Some boroughs have taken to removing bikes unless the operator is approved, although technically they do not have to be licensed as yet. This means that as some boroughs have approved operators but others not, bikes cannot be ridden across borough boundaries without the risk of seizure.

Failures include oBike who put 1,330 bikes in London in July 2017 and withdrew them four months later. Wandsworth impounded many of them as they appeared without warning they claimed. Ofo, a very large Chinese company, launched in London but is now withdrawing altogether from the UK.

Comment: Clearly an example of a “good idea” which ignored the amount of criminal activity and general vandalism in some parts of London. An example of an unproven business model which has yet to demonstrate it can be run as a viable economic business.

But is the TfL “docked” scheme economic? The answer is no. It lost £3.7 million in 2017/18 even after the sponsorship income of £6.3 million from Santander. So losses are about equal to the fare income in reality. Or to put it another way, the fares paid by users cover less than half the operating costs. That year was similar to the previous year and the one before that was even worse. Clearly a totally uneconomic solution for the transport needs of London users, heavily subsidised by other TfL income (which is mainly bus/tube fares and taxes) and by Santander.

You can see more detail on the economics of the TfL scheme here:

This was another “good idea” introduced by cycling fanatic Boris Johnson pandering to the cycling fraternity, just like all the very expensive cycle lanes built in London in recent years. The result is enormous expenditure to no good purpose and it is financially unjustifiable. But recent Mayors of London have tended not to be hot on financial management as Sadiq Khan has shown repeatedly with TfL running up large deficits while Boris Johnson wasted £43 million of public money on the “Garden Bridge” before it was recently abandoned altogether. Politicians are good at spending your money, and politicking it seems to pander to the whims of the electorate, but not at managing budgets and staying within their income. That’s one reason why Mr Khan is so keen to raise taxes via the ULEZ scheme.

Roger Lawson