Forcing Implementation of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy

An article in the latest edition of Local Transport Today (LTT) made interesting reading. It reported on how London boroughs will be in the “frontline to deliver Khan’s traffic reduction goal”.

As readers may be aware, local boroughs in London have control over local roads, but they have to produce a “Local Implementation Plan” (LIP) to show how they are going to follow the Mayor’s Transport Plan (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm if you are not yet clear how damaging it could be). Each borough has to submit their LIPs by October 2018 at the latest and they have to be approved by Transport for London (TfL).

The boroughs have been issued with guidance on how to write their LIP, and Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport has said in the foreword that “Traffic reduction should be a central theme of borough LIPs, with the aim of creating pleasant places for residents of every part of the city. This means providing alternatives to car use, discouraging unnecessary trips, looking at how street space is used most efficiently, supporting car-free lifestyles, and taking action to reduce and re-time freight trips.”

Now we all know what “discouraging unnecessary trips” implies. It means that journeys that you consider worth taking may not be by some bureaucrat in TfL. In other words, your freedom to choose when and how you travel are going to be constrained if the Mayor has his way. And comments such as “looking at how street space is used” surely suggests it could be reallocated as we have seen so much of in the last few years in central London – road space reallocated to cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles.

Most funding for new transport schemes in local boroughs are funded by TfL because they have the tax resources and central Government funding while local boroughs have very small transport budgets from their own cash resources. Such funding from TfL has historically been focussed on certain “streams” that they consider priorities, although there was some local discretionary funding.

This is what it says for example in the Interim Guidance from TfL: “In line with the Healthy Streets Approach, a new Liveable Neighbourhoods programme will replace the LIP Major Schemes programme to deliver transformational improvements in walking and cycling provision, road safety and road danger reduction and mode shift from private car use”.  

There will also be more money for bus priority measures (i.e. bus lanes), cycling and air quality programmes. In addition, the LIP guidance suggests that TfL will be working more closely than in the past in preparation of the LIPs. Does that mean they are going to provide more support, or simply want to ensure they toe the line? If you are in any doubt, it also suggests that TfL will be providing more services to deliver major projects within boroughs – and that includes design and traffic modelling or even “construction oversight”.

It would appear that there will be even more interference in local boroughs in local traffic and road safety schemes by TfL than ever before. This is despite the fact that TfL do not have the local knowledge that is required to develop good schemes – even local boroughs often do not know as much as local residents about road network issues.

Will there be resistance from local boroughs to these plans? Perhaps. But it shows why it is so important to get the proposals in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy kicked into the long grass. TfL continue to wish to impose a centralised, dictatorial manifesto on local boroughs and take even more control over their activities and funding. This writer thinks it should be opposed.

Roger Lawson

London Mayor’s Transport Strategy – A Blatant Attack on Motorists – Campaign Against It Launched

The ABD have issued the following press release:

Last year Sadiq Khan was elected Mayor of London on a manifesto pledging to tackle congestion through harmless-sounding measures like encouraging car clubs and managing road works. He also promised to maintain the Congestion Charge at its current level.

He would not have got elected if he had come out with blatantly anti-motorist proposals. However, his recent Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) does precisely this.

The under-publicised proposals seek “new ways of paying for road use”, hinting at pay-per-mile road pricing. This could see the Congestion Charge extended across Greater London, with local boroughs asked to use it as a blunt traffic reduction measure. Alternatively, they could be asked to bring in “Workplace Parking Levies” – effectively a tax on going to work.

Britain’s drivers pay five times over to use the roads. Yet the Mayor feels that Londoners “pay too little”, without giving any figures to support this. He alleges that public transport fare payers subsidise motorists which is simply wrong – the reverse is the case as public transport is massively subsidised out of public taxation while motorists pay more than the costs of maintaining the roads.

It is particularly worrying that he wants to take over collection of VED (“road tax”) and set the rates which would provide another way for the Mayor to extract money from car drivers on top of congestion charging.

He seeks to discourage car ownership, using a reduction in the availability of private parking and kerb side parking spaces with discriminatory parking charges against some vehicles.

Even Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs – minicabs) come under attack with proposals to limit their numbers or increase their costs by dropping their exemption from the congestion charge.

He proposes reallocating road space away from drivers, even though the reduction in space has been a key factor in increasing congestion. He even hints at car parking at stations being made less convenient or spaces being removed.

In summary, the Mayor makes it plain that he intends to reduce car use in favour of public transport, cycling and walking by penalising motorists and making it more expensive for you to own and drive a car. The private motorist could become a vanishing species in London if the Mayor has his way, or your costs for driving will skyrocket.

These proposals would give the Mayor the ability to build a financial empire and dictate the lives of Londoners much more extensively than at present. The MTS is yet another missed opportunity to develop an integrated transport strategy with an improved road network in London.

Readers have until 2nd October to object to the proposals. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) is supporting a campaign which has been launched against the Mayor’s proposals. For more information, please visit http://www.cantpaywontpay.london/

More Information 

Mayor’s Manifesto: http://www.sadiq.london/a_manifesto_for_all_londoners

Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS): https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

For the ABD’s analysis of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy, see: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/mayors-transport-strategy-an-attack-on-private-transport-with-dubious-economics/

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

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Make sure you object to this blatant attack on motorists.

 

New ABD London Web Site

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has a dedicated web site to cover news and issues in the London area. It is present at www.freedomfordrivers.org (the name simply indicating that drivers in London are corralled and penalised in a total unreasonable manner by unnecessary restrictions, reductions in road space, and excessive charges – they definitely need liberating).

We have just launched a new version of the web site which is more modern in appearance and easier to use. The old one was developed many years ago in Microsoft Frontpage which is a totally obsolescent item of software and no longer supported so that alone indicated a rewrite was overdue. The new site still links to many of the old pages which will take some time to update but most of the key pages are already revamped.

Please let us have any comments you may have on the new web site or additional coverage you would like included. The web site is a valuable archive of information and resources for anyone interested in traffic and transport issues in London.

Roger Lawson

Wallets on Wheels, and Electric Cars

A couple of interesting articles in the Daily Telegraph today (13/7/2017). Firstly there was a report on the comments on parking revenues from AA President Edmund King. He said that local authorities are reducing their expenditure on road maintenance and street lights while increasing parking charges that normally help to finance them. Specifically, he said “Far too often drivers are viewed by every level of government as wallets on wheels”. How true that is. The Greater London Authority made the largest reduction in expenditure at £59.5 million, way ahead of the next largest of £6.2 million in North Yorkshire.

Another article was on the potential demand for electric power if the number of electric vehicles grows as expected. Certainly in London the Mayor’s recent Transport Strategy document (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/07/07/mayors-transport-strategy-an-attack-on-private-transport-with-dubious-economics/ ) suggests that by 2050 most cars will be electric – at least they will be if the Mayor has his way. The Telegraph article suggested that this might add 30% to peak electric power demand, thus requiring the equivalent of five Hinkley Point C nuclear plants according to National Grid. See publication entitled “Future Energy Scenarios” issued by National Grid. Even if people only charge their electric cars in off-peak periods, the additional demand could be very substantial. As I plan to attend the National Grid Annual General Meeting later this month, I may ask some questions on how they plan to cover this.

But readers may be interested to know that I am planning ahead on this issue and recently had a test drive of a Tesla Model S. A very impressive vehicle altogether and obviously getting near the point where electric vehicles are practical for most car drivers. Somewhat expensive at present as it’s really aimed at the luxury car market, but Tesla announced the first production deliveries of the new Model 3 this week which will be substantially cheaper (not yet available in the UK). One can see that in two or three years time, all electric cars will be a viable proposition for most drivers, particularly if the costs come down as expected. Volvo announced this week that all their new models after 2019 will be electric or hybrid so you can see the way the wind is blowing.

But that still leaves the problem of generating all the extra electricity, particularly when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not out. To meet the demand in the timescale required might simply result in more cheap gas power stations, not nuclear. I am yet to be convinced that this migration to electric vehicles makes much environmental sense because of the inefficient energy conversion involved in comparison with a modern petrol engine. We might end up with more air pollution rather than less, although the Mayor of London will no doubt ensure its not on his patch.

Roger Lawson

Media Coverage of Air Pollution and Electric Vehicles

With the Mayor of London’s plans for the ULEZ, his new Transport Strategy and the Government about to publish their air quality plans for cities, the issue of air pollution has been getting a lot of media coverage of late.

The Evening Standard ran an article by David Williams on the 28th June headlined “Don’t punish the car drivers for air pollution when other causes are worse”. The article said that making motorists pay punitive charges will fail to achieve major cuts in London’s pollution. This is the argument put forward by campaign group FairFuelUK who say it is more about raising cash as the revenue raised is not ringfenced to tackling emissions or congestion. One cannot but agree with them.

They also suggest that politicians are aiming for the wrong target by focussing on private cars which contribute only 11% of NOX emissions when 16% comes from gas central heating, 14% from diesel machinery and a lot from LGVs. Other sources are air traffic, air conditioning and HGVs. They also complain that local authorities have failed to cope with particulates that are left on roads by tyres and brakes.

FairFuelUK are asking people to write to Michael Gove and Theresa Coffey on the prospective additional taxation of diesel cars while promoting alternative solutions. For example, instead of an expensive diesel vehicle scrappage scheme they suggest retrofit devices can solve the problem on most vehicles. In addition, they push for the adoption of E10 fuel (an ethanol/petrol blend) which most cars can run on perfectly well and is widely available in other countries. They also promote the use of additives to reduce diesel emissions as is mandated in Texas. This can cut NOX emissions by 67%, and reduce other pollutants also. It does seem there are a number of other possible solutions that would be both cheaper and more effective than taxing motorists or forcing them to replace their vehicles – as Sadiq Khan is doing in London.

You can read about the FairFuelUK campaign here: http://act.fairfueluk.com/lobby/Defra-Plan .

I would encourage you to support it.

In the Financial Times on the 8th July there was a good article by Neil Collins on the unforeseen consequences of the push for electric cars. It was headlined “Electric cars are a pain in the wallet for those who don’t drive them”, and it spelled out the wonders of such vehicles.

But the downside is the loss of fuel tax to the Government (£28 billion per year and rising), while electric vehicles are subsidised by the Government. In addition, there are major problems in developing the electricity supply grid to cope with future demand. He says “The energy transfer at a busy filling station is about equivalent to the output of a mid-sized power station” and goes on to explain the energy inefficiency of electric cars due to high distribution and storage costs. He notes that: “Electric cars are gathering speed thanks to politics rather than economics”.

This writer has so far avoided the lure of electric or hybrid vehicles simply because the economics did not stack up. A Prius might work well for a high mileage Uber driver and all electric vehicles have historically had problems of range, recharging time and cost. But they are getting better. I am having a test drive of Tesla Model S next week so I may be able to report my impressions in due course.

Roger Lawson

Mayor’s Transport Strategy – An Attack on Private Transport with Dubious Economics

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy (MTS) on the 21st June. We gave some initial comments previously but we have now published a more detailed analysis – see below.

Here’s a brief summary:

The Mayor is concerned about “car dependency”, an emotive phrase used to describe people’s preference for private vehicle transport in some circumstances. He plans to fix that by making the use of cars more and more difficult over the next few years. 

He is also going to fix our health problem (he claims) by getting people out of their cars and walking or cycling instead. Or if they can’t do that, by getting them to use public transport even though he admits that underground and surface rail is often grossly overcrowded and cannot be fixed in the short term. Or of course you can travel by bus even though bus ridership has been falling as it is slow and unreliable (and getting worse).

The Mayor even suggests that the elderly and disabled are too dependent on car use, so they will have to face the same treatment.

Even Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) are subject to attack on the basis that they have made congestion worse due to their increase. The Mayor proposes to limit their numbers, and/or remove their exemption from the Congestion Charge.

As in the Livingstone era, we now have a Mayor who clearly hates cars – even zero emission ones. His target is to reduce car use and increase public transport use (the latter is currently 64% of all journeys in London, but his target is 80%). Indeed, if you are not using public transport he will be encouraging you to walk or cycle. And there will be more vehicle free zones and car-free days.

To further restrict car use, parking provision will be restricted in new developments or even be “car-free”. Yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking. In addition, access to kerb space (on street parking including permit parking) may be restricted or usage discouraged by pricing.

There is a target of a zero-emission transport system by 2050. But he wants to have zero emission zones in central London and the suburban town centres by 2025. This means that unless you have an electric vehicle, it may be prohibitively expensive to drive around much of London in just a few years’ time. That’s much sooner than the vehicle population will change.

Pay-per-mile road pricing (as recently advocated by the EU) will be considered. Effectively replacing and extending the current “Congestion Tax” and emission taxes such as the ULEZ. He will also allow local boroughs (there are 32 in London) to introduce congestion charging schemes so we could end up with a horrendous patchwork of restricted zones. The Mayor repeats the claim that the Congestion Charge was a success in reducing congestion which is simply wrong – as the ABD has repeatedly said. The evidence is here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Congestion.htm.

How much will a new system cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask.

There will be more “bus priority measures” to improve bus journey times and reliability – that means more bus lanes. But the Mayor seems not to recognise that bus lanes are already present on most key routes and are an inefficient use of valuable road space.

What is the cost of the proposed strategy? The Mayor does not say, but it will be clearly very expensive. Transport for London (TfL) have been evading even answering simple questions on the finances of the ULEZ scheme, and there is no cost/benefit analysis provided on the Mayor’s latest proposals, as with so many recent TfL schemes.

The Mayor even goes so far as to claim in the MTS document that public transport fare payers subsidise motorists. This is simply a lie. It is both inaccurate and grossly misleading. Public transport fare payers do not subsidise anyone.

They are subsidised themselves from local and national taxation. Motorists pay much more in taxes than is spent on the provision of roads. On a national basis, and in London, they subsidise public transport users, not the other way around.

It is very obvious from the contents of the MTS and the result of past promises by the Mayor (partly to help get elected no doubt) that TfL faces major budget problems. The Mayor proposes how to fix that though. He is asking for:

  • Revenue raising powers. (Note: the Congestion Charge and ULEZ proposals are not technically revenue raising regulations even though they have turned into a tax on motorists. In practice they have been distorted to perform that function). The Mayor is asking for more powers to raise tax than they alone provide.
  • A development rights auction model on major infrastructure projects. This expands the ability to obtain funding from developers (at present only covered by Section 106 agreements).
  • In addition, he is asking that revenue from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) be “devolved to TfL”. That would include “powers to change how VED is levied” which means the Mayor could set the charge rate for London residents presumably, or charge it in a different way to an annual fee, i.e. based on a new road pricing model. 

Needless to point out that these proposals would give the Mayor the ability to build a financial empire and dictate the lives of Londoners much more extensively than at present. Such wide ranging and sweeping financial powers for someone who, once elected, has dictatorial powers is surely inappropriate.

However one looks at this, the financial plans to underpin the MTS look likely to be very dubious indeed. That hole can only be fixed by more taxation on Londoners as it seems unlikely central Government would wish to help.

Many of the London’s transport problems are being caused by the rapid growth in population, which the Mayor is happy to let continue – indeed to promote. But such growth increases air pollution.

MTS GraphicIt is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of the Mayor’s vision (see example above). Barely a private car in sight, and no LGVs, with roads just full of cyclists and buses. And no congestion of course which we all know is totally unrealistic bearing in mind the projected population growth.

He expects more people to move to public transport when he concedes 71% of London Underground will be overcrowded in future in the rush hour and national rail and buses will not be much better, unless action is taken. The document reports that there is already severe overcrowding on some tube lines, as users know.

As usual, the advocates of public transport simply ignore the unpleasantness and overcrowding of public transport even though the Mayor concedes that is a problem. Anyone who has travelled on it in London in the recent hot weather will know just how obnoxious it is. Until air-conditioning, larger seats and capacity to avoid standing is provided (an impossible dream cost-wise of course), I for one will be ignoring the Mayor’s exhortations unless they are unavoidable.

In summary, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy contains not only a number of glaring defects, but is yet another missed opportunity to develop an integrated transport strategy. London has needed an improved road transport network for many years, but there is nothing in the document to support that. It is mainly about attacks on private vehicle owners and users (including PHVs).

This is of course a common approach by Mayors, and their advisory staff in TfL, who live and work in central London. They simply do not understand the problems faced by residents of the outer London boroughs.

The Mayor also seems keen to bully us into living a healthier life style. But that should be a matter of personal choice and it is not at all obvious how moving people onto overcrowded public transport will significantly assist. To get Londoners to be more active should be more about education than dictatorship. The freedom of individuals to choose their transport mode should not be constrained.

The ABD’s full analysis of the MTS is present here:

http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Analysis-of-Mayors-Transport-Strategy.pdf

Make sure you respond to the public consultation here:

https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017

Roger Lawson

Most Drivers Ignore 20 MPH Speed Limits

A new report from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows that the vast majority of drivers ignore 20 MPH speed limits. A survey of nine sites across the UK showed that 81% of drivers exceeded the 20 MPH speed limit in the report entitled “Speed Compliance Statistics”. This might explain why the impact on average speeds by introducing signed only 20 limits is negligible as reported in a previous article on this blog, or that the impact on actual accident statistics as reported in many such zones is also not apparent.

The DfT report also notes the common failure to comply with the 70 limit on motorways, although compliance with other speed limits seems to have slightly improved. There has, of course, been wide calls for an increase in the motorway limit which was also supported by the ABD.

Surely the message here is that imposing unrealistic limits tends to be ignored by drivers. The ABD has always supported setting speed limits at the 85th percentile of free-flowing traffic speeds so that only those drivers who are clearly not adhering to what most drivers perceive as “reasonable” are potentially penalised for breaking the law. In addition, it has been shown in other studies that setting the limit in that way is likely to be safer than artificially reducing the limit.

So those London boroughs who are dogmatically introducing 20 limits everywhere (such as Lewisham and Croydon) should take note. The hundreds of thousands of pounds they have spent introducing such “signed only” limits is a waste of money that would have been much better spent on other road safety initiatives. But regrettably those who have signed up to the religion of lower speed limits seem immune to listening to reason and to understanding the facts.

Roger Lawson