MTS Campaign Meeting Report

On Saturday the 28th April we held a meeting for supporters of the ABD’s campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) in central London. I chose to drive to the venue as I was carrying quite a weight of equipment and papers, but it turned into a typical nightmare trip on London’s roads. It ended up taking 2 hours to drive the 15 miles there. We were doing well until we hit a closure of Upper Thames Street and The Embankment with all traffic being diverted across Southwark Bridge south of the river – the exact opposite direction to where we wanted to go. So I turned round and aimed to take a route around to the North via City Road and the Angel, Islington. But that route was also closed by apparent crane work. There was no advance notice or signs of these closures on two of the key routes in London. Even on a Saturday they are now very busy. What a dreadful way to run a transport network of a major world city!

I did eventually manage to get there in time to give my presentation, but one or two people didn’t make it perhaps because of the traffic congestion. Here’s a brief summary of what was said at the meeting. The Powerpoint presentation slides are available here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/MTS%20Meeting%20Presentation%202018-04-28.pdf

After a brief explanation of the objectives and background of the Alliance of British Drivers I explained the key themes of the Mayor’s Strategy. These are to turn streets into places for “active travel and social interaction”, and to reduce “car dependency”. The latter is of course an emotive phrase when nobody talks about “cycle dependency” or “public transport dependency”. Why should it be used to describe people’s rational choice of transport mode? Such phrases are just part of the “spin” put on these policies and the graphic I showed taken from the Mayor’s document demonstrates how unrealistic are the depictions of London in the future. Such graphics often ignore the needs for local transport deliveries of goods and services in London. In addition the Mayor has ignored the needs of the growing proportion of elderly and disabled people in London, many of whom have responded to our campaign as they are dependent on private cars or PHVs.

I talked about the Mayor’s problems which the Strategy aims to counter. This includes a rapidly growing population in London which is putting a stress on public transport capacity and road congestion, and also leading to higher air pollution (and not just from traffic). These of course result from past policies adopted by London Mayors. But one of his key problems is shortage of money with a massive budget deficit looming. This results from public transport fare freezes which he promised to get elected, increasing subsidies and general financial mismanagement.

I explained that the answer from the Mayor are policies that will extract more money from Londoners (and those who visit London from outside) and restrict private travel in the name of making the population healthier. There are a number of ways the Mayor can implement these policies, via the encouragement of the London boroughs if not directly.

What alternatives could the Mayor have proposed? Obviously one of the key factors has been the growing population of London and he could have reduced that by encouraging redistribution of business activity and population as was done in the 1960s via New Towns, or by not promoting it as “more open” to immigration as he has done recently. The implementation of cycle superhighways in the manner done, road space removal (road closures, removal of gyratories, etc) and other detail policies emanating from TfL have also contributed. I suggested that it was possible to improve the road network for cyclists and for road safety without such damaging impacts on the road network.

There was a brief explanation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and the misleading claims made about deaths from air pollution in London (as one member of the audience put it: “40,000 deaths a year in London”, which shows how spurious statistics are being propagated). There is no major health crisis, Londoners are living longer and air quality is improving! We then had a session from Howard Cox of FairFuelUK. He explained what his organisation has been doing to obtain 1.7 million supporters for a campaign that is well worth supporting. He has been good at obtaining both media and political support as a result. He questioned why the Government have not looked at alternative ways of improving air quality and looked at other sources of emissions rather than just focussing on vehicle owners. FairFuelUK are working with others to produce better scientific evidence on the real health impact of emissions and the cost of ignoring alternative solutions to reducing emissions.

I explained what the campaign against the MTS had been doing and what we will do going forward. The audience was encouraged to support us in several ways to enable us to generate more supporters and more funds to fight the campaign.

Lastly there was a session on how to defeat the MTS. This can be done in local boroughs (for example I explained earlier how the ABD had defeated a proposed congestion charge in Greenwich promoted by Ken Livingstone over ten years ago), or perhaps by ensuring Sadiq Khan does not get re-elected as Mayor in two years’ time. As he is doing a good job of becoming unpopular for other reasons, just like Ken Livingstone at the end of his reign, perhaps the slogan should be similar to the popular one in that era – namely “anyone but Khan” for Mayor at the next election.

It was noted that the ABD can give assistance with local campaigns in several ways – you just need to ask for it.

We covered how supporters can help the campaign. Recruiting more supporters is one key aspect over the next few months, ensure that people find out what is being done in their local boroughs (a member of the audience suggested that people ask if there are any proposals for a local congestion charge) and provide funds to fight the campaign. It is important to ensure that more London residents, and those in surrounding areas, know what is being proposed because there is general ignorance on the subject – few people have actually read the Mayor’s Transport Strategy document but it will dictate many aspects of travel and parking in London over the next few years.

There was plenty of time for questions from the audience. Two particular subjects that arose was the status on Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) and Bank Junction closure in the City. On the former, which was proposed to result in the closure of Regent’s Park to vehicles, it seems that it may be being held up by objections from affected borough councils after all. CS11 is a good example of how local opposition can delay or thwart unreasonable proposals. On Bank this is an experimental scheme but will be subject to a review in a few months’ time and I explained what representations the ABD had made on this topic.

The key as always if you want to have an impact on politicians is not just to moan in private or on social media, but to directly contact the political decision makers – the Mayor London, London Assembly Members, your local M.P, local Councillors, et al. It is also necessarily to respond to relevant public consultations and get the vote out when necessary.

In my experience politicians do listen, particularly when it seems they might be at risk of losing an election by pursuing unpopular policies! Please bear that in mind. That was perhaps one of the most important points communicated at this event.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Mayor of London and Parking Control

The Mayor of London, via the GLA and TfL, are asking for an amendment to the Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill that is currently going through Parliament. He is asking for new powers over the installation of electric charging infrastructure and parking bay designations on local borough roads as well as the TfL controlled roads. Currently local boroughs have sole control over all roads other than the main ones designated as TfL controlled roads. But the Mayor and TfL feel they are not moving fast enough with installation of charging points. Perhaps they are put off by the high costs and low level of use?

The new powers would enable TfL to not just bypass the local authority but also the planning process and associated consultations and would give them powers to create and re-designate parking bays.

London Councils which represents the boroughs are objecting and surely quite rightly. This is yet another attempt by the Mayor to take more powers and erode the independence of the boroughs. Dictators always seem to want more power it seems.

Petition on election of the Mayor.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is going to have a devastating impact on many people who live outside London if he manages to push through his Transport Strategy. After all many people use the road network to visit parts of London, or travel through it, even though they live outside the GLA area. A petition has been launched suggesting that everyone should have a chance to vote for the Mayor of London as he has just a wide influence. To sign it please go here: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/205912

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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Cycle Superhighway 4 – Consultation Results Again Biased by Cyclists

Transport for London (TfL) have published the results of the public consultation on their proposals for Cycle Superhighway 4. That is to run from Tower Bridge to Greenwich.

This is what the report on the consultation says:

“We received 3,265 direct responses to our consultation, of which 83 per cent supported or strongly supported our proposals. 14 per cent did not support them, while 3 per cent said they neither supported nor opposed the proposals. An additional 1,350 template emails were received via the London Cycling Campaign website which strongly supported the overall proposals and made suggestions for further improvements. An additional 80 template emails were received from Sustrans which supported the proposals.”

The consultation report is present here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cs4/user_uploads/cycle-superhighway-4-consultation-report.pdf

If you look at the age profile of the respondents on page 24 the vast majority are under 40 years of age, with almost nobody over 60. That is not the typical profile of London residents and rather indicates that they are likely to be cyclists. Likewise if you look at the “mode of transport” they usually use on page 25, the highest mode frequency by far is cycling which is very untypical of London residents even in inner city areas.

We have complained to TfL about the bias in the consultation report on CS9 where similar lobbying was apparent (see https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/03/12/cycle-superhighway-9-consultation-results-biased-by-cyclists/ ). TfL have not conceded any fault. An interesting report on that consultation is present here on the Hammersmith & Fulham Forum with some good comments added from David Tarsh: https://hammersmithfulhamforum.com/2018/03/20/its-time-for-information-and-openness-on-cs9/

The consultation on the proposed bridge across the Thames from Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf (for cyclists/pedestrians only) shows a similar bias. See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/rivercrossings/rotherhithe-canarywharf/

TfL seems not to want to correct this bias in their consultation results. Ever since Ken Livingstone was Mayor, TfL have been designing consultations to get the answers they wanted. The ethics of their approach are deplorable.

One problem is that those opposed to these schemes are simply not aware of the proposals until it is too late. The ABD maintains a newsletter contact list to whom we promote such consultations. Make sure you join it so you can respond – see here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/register.htm

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Real Profits from the ULEZ

In January we published a note on the likely profits that Transport for London (TfL) would make from the Ultra Low Emission Zone. That was based on our own estimates of the income they would receive (based on TfL data) as TfL had disclosed some information on budgets in response to an FOI Act request but it seemed to be grossly misleading.

We have now received more information which is given in this note: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ULEZ-Profits.pdf . This shows that the income they would be receiving after extension to the North/South Circular would be over £125 million per year which is even higher than our own previous estimates.

However, the profits after operating costs would be lower than from the central London Congestion Charge zone alone presumably because the operating costs over the wider area, with many more vehicles affected, would be higher. We do not yet know the implementation cost for the wider area. Can TfL afford the capital cost is one question yet to be answered, bearing in mind that they are heading for a deficit of £1 billion per annum.

But the key point is that the £125 million will be taken out of the London economy every year, plus there is the cost to vehicle owners in upgrading their vehicles to be compliant with the ULEZ which we previously estimated at over £200 million (see our previous note on the cost/benefit ratio of the ULEZ here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Cost-of-the-ULEZ.pdf

We also pointed out in that note that so far as NOX emissions go, which is one of the main concerns, that these are rapidly falling anyway. Is the ULEZ, particularly the extension to within the North/South Circular, really justified? Despite what the Mayor says, there is no major public health crisis in London from air pollution. There are some localised problems which can be fixed by local measures. But extracting hundreds of millions of pounds in what are effectively taxes from Londoners for the ULEZ when it would be better spent on other useful and productive public health measures makes no sense.

The ULEZ will just move money from Londoners pockets to the scheme operators (private organisations) and the bloated bureaucracy that is TfL.

However one looks at it, the economics of this scheme and the justification for it in relation to the benefits to be obtained, when there are surely better solutions to the air pollution problem in London, seem dubious in the extreme. Both the Conservative Party and FairFuelUK have suggested alternative policies to tackle air pollution – you can see the latter’s stance on it here: https://www.fairfueluk.com/Survey-Background.html

Please make sure you oppose these irrational policies.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Emirates Cable Car, Bike Hire and TfL Finances

The London Evening Standard recently ran an article that suggested the Emirates Cable Car might be sold off or scrapped. The Cable Car runs across the Thames at Greenwich, cost about £60 million to build and opened in 2013. Passenger numbers have been lower than forecast with it mainly being used by tourists. I used it once but it’s a very slow means to get across the Thames at that point, even allowing for delays at the Blackwall Tunnel.

Does it lose money? According to the information provided by a recent FOI Act request, the numbers are as follows for the 12 months to Jan 2017: Income £9.2 million, Operating Costs: £6.0 million. But £3.3 million of the income comes from Emirates Airlines sponsorship under a deal that runs to 2021, so it barely breaks even ignoring the sponsorship money. Why an airline would wish to subsidise this slow and unreliable mode of transport (it frequently breaks down or has to stop in high winds) was never very clear.

On break-even if they don’t renew sponsorship it might be argued it is worth retaining, but obviously the construction cost will never be recovered, and even exceptional maintenance costs might be unaffordable. The Mayor and TfL have some tough decisions to make on this one.

The Standard also suggested that the Santander Bike Hire (formerly Barclays) might be scrapped to save money. It costs £21 million per year to run, of which TfL pays £3.6 million according to the Standard article. It might have encouraged more cycling in London, although users of these bikes are some of the worst behaved cyclists from my observations – perhaps because tourists unfamiliar with London traffic and road rules tend to use them. However, there are now some commercial alternatives who operate a “dockless”, pick up and drop off anywhere system. It might must be that after just a few years the technology is obsolescent.

Both subjects are of course under the spotlight because of the pressure on the Mayor’s Transport Budget where he has seriously miscalculated the funding needs and the impact of his past promises to his electorate. Another aspect that TfL are examining according to an FT article is the exemption from the London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. “tax”) for taxis and PHVs (mini-cabs). The latter have proliferated with such operators as Uber creating a lot more traffic congestion. Why they should be exempt was never very clear, although the argument is perhaps that they offer a public service similar to buses. But it’s not very clear why buses should be exempt either, particularly as they create a lot of congestion.

Bearing in mind the need for the Mayor to raise money, and the fact that he is threatening to cancel Uber’s licence, the expected outcome is surely going to be something like this: Yes we won’t cancel your licence after all but you’ll need to pay the Congestion Charge, or a specially large annual licence fee. Is that a deal?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Silvertown Tunnel – Air Quality Should Be OK

Transport for London (TfL) have published an “Updated Air Quality Assessment” for the Silvertown Tunnel. This is the tunnel proposed to run alongside the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames in East London – it is urgently required to relieve traffic congestion at the Blackwall Tunnel.

There have been concerns that the additional vehicle capacity might worsen air pollution in Greenwich and also north of the river. It’s already bad because of the queues of traffic that form every morning and evening. But the report’s conclusions are that the Silvertown Tunnel will “not lead to a significant impact on air quality” and nor affect the ability to achieve compliance with the Air Quality Directive.

The Silvertown Tunnel was included in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy but is still subject to a Public Inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate and a decision to go ahead by the Secretary of State which keeps on getting delayed. We might get one in May, but there is still vociferous opposition to this sorely needed new transport link. The earliest date for completion, if given the go-ahead, is likely to be 2023.

More information here: https://tfl.gov.uk/travel-information/improvements-and-projects/silvertown-tunnel where you can see a “drive through” simulation.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Cycle Superhighway 9 – Consultation Results Biased by Cyclists

Transport for London (TfL) have published the results of the public consultation on their proposals for Cycle Superhighway 9. That is to run from Kensington Olympia to Brentford Town Centre.

They got 5,295 public responses, and 93 “stakeholder” responses (typically organisations including the ABD). In terms of overall support for the proposals, they got 59% in support, 38% opposed and 2% undecided. That alone tells you that there was very significant opposition.

But I believe these figures have been distorted by lobbying by cycling groups. Page 22 of the TfL report gives a breakdown of what modes of transport the respondents claim to usually use. It shows 67% used the Tube, 65% Cycle, 50% use a Bus and 56% use a Private Car. These are very high figures for cycling.

In reality, you can see how many people actually cycle in this area by looking at traffic count data published by the Department for Transport. The figures are as follows for two of the boroughs in west London in 2016:

Kensington and Chelsea: Cyclists: 5.8%, Cars/Taxis: 73.4% of all traffic

Hammersmith & Fulham: Cyclists: 4.5%, Cars/Taxis: 74.8% of all traffic

You can see that these are very different figures, and rather demonstrate the likely bias in the results of this consultation. Indeed, TfL received 941 representations alone from supporters of one of the activist cycling organisations, the London Cycling Campaign. TfL makes no attempt in recent consultations to “normalise” the data so that responses are not manipulated and biased by unrepresentative pressure groups.

This is surely one such example.

You can read the Consultation Report here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/roads/cs9/ . TfL is currently considering the results but if it is like other similar consultations the scheme is likely to proceed with few changes.

Roger Lawson