TfL Will Have to Disclose ULEZ Costs After All

Back in April 2017 the ABD responded to a public consultation on the proposed extension of the ULEZ. However we criticised the lack of information on the cost/benefit of the scheme, indeed of any information on costs and likely revenues at all, which made making an informed response to the consultation difficult.

As Transport for London (TfL) refused to provide such information when requested I submitted a Freedom of Information Act request on behalf of the ABD. TfL refused the request on the grounds of “commercial confidentiality” so I asked for a review and subsequently appealed to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

They have upheld my complaint and so I should get the requested information after all (unless they appeal to the First Tier Tribunal). But is it not disgraceful that TfL can obstruct and delay this legitimate need for such information?

TfL claimed it was commercially sensitive because they were already talking to possible suppliers but the ICO judged that there was insufficient evidence that such disclosure would result in specific harm to TfL that would justify refusal.

As I said originally, in my view, these proposals are out of proportion to the benefit to be obtained. The fact that TfL are apparently reluctant to disclose the financial budgets for this scheme suggests to me that it is more about tax raising than simply tackling the air pollution health issue.

The costs of the scheme may be so high that even with the additional taxes raised from vehicle users, it may be unaffordable. BUT WE DON’T KNOW BECAUSE TFL REFUSED TO TELL US.

It is unfortunately typical of late for the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to issue public consultations in his name that are biased polemics of the benefits of his proposals while not disclosing the facts. Democracy is undermined when a public authority acts in this way.

It is further undermined when TfL refuse to disclose information and by doing so delay its release past the consultation due date when they know any appeal process will take many months.

More information will follow when I get the requested data; in the meantime you can read the ICO’s decision notice here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/ICO-Decision-ULEZ-Request.pdf

That was a welcome Christmas present from the ICO, and I wish all our readers a happy Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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TfL Business Plan – Enormous Bus Subsidies Still Rising

Transport for London (TfL) have published their latest “Business Plan”. It gives a net cash deficit of £1.3 billion in 2015/2016 which is forecast to rise to £1.5 billion in 2016/2017. That just shows how expensive some of Boris Johnson’s policies have turned out to be, which will be aggravated by the new Mayor’s commitments on fares. But it does forecast near breakeven in later years as fares income rises, presumably as a result of the growing population of London and some new capacity.

Mayor Sadiq Khan is looking to reduce costs in TfL by £4bn which he has described as “flabby”. Will he be successful in reducing the bloated empire that is TfL? We will have to see, but this writer is sceptical. It’s always difficult to do so when an organisation is so unaccountable to the public for its activities as is TfL.

One problem is that bus usage has been declining – falling from 2,323 million in 2015/2016 to an expected 2,289 million this year. This is blamed on “reliability problems” no doubt partly arising from more traffic congestion compounded by the negative impacts of the cycle superhighways.

Bus subsidies in London are running at about £600 million per year, which is expected to rise to £680m in 2020/21.

Perhaps needless to point out to readers that these are not trivial sums. The population of London is 8.6 million (including adults and children). So that means that the typical household probably contributes over £200 per annum to support bus passengers. That figure ignores the cost London residents pay for the “Freedom Passes” paid for by the London Boroughs that enables pensioners and others to obtain free bus travel, and some other subsidies that TfL bus operations receive. You can see exactly why bus usage in London is higher than in any other world conurbations other than three Chinese cities – because it receives greater subsidies. Surely it’s time to reform this gravy train so that bus users pay for the real costs of their travel? Which of course they would be very reluctant to do.

Roger Lawson