How TfL and Local Councils Waste Your Money

On the 17th December I attended a Committee Meeting of the London Borough of Bromley. It can be useful to attend such meetings so as to become familiar with what your local representatives are doing. This meeting was one of the Environment and Community Services Policy Development and Scrutiny Committee called specially to review the proposal for a cycle lane on Crofton Road in Orpington. The proposal to spend £673,000 on this project had been “called in” by Councillor Tony Owen and others after a decision by the Portfolio Holder Councillor Huntington-Thresher to proceed with it. So the Scrutiny Committee had to review the decision.

This cycle lane was originally planned to run all the way from Locksbottom to Orpington Station at a cost of nearly a million pounds. The scheme was reduced in cost when the section from Ormonde Avenue was cut out. Note that the funding to cover the cost of the scheme comes from Transport for London (TfL). As was pointed out in the meeting, this is still taxpayer’s money and councillors need to take care of it.

Councillor Owen spoke against the scheme. He said that Councillor Huntington-Thresher had previously assured us that he would not make decisions that were not evidence-based. He suggested this scheme was being driven by two motives: spending of budget money and the need to encourage switching from using cars to using buses or cycling – but the latter was not credible. He said that it was “overkill” when the council could just paint some cycle lanes on the road. It might result in slower traffic and more air pollution and might disrupt bus timetables. There are possible alternative routes to the Station. He also expressed concern about the impact on emergency service vehicles who had not been consulted.

Councillor Huntington-Thresher responded that they are encouraging cycling but there was slow take up of bikes. Others mentioned that TfL were keen to support this proposal as part of their wider cycling strategy and considered this a key route.

There was discussion of the number of cyclists who might use the route – TfL had forecast 21,000 apparently. But a TfL survey in the summer had shown only 91 cyclists on the road in a day. It was suggested that the forecast usage was simply incredible.

The public consultation on the proposals were also discussed. Over 3,000 consultation forms had been sent out to local residents but only 26 responses were received. Of those 17 were in favour. The Crofton Residents Association Chairman was reported as saying the consultation was “not credible”.

The Scrutiny Committee voted to take no action so the scheme will proceed as proposed.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Comment: Yes it’s your money that is being spent by TfL on what seems a totally unjustifiable cycle scheme. Encouraging cycling may be meritorious but I doubt that cyclists are deterred from using this route at present on what is mainly a wide road (see photo above). There was also no apparent case in road safety terms as no accident data was presented at the meeting. It’s more likely the number of cyclists is very low on this route because there is a steep hill from Orpington High Street up to the Station and thereafter west on Crofton Road. Could it be that bureaucrats at TfL just looked at a map and did not actually try cycling the route?

This “eye-watering” expenditure as Councillor Owen called it, is a ridiculous use of public funds when TfL are already running up a major budget deficit. TfL are funding similar schemes all over London in other boroughs as cycling gets funding that is unjustified on any rational basis. It is very unlikely that car users on that route will turn to cycling and the cost per cyclist is simply enormous. The public consultation was also very selective. Were people told how much money it would cost and how few cyclists were currently using the route? I doubt it.

In summary, it certainly seems unwise of councillors to support this expenditure. The cost of £673,000 would be a godsend to hard-pressed council budgets if spent on other things such as social services. TfL is in essence being financially mismanaged by a Mayor, Sadiq Khan, who seems to have no financial acumen whatsoever. That is very apparent from his Transport Strategy for example. He complains about lack of money but wastes money on such schemes as that in Orpington.

Mayor to Spend Even More Money on Cycling

The Mayor has recently announced a “Major Action Plan to Get More Londoner’s Cycling”. This will involve improved standards for cycle routes, a rebranding of Superhighways/Quietways, and a cycling infrastructure database but also undoubtedly more expenditure on cycling provision. See https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/action-plan-to-get-more-londoners-cycling

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