Good News for Londoners, and The Truth About TfL Budgets

As readers probably know, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has run out of money with the result that Transport for London has had to be bailed out by the Government. The Mayor subsequently decided to raise the Congestion Tax by 30% and restrict usage of the Freedom Pass. That’s bad news but one consequence is that the funds provided by TfL to London boroughs for such projects as “Healthy Neighbourhoods” or “Mini-Hollands” will be curtailed.

An article in Local Transport Today (LTT) reports that in a letter to Transport Commissioner, Mike Brown, borough representatives have complained about what this will mean in terms of their operations and their ability to deliver transport projects.

Local boroughs are under great financial pressure from the Covid-19 epidemic because it has resulted in a loss of much of their parking income and PCNs. Now they may lose one of the major sources of funds for transport projects. To quote from the LTT article: “Frost and Jones say there is a risk that boroughs may “no longer be able to assist TfL in delivering the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) in any meaningful way.  This would be particularly damaging because, as the MTS acknowledges, the boroughs are a key delivery partner as the authorities, which manage the vast majority of London’s highway network. They say a “severe reduction” in borough capacity will also “hamper the opportunity for officers to work with TfL to explore how some of the positive behaviour changes observed on the network in recent weeks (improved air quality, more active travel, reduced private vehicle trips etc) can be locked-in and a ‘new normal’ forged.  This could therefore represent an historic missed opportunity in what is likely to be a very small window of time where people may be open to doing things radically differently”.

The ABD suggests that scrapping projects that involve road closures, reducing road capacity and the expenditure on more cycle lanes which are little used would be a very good idea indeed. We have been campaigning against the MTS since it was launched as it is a misconceived attempt to change travel behaviour, force people to travel as the Mayor and TfL want rather than by their choice, and has never been justified by any cost/benefit analysis.

One example of the new financial limitations was indicated in a note issued by a Lewisham councillor. It said: “Healthy Neighbourhoods – while the lockdown has highlighted how pleasant life can be without traffic, TfL’s parlous finances mean it has halted funding for HNP. The Council is looking at whether and how the plans for Lee Green and central Lewisham can be integrated into some temporary measures we have funding for as part of Covid-19 response that would encourage social distancing, walking and cycling. We expect to be able publish these within the next few weeks”.

It seems neither the Council nor central Government is giving up on wanting us all to walk and cycle everywhere to relieve the pressure on public transport and avoid the close contact and hence infection risk on buses and the underground. But the Mayor’s policy of raising the Congestion Tax and taxes such as the ULEZ will pressure people to stop using cars and move to public transport. It’s simply irrational.

A good letter was published in the Times newspaper on this subject from John Hines who lives in Loughton, Essex. This is part of what it said: “This is bound to push more travellers back on to trains, the Tube and buses, where social distancing is next to impossible. One would hope he has calculated the effect this will have on the R number. He should be held to account, particularly as many of us who travel into London do not live in London and have no say in who is elected mayor”.

The Government has made it plain that it was solely the Mayor’s decision to raise the Congestion Tax and that he should not blame them. They also said this in a note issued on the bail-out: “The settlement for TfL was needed for two reasons. Most important is the significant fall in revenue caused by COVID-19. However, an important secondary factor was the pre-existing poor condition of TfL’s financial position as a result of decisions made over the last 4 years. Combined with significant cost increases and delays to Crossrail, this left TfL in serious financial difficulty even before the public health emergency.

The Mayor has claimed a great success in achieving a reduced operating loss in TfL. But this ignores all the wasted capital expenditure on projects such as Cycle Superhighways and the interest on debt that has risen to record levels. A proper analysis of the financial position of TfL, issued before the epidemic hit, is here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2020/01/17/tfl-business-plan-and-budget-for-the-next-5-years-more-of-the-same/

Is it not time for the Government to step in and take full control of TfL? It is wrong for the Mayor to pursue reckless policies such as his Transport Strategy when there is no financial justification and no democratic mandate for it.

But the Government is actually recklessly encouraging local Councils to “embed new social norms” for travel by restricting vehicle use and encouraging walking and cycling. They want to change the way you wish to travel and to live without consultation and with no justification. That’s not democracy.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Using the Covid-19 Epidemic as an Excuse for Road Closures

Lewisham Covid-19 image

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has issued a press release that spells out how the Covid-19 epidemic is going to be used to enable a “Transformation of London’s roads” via a “Streetspace” plan. It will mean giving space to new cycle lanes for example and more space for walking, effectively taking away road space for other users. See the press release below for more details.

This will include new temporary cycle lanes on Euston Road and on Park Lane, two of the main thoroughfares for traffic in London. TfL claims these changes are need to cope with a ten-fold increase in cycling and a five-fold increase in cycling as people avoid using public transport, but these estimates are surely simply incredible. In addition it says these changes may be made permanent.

Another example of using the epidemic as an excuse for measures that discriminate against vehicle users and which will cause even more traffic congestion is that from Lewisham Council. They have previously proposed a “Healthy Neighhourhoods” scheme which included many road closures. It has been strongly opposed by residents in Lee Green and other wards.

Now the Council has published on their web site a Covid-19 Transport Plan  (see https://lewishamcovidtransport.commonplace.is/about ). It explains how they plan to prioritise walking and cycling in the borough during the epidemic. But it just looks like the Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme under a different name. See image above for how “Modal Filters” will be used to stop traffic, i.e. close roads.

They plan to implement these proposals via the use of Temporary Traffic Orders (TTOs) rather than Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). But this is a misuse of the legislation that permits road closures by councils. TTOs should only be used for such things as emergency road repairs and should be temporary as the name implies. But the Council proposes turning them into ETOs without consultation in due course, and subsequently making them permanent.

The ABD has written to the Council pointing out this misuse of the legislation (see reference 2 below).

Readers who live in London should write to their local Member of Parliament asking them to stop such measures. I would suggest writing to the Mayor of London or the Mayor of Lewisham, but both are very unaccountable to the public and Sadiq Khan can simply ignore any objections.

Note that there is a lot of discussion on social media of these proposals. It would help to counter the activities of cyclist and other pressure groups if you get involved in those media.

Below is the Twitter account of the London ABD which you can follow to pick up the latest news, and there is a national ABD Twitter account also. There are also Facebook pages.

Join us in spreading the word about the opposition to irrational transport policies that favour pampered cyclists and prejudice vehicle users.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayors-bold-plan-will-overhaul-capitals-streets

Reference 2: Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 Section 14: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1984/27/section/14

ABD London Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

ABD National Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheABD

We also have a national Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/allianceofbritishdrivers/

And a Facebook page dedicated to opposition to Sadiq Khan’s transport strategy here: https://www.facebook.com/AgainstMTS/

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Lewisham Spending £0.5 Million With No Justification

The ABD has been running a campaign to oppose the road closures proposed as part of Lewisham Council’s “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme for Lee Green. We submitted a Freedom of Information Act request to obtain information to justify the scheme to which we now have most, if not all, of the answers.

The cost of the proposed “trial” will be just less than £500,000! Will the trial ever be abandoned if there are too many objections? That is very, very unlikely because Councils never want to admit they have wasted money. So the suggestion that it is a “trial scheme” is a fiction.

We also asked for what cost/benefit analysis had been done to justify the scheme. Apparently NONE!

We also asked for information on what traffic modelling had been done to see the impact of likely increases in traffic volumes on the major roads. It seems that it is still being carried out. In other words, the scheme proposals have been put forward without any study of the impact.

We asked for details of the consultations with the emergency services (fire, police, ambulance services). No formal consultations to date – only informal meetings. So clearly the proposal was to put in the trial scheme without doing any proper consultation with them first.

We asked for details of the road accident statistics. Some data has been provided. There were no fatal accidents in the Lee Green/Lewisham area covered by the scheme between 31/1/2013 and 31/12/2017 although there were a few serious and a large number of slight casualties. Drivers and vehicle passengers were the majority of casualties. The figures are typical for inner London boroughs.

We asked for information on air pollution in the area. The answer was that “baseline monitoring” is currently being carried out. So it seems that the scheme was proposed without key data on the historic air pollution and the proposed benefits from the scheme.

Bearing in mind the claims for “rat-running” on the area’s roads we asked for what proportion of the claimed vehicles were non-resident delivery or service vehicles. No data on that is available apparently.

In summary it seems the trial scheme proposals have been put forward without any proper investigation of the need for it. In addition, as no baselines have been established it will not be possible to say later whether the scheme has provided any benefits or not.

It is rather as the ABD suspected. The scheme has been proposed simply by councillors and council staff who have a prejudice against private vehicles and would like everyone to cycle, walk or use public transport.

There is no evidence that it will provide any health benefits as is claimed and it will simply be a waste of public funds. But with Transport for London providing the funds and the Mayor of London encouraging such schemes, this is the kind of perverse result that we are seeing.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Air Pollution in Lewisham

One of the justifications given for the “Healthy Neighbourhoods” schemes in Lee Green and Lewisham is that it will cut air pollution. It has even been suggested that it will contribute to saving the world from climate change (Lewisham Council has declared a “climate emergency”) when in reality any reduction in CO2 emissions in the UK will have negligible impact on total world emissions. The UK only produces 1% of CO2 emissions with China and the US being by far the biggest producers. That’s even assuming that CO2 is the major determinant of climate change which many people do not accept.

But the argument goes that removing vehicles from the roads of Lee Green will reduce atmospheric pollution significantly. The reality is very different. Let’s look at the facts.

A recent publication by Lewisham Council said “Domestic gas and electricity accounted for more than half of the boroughs carbon emissions”. Most domestic heating and that for offices, shops and schools is gas central heating which are major sources. In reality diesel and petrol cars contribute only 12% and 6% respectively of all emissions in London and they are falling rapidly – see the ABD’s full report on the subject here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Air-Quality-and-Vehicles-The-Truth.pdf . There are many other sources such as cooking, wood burning stoves and industrial processes apart from emissions from larger vehicles such as HGVs which are not present on most roads in Lee Green due to width and other restrictions.

There is also a very busy train line that runs through the area via Hither Green station which undoubtedly contributes to particulate pollution. The whole area is also covered by speed humps on all the minor roads which is well known to increase air pollution very substantially – see  https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2016/06/13/speed-humps-and-air-pollution/ for details.

Air pollution in Lewisham has probably increased in recent years because of the growing population and “densification” of the borough. More people means more emissions of all kinds because human activity generates them. Cutting out road vehicles alone will not reduce them significantly and the proposed scheme will not reduce vehicle numbers – residents who own cars will just be taking longer routes to go anywhere thus generating more emissions to offset the small numbers who choose to walk or cycle more.

The proposals for Healthy Neighbourhoods in Lee Green and Lewisham will have negligible impact on air pollution or CO2 emissions and might actually increase them, particularly on certain roads. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn. If the Council really wanted to reduce air pollution, they would take other steps and adopt other policies.

I have asked Lewisham Council for the data to substantiate their claims about the impact of the Healthy Neighbourhood proposals and the current air pollution sources but have yet to receive an answer.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Lewisham Neighbourhood Meeting – Councillors Ignore Public Opposition.

Lewisham Meeting 2020-02-12

Last night (11/2/2020) there was a “Lee Green Assembly” meeting at which the main topic was the proposed Healthy Neighbourhoods scheme. It was well attended with I would guess over 100 local residents there. I tried to ask some questions but was ignored; however my points were well covered by other people.

The event was managed to avoid debate – for example by dealing with questions in threes which avoids follow-up responses. It was clear that some people supported the scheme but it was also obvious that more people opposed the scheme than supported it. Councillors present simply brushed off the objections. One speaker suggested it was appropriate that the event was held in a school because they were being treated as schoolchildren.

I will cover some of the speeches and the questions/answers in detail but this is not a verbatim report:

  1. Councillor James Rathbone (for contact info see below) opened the meeting but Councillor Octavia Holland then spoke. She said the key objective was to reduce traffic. The drivers of the policy are air quality and pedestrian safety. She apologised for people not hearing about the proposals. She mentioned there had been more than one petition on the subject (Note: one of these is still open – see https://tinyurl.com/wpbx57u – you may care to sign it). She also said that 60% of traffic in the area is not starting or stopping within it and admitted that the scheme was going to be inconvenient for some people – that is particularly so as 65% of households in the area own a car. It will need significant change in how people organise their lives.
  1. The scheme is based on the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy and there will be a consultation during the trial period. The scheme also depends on approval by Transport for London (TfL) as it might impact on bus journey times. There will also be multiple “drop-in” sessions, and it was said later that will be another “letter drop” (Comments: so why can’t they simply ask residents whether they support the proposal or not?).
  1. It is also proposed to extend the current CPZs across the area and there will be a public consultation on those proposals.
  1. Questions were then taken by Octavia and Josh Learner who is the Cycling and Walking Programme Manager at Lewisham Council.
  1. The first Question/Comment was from a police constable who said the modal filters will impact emergency response times. It will apparently require the police to get out to unlock and remove the “bollard” to gain access and replace afterwards. She said that you would be “buggered” if it was a single person call-out. The response was that it works OK in other similar schemes.
  1. Another issue raised was the increased traffic on Hall Park Lane coming off the A205 to avoid the road closures. Answer: This is being discussed with Greenwich Council who are responsible for that area – more closures might be imposed.
  1. A cyclist who lives on Burnt Ash Hill supported the scheme but raised the issue of monitoring of air pollution before and after the trial (there may be more traffic on that road, increasing air pollution). The answer was that it will be monitored.
  1. The next speaker who lives on Manor Lane near the blockages was concerned about increased traffic and difficulty getting onto the South Circular which is already a problem. Answer: this will be looked at.
  1. The next speaker complained about the consultation. Why not a simple vote on the scheme, with a letter sent to everyone? (Comment: this is a very good point).  The answer from a councillor was simply waffle at which point they were shouted down. But it was said that the scheme would not be stopped regardless of the public views [in other words, the “consultation” is a farce as the public will be ignored anyway).
  1. A resident of Burnt Ash Hill said that they were going to be poisoned but you are ignoring us, and why can’t we have proper consultation. Councillor Rathbone said that Councils often went ahead without consultation and mentioned a similar scheme in the London Borough of Bromley at Shortlands (Note: the Shortlands scheme is very different and does not involve road closures. There is no public opposition and Bromley Council is very good at doing wide public consultations when necessary).
  1. The next speaker spelled out the impact of low traffic speeds on air pollution and mentioned the negative impact of a scheme in Walthamstow. The answer given was that it will be monitored in the trial.
  1. Another person raised the possible conflict of interest of having a TfL employee on the board of Sustrans who were developing the scheme.
  1. Another speaker raised concerns about the delay to emergency services and access to the South Circular. The answer was that the emergency services had been contacted but had no objections.
  1. One speaker suggested “timed” closures instead of 24-hour coverage to stop rat running during commuting hours. Answer: it could not be done as part of the trial.
  1. A speaker asked whether there were targets for reduction of air pollution and traffic. Answer: There was none because the final design was not settled and there were “too many moving parts”. Comment: this is a major omission and makes it clear that with no targets being set the “trial” will be considered a success regardless of the facts.
  1. The next question was “had they consulted local businesses”? For example Brewers on Chiltonian Estate? Answer: businesses had been overlooked and they are looking into that. Note: the ABD sent a few letters to such businesses but we could not cover all of them and they will be very badly affected.
  1. A resident of Dallinger Road queried the closures and asked how vehicles were expected to turn around when they ran into one. Answer was that perhaps we should move the closures to the other end of those roads. Comment: I don’t see how that solves the problem.
  1. The next speaker complained about the problem of quick access to Lewisham Hospital as all the fast routes would be cut off (the speaker’s husband had often had to be taken to A&E). Answer: there will be some people who take longer to get to hospital. (Comment: delays to emergency services are already a major problem in London where they consistently fail to meet response time targets. Don’t have a heart attack in London as you are likely to die as a result! The road closures in Lewisham will make matters worse).

It was mentioned in the meeting that another draft of the scheme will be proposed. The last one published was Version 11 so there will be a Version 12, or 13, 14, etc as someone suggested.

It was very clear from the comments of people at the meeting that there is widespread opposition to the scheme as proposed, particularly against the road closures. These might make air pollution slightly better for some, but a lot worse for others. Journey times will be substantially increased.

But councillors and council staff seem to want to push ahead regardless. Anyone who has had dealings with councils will know that they hate to admit mistakes and reconsider proposals or abandon them despite public opposition. That is what is happening in Lewisham.

It is also clear that Lewisham Council is pushing ahead with a “trial” of the road closures before doing a proper public consultation. This is an “arse about face” approach to put it politely. They will never to be taken out later.

I urge all residents of the Lee Green area to contact their councillors below.

Contact information:

Councillors:

James Rathbone: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2990

Octavia Holland: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=2989

Jim Mallory: http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgUserInfo.aspx?UID=167

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

Lewisham Neighbourhood Scheme – Will Traffic Simply Evaporate?

I visited the Council’s “public drop-in event” for the Lewisham “Healthy Neighbourhoods” scheme yesterday. It was so crowded that it was difficult to get a useful conversation with any council staff (I will be sending them some written questions instead), but I did talk to a few of the other attendees who were all opposed to the road closures and the lack of proper consultation.

Display Panel 3 2020-02-06

There were a number of maps and panels on display, including one with a headline title of “Traffic Evaporation” – see above. If you read the detail of the panel it claims only 11% of traffic disappeared from such schemes, but most of it found alternative routes. In the case of Lee Green this will mean more traffic on other minor routes, effectively displacing the problem and affecting other residents. But there will be a lot more on major roads such as the A20, A205 and A2212 thus creating long traffic queues and more air pollution not less.

One amusing answer I overheard in response to a question about emergency vehicle access was that police cars should be able to just “barge through” the barriers. That sounds exceedingly unlikely. Also some emergency vehicles may be able to get through the camera-enforced “bus gate” on Manor Park but I don’t understand how they will get through the other road closures. Delays to ambulances, fire engines and other emergency service vehicles are a major risk to life – see our recent blog post here which covers that issue: https://tinyurl.com/whzxksr . It is simply wrong for Lewisham Council to put in a scheme that introduces such delays.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Lewisham Closing Roads for “Healthy Neighbourhoods”

The London Borough of Lewisham is proposing to close roads in a number of areas as part of a programme to reduce traffic and promote “healthy neighbourhoods”. There has been minimal public consultation on these proposals which would cause enormous inconvenience to local residents, visitors and delivery drivers apart from causing congestion on other roads.

The first area they plan to cover is Lewisham and Lee Green where road closures will be installed on a “trial” basis soon but other areas they propose to cover are East Sydenham, Telegraph Hill and Bellingham. See https://tinyurl.com/yy9t92gn for more background information. Such schemes are of course a part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy to get us all walking, cycling and using public transport and prejudicing those who wish to use motor vehicles of any kinds. We are likely to see similar proposals from other London boroughs – at least those of a similar complexion to Lewisham who are very much against all road vehicles.

More details of the proposals for Lewisham and Lee Green are present here: https://streetbuilder.io/lewishamandleegreen/site/proposals . Note the proposals to close Manor Lane, Manor Park and Upwood Road which would be particularly inconvenient. The latter would also affect residents who live in the Borough of Greenwich who have not been consulted.

Residents of these boroughs who are likely to be affected by these proposals should certainly contact their local councillors and there is a “public drop-in event” on the 6th February, 1-8pm, Good Sheppard Church Hall, Handen Road, SE12 8NR where you can tell council officers what you think about the plans. There are also email addresses you can send in objections to in the first link given above and there is a meeting in Lee Green on the 11th February – see details here:

http://councilmeetings.lewisham.gov.uk/mgMeetingAttendance.aspx?ID=5740

The ABD will be making objections to these plans but local residents need to do so also!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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