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

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

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

Mayor’s Transport Strategy – Another Attack on Private Transport

London Mayor Sadiq Khan published his draft Transport Strategy yesterday. It is now open to public consultation – see:

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

Here’s a brief summary of its contents (a fuller report will be in our next newsletter):

  1. 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 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.
  2. Parking provision will be restricted in new developments – yes we could be back to the regime where inadequate parking provision in new housing developments creates excessive on-street parking.
  3. There is a target of a zero emission transport system by 2050 (helpful if you can live that long perhaps).
  4. 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. How much will it cost and why will it reduce congestion are surely the questions to ask?
  5. The target is to reduce freight traffic in the central London morning peak by 10 per cent on current levels by 2026, and to reduce total London traffic by 10-15 per cent by 2041.

It is interesting to look at the graphics that accompany the words of this vision. 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 and will be suggesting an alternative strategy in response.

But Londoner’s might get what they voted for as after electing Mayor Khan they should not be surprised at this latest attack on personal liberty.

Roger Lawson