Changes to Congestion Charge – PHVs Targeted To Raise Money

The Mayor of London and TfL have announced proposals to change the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) so as to raise more money. The main change is that PHVs (minicabs) will no longer be exempt from paying this tax. Uber and other drivers will no doubt be up in arms about this and it will mean their clients pay a lot more.

Another change is that the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) which currently applies to vehicles that emit less than 75g/km of CO2 will need to have zero emission capability by 2019 and by 2021 only electric vehicles will qualify. That means that many of the 20,000 vehicles currently registered for the ULED will need to be changed if the owners wish to continue to qualify for the discount.

A Blatant Lie

What’s the justification for these changes? The consultation announcement says that the Congestion Charge “was a huge success”. It claims a reduction in traffic and a 30% reduction in congestion as well as improvements in air quality since it was introduced. These claims are simply spurious. There was a short-term reduction in some vehicles entering the central zone, but the numbers of taxis, PHVs and buses increased. The result was that congestion soon returned to what it was before the tax was introduced and has since got substantially worse. Neither was there any improvement in air pollution which was never expected to happen and did not. See this web page for the facts: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm

The claims made by TfL are downright lies. But traffic delays have been increasing which is the justification put forward by TfL for the proposed changes.

Why Should Taxis Be Exempt?

One controversial aspect of the original scheme was that registered taxis (black cabs) and PHVs (private hire vehicles) were exempt from the congestion tax. It was never very clear as to why some vehicles should be exempt while others are not. Why should private car occupants pay the charge while people using other vehicles for similar journeys should not? Even more puzzling is why PHVs are now proposed to be taxed while taxis are not. What is the logic of this? Note that the increase in PHVs due to the popularity of services such as Uber has led to many more vehicles entering central London of late and hence have contributed to congestion significantly in the last couple of years. But will the tax now proposed actually reduce their numbers? That is surely unlikely for the same reason that the congestion charge scheme did not reduce congestion. The unsatisfied public demand is such as to soon soak up the capacity released by people unwilling to pay the tax. You cannot solve congestion via taxation!

It’s About Money

The conclusion must be that these proposals are more about raising money for the Budget of Mayor Sadiq Khan. He desperately needs it. See previous blog posts for coverage of that topic.

A Timely Announcement

One might ask why the Mayor chose to announce these changes on a Friday lunchtime when the news channels will be dominated by the Brexit decisions and the England World Cup match for the next 48 hours. This might enable him to escape the opprobrium of PHV drivers for a few hours but not much longer I suggest.

More Information

See this web page for more information and to respond to an on-line consultation: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/private-hire-charge-exemption/?cid=ccyourviews

You may also wish to tell us how the ABD should respond to the consultation as we will certainly be doing so.

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The Cost of Khan

Gareth Bacon, leader of the GLA Conservatives, has published a very interesting document entitled “The Cost of Khan”. It supplies a half-term report on the regime of Mayor Sadiq Khan and the negative impact he has had in certain areas (crime, planning, parking, housebuilding for example). In essence he suggests one of the key problems is financial mismanagement.

Of particular interest to our readers will be his comments on the activities of TfL (Transport for London) and the budget for that organisation. It covers:

  • Cancellation of new tube trains for the Jubilee and Northern Lines that would have provided much needed extra capacity. That might have saved £600 from the TfL budget but that’s desperately needed after Khan’s expensive promise to freeze public transport fares which cost at least £640 million in foregone revenue. Even that promise was only partly kept.
  • The pay of executive staff in TfL. The number who are paid more than £100,000 p.a. increased by 25% last year so there were 576 such employees. Is the Mayor really cutting the flab out of TfL budgets as he promised to do?
  •  The “T-Charge” which was introduced last October and will cost Londoners £23 million a year despite the Mayor’s own Impact Assessment saying it will have only a negligible impact on pollution (and that has been borne out by real data since).
  •  Nominee passes which you may not be aware of are highlighted. These allow TfL employees to nominate family members and anyone who resides in the same household to obtain free travel. Even flatmates qualify! There are 39,884 people who are nominees and the cost might be equivalent to £32 million in lost revenue per year.

Those and other reports show how the Mayor has been so wasteful of financial resources with the result that he is desperate to raise money from the T-Charge and the ULEZ charge which will impose major unnecessary costs on Londoners. In the personal view of this writer TfL continues to be a massive and very expensive bureaucracy which is unaccountable to the public. It formulates transport policy that will increase the bureaucracy and then does public consultations designed to get the right answers. TfL needs major reform but the Mayor does not seem to have it under control.

The “Cost of Khan” Report is present here: https://www.glaconservatives.co.uk/uploads/1/1/7/8/117899427/final_cost_of_khan__2_.pdf

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: The Real Reason for the ULEZ – It’s About Money

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has said before that we are suspicious about the reasons given for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London. The proposed measures, particularly the extension to within the North/South Circular, seemed disproportionate to the likely benefits from reductions in air pollution. This is particularly so, bearing in mind that emissions from vehicles are rapidly falling, as newer vehicles replace older ones.

Now we know the truth!

In April 2017 we asked for information on the financial budgets for the ULEZ – the likely costs and income the Mayor would get. The request was refused and we eventually had to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). We have now received the requested data following a judgement in our favour. These are the figures received from Transport for London (TfL):

  • Implementation costs: £38.4 million.
  • Operating income and costs:
  • Impact of introduction of ULEZ on income (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (+ve is net increase in income): £55.3 million.
  • Impact of introduction of ULEZ on costs (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (-ve is net increase in costs): -£12.7 million.

But these figures make absolutely no sense as against the figures we have calculated for operating income based on data provided in the ULEZ consultation documents. For example we estimate income over five years as being £313.6 million rather than £55.3 million.

In reality TfL may be making a profit over five years of £300.9 million for a capital investment of £38.4 million. At a stroke Sadiq Khan will solve his budget problems with the ULEZ implemented.

The Mayor has great financial difficulties, as is apparent from his recently published budget for the next few years, where he begs for more financial support from central Government. But he surely will not need their support with this scheme in place, even though he does not have the funds to do it without more borrowing.

Just like the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), where charges were later raised (more than doubled), thus making it a very profitable for TfL, once the infrastructure, such as cameras are in place for the ULEZ, charges can then be raised. The scheme can also be extended way past when traffic air pollution ceases to be a problem, thus potentially introducing more general road pricing.

Will the health benefits outweigh the costs of the scheme to Londoners? The answer is no because they are only valued at £7.1 million over 5 years. This duplicity in justifying the ULEZ on health grounds, which few are likely to oppose, when the real reason may be to fund his empire, is surely typical of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s approach to politics and democracy. Who does not want cleaner air? But there are lots of ways to improve air quality from transport and other sources, without imposing such enormous costs on road users.

To remind readers, the ULEZ charge for non-compliant cars will be £12.50, imposed 24/7, and enormous numbers of people will need to buy new cars to avoid this cost.

Readers should make sure they oppose the extension of the ULEZ by responding to this public consultation before the 28th February: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/environment/air-quality-consultation-phase-3b/?cid=airquality-consultation

More Information 

Our full analysis of the costs and benefits of the ULEZ are contained in this document: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Cost-of-the-ULEZ.pdf

The ULEZ proposals are part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which the ABD is vigorously campaigning against – see this web page for more information: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The unnecessary delays and obstruction by TfL in responding to the ABD’s reasonable request for information on ULEZ costs is documented in this blog post: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/press-release-tfl-forced-to-disclose-ulez-costs/

Our views on the ULEZ proposals and how the Mayor is scaring Londoner’s unnecessarily about air pollution and health are documented here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/panicking-londoners-consultation-on-ulez-extension/

For more information on this issue, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.

TfL Business Plan – Mayor Sadiq Khan Wants More Money

Just before Christmas, Transport for London published their proposed Business Plan for the five years to 2022/23. See http://content.tfl.gov.uk/fc-20171205-item10-draft-business-plan.pdf for the details, but what follows is a summary, with some comments.

The foreword by Mayor Sadiq Khan contains the usual whinging from him about the lack of central Government subsidy and his budget difficulties. It is true that TfL no longer receive a central Government grant for operating subsidies, but that was agreed by Boris Johnson on the basis that they would obtain extra income from the new Elizabeth line. There are still substantial capital grants though.

The Mayor is of course suffering from his self-imposed hair-shirt by promising to freeze public transport fares in London when campaigning to get elected. He has implemented that, at least as far as TfL controlled fares are concerned. He even goes so far as to say that this “will put £200 back in Londoners’ pockets by 2020”. Surely he is confusing stopping increases (which mainly covered inflation), with reducing fares?

TfL’s latest budgets are particularly constrained by a reduction in forecast public transport revenues. Bus usage for example has been falling, so revenue growth is anticipated to be lower than expected in previous budgets. Bus operating deficit was £599 million in 2016/2017 but will rise to £632 million this year and be has high as £647 million in 2022/23. These are enormous numbers.

Looking at the Financial Summary (page 30), shows that overall TfL will show an operating surplus before “capital renewals” and “financing costs”. After the latter they are running big deficits up until 2020/21. This is what one might term “political presentation of finance data”. Cash flow was negative to the tune of £1,353 million in 2016/17 and it only really becomes positive 4 years later. For someone with experience of looking at the finances of organisations, as this writer has, this looks a very unhealthy financial profile.

One result of this financial plan is that the Mayor is cutting funding for road maintenance that goes to local boroughs. This will not necessarily affect minor road maintenance but it will mean cuts to major projects. Part of the reason is because a lot of the money is going to support cycling initiatives, the redevelopment (pedestrianisation) of Oxford Street and other major projects that are mainly in central London.

Local boroughs are likely to be very unhappy with the cuts to funding of Local Implementation Plan (LIP) programmes, particularly as projects tend to be planned years in advance so abrupt changes in funds available may mean a lot of planning work is wasted.

The lack of major renewal work on roads will surely cause the proverbial “stitch in time” to come true. It will lead to expensive short-term fixes, and more major work in due course if proper maintenance is delayed. For example, bridges often require substantial work after many years of use and that cannot be deferred forever.

Big projects that are consuming the funds are more cycle superhighways, Vauxhall Cross, Wandsworth Gyratory, the Silvertown Tunnel and the Rotherhithe to Canary Wharf bridge (which I commented on negatively as regards its’ financial wisdom in a previous blog post).

The Mayor and TfL are complaining that the cost of operating and maintaining London’s roads of up to £350m per year are effectively being cross-subsidised by public transport fare payers and they need some of the money raised from Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) to pay for it. This is nonsense. The Mayor has very substantial income from business rates and other sources (such as congestion charging) – these more than cover the costs of operating and maintaining the road network.

All that is happening is that the Mayor is choosing to spend large amounts of money on cycling, on his “healthy streets” projects, on expensive remodeling of gyratories (past ones have introduced congestion where none existed before), on massive subsidies to bus travel when nowhere else in the country does this take place and while removing budgets from local London boroughs. This is not a formula that will please Londoners who understand what is happening, nor improve TfL’s financial position.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

 

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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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Mayor Pushes Ahead With ULEZ

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced today that he is definitely going ahead with the introduction of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in central London from 2019, i.e. he is bringing forward the original planned date based on the results of his last consultation.

This will cover any vehicle that enters the existing Congestion Charge zone and will operate seven days per week, 24 hours a day, unlike the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax). The additional charge will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes that do not meet defined emission standards, or £100 per day for lorries, buses and coaches.

Diesel cars that do not meet the Euro 6 standard, which means most of them that will be more than 4 years old in 2019, will need to pay the additional charge – making it cost as much as £22.50 to drive into central London. Petrol cars will only have to meet the Euro 4 standard so even older such vehicles may be OK. Go to this web page to check your vehicle: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/ultra-low-emission-zone/check-your-vehicle?intcmp=32646

The ULEZ will replace the “T-Charge” on older vehicles which came into force in October this year.

The Mayor is also introducing a “particulate matter standard” to the ULEZ standards bearing in mind recent concerns about that kind of air pollution. It is not clear how that will work as it suggests that vehicles that comply with the Euro standards might fail on other grounds.

Bearing in mind that the ULEZ may be extended across a wider area (for example to the North/South circular), it seems likely that not many London residents will be buying diesel cars in future as emissions standards tighten, and more will buy electric vehicles.

The consultation responses (over 18,000 in total) showed 72% of the general public support the principle of a ULEZ, with only 21% opposed. But for those who drive within central London, 65% were opposed. Some 52% of drivers were also opposed to bringing forward the ULEZ to 2019. The ABD was one of only three stakeholder groups who opposed the ULEZ.

The Mayor also makes a pitch for a national vehicle scrappage scheme, a new Clean Air Act, changes to VED, and more money for City Hall in his press release.

Will the announced measures reduce air pollution? Probably although these are improving anyway as older vehicles are scrapped and replaced. But the main culprits as regards pollution were and are HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis. Imposing such draconian standards on cars and even motorbikes 24×7 is not a cost-effective solution. The fact that the Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have failed to provide any cost/benefit justification, nor even any of the budget costs of the scheme in response to an FOI Act request just tells you one thing. This scheme is as much about making money for the Major’s coffers as improving air pollution. This was also reflected in the consultation comments “written in” where 5% of respondents suggested it was a tax/revenue raising scheme for TfL.

But there were very few comments in support of extending the ULEZ boundary. Only 1% supported extending it to the North/South Circular. Let us hope that kills off that idea which would impose a major financial burden on many more London residents.

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Mayor’s Latest Announcements on ULEZ

On the 4th April the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, made his latest announcements on how he intends to reduce air pollution from road vehicles in London. Not a mention of how he intends to reduce the 50% of air pollution caused by things other than road transport which is still growing as the population of London increases, but let us say no more about that for the present.

Mr Khan has revised his previous proposals somewhat, presumably based on the last public survey which did show overall support for his proposals with some reservations. But he is now definitely committed to:

– The introduction of a “T-Charge” of £10 for older vehicles (pre-2006) commencing in October this year. This will only apply within the existing Congestion Tax area of central London.

– The introduction of an Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) for all vehicles from April 2019, which will again only apply to the central London zone and replace the “T-Charge” mentioned above. The ULEZ daily fee to drive in the zone will apply 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and apply to all vehicles that do not meet the following standards:

a) Petrol Euro 4/ IV

b) Diesel Euro 6/ VI

c) Powered Two Wheelers Euro 3

These standards mean that petrol cars more than around 13 years old in 2019, and diesel cars over 4 years old in 2019 will have to pay a charge which will be £12.50 for cars, vans and motorbikes, and £100 for heavy vehicles such as HGVs and coaches.

They will be in addition to the Congestion Charge where applicable. The ULEZ will apply to all vehicle types, except black taxis, which are already being made cleaner through licensing restrictions. From next year all new licenced taxis must be zero-emissions capable.

Unlike the Congestion Charge, which only applies for limited hours on weekdays, these charges will apply all the time. So trips into central London for the evening will cost you £12.50.

There is again a public consultation on the above which everyone who drives in London should respond to and it is present here: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/airquality-consultation . PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. 

In addition to the above the Mayor is considering expanding the ULEZ to nearly all of Greater London in respect of heavy diesel vehicles such as buses, coaches and lorries to be implemented in 2020. Also he proposes to consult on extending the ULEZ to all other vehicles including cars within the North/South Circular, to be implemented in 2021. So you could be paying £12.50 just to drive within that ring road, although a lot of the previous respondents to the last consultation suggested a lower charge.

Mr Khan is calling on the Government to deliver a nationwide diesel vehicle scrappage scheme but there is no sign yet that the Government is listening. There is some concession to residents who live within the ULEZ and for disabled vehicle users who will have a “sunset” period until 2023.

Comment: some information required to make any intelligent comments on these proposals is not apparently available. For example what is the likely impact of these proposals on the level of air pollution within the zone or outside it? What is the cost/benefit justification? What is the cost of implementing this scheme and how much revenue and profit will TfL obtain from it as a result?

These questions are very important because the Mayor has a very strong financial interest in these proposals as the additional charges will no doubt raise much needed revenue for the Mayor and TfL whose budgets are currently under pressure.

It is most regrettable that this is yet another example of asking the public’s views on a matter without giving them the full facts to enable them to make a reasoned judgement on the proposals.

I have asked TfL to provide this information and will let you know if I receive it.

But having walked the streets of the City of London last week I certainly think something needs to be done about air pollution because my lungs were definitely affected and I have not suffered from asthma for many years. The problem was that all the roads such as Cannon Street, Eastcheap, Bishopsgate and around Aldgate were just gridlocked in the middle of the day with stationary traffic which consisted mainly of buses, LGVs, taxis and private hire vehicles. This happens quite regularly now because of the impact of the Cycle Superhighways, road closures, removal of gyratories and other measures promoted by the previous Mayor and local authorities over the last few years.

Vehicles may have been getting cleaner, only somewhat confounded by the Government’s misconceived promotion of diesel vehicles so as to save CO2 emissions. But if transport planners create gridlock then the inevitable will happen – air pollution will continue to get worse until only zero emission and expensive electric vehicles are allowed. We also need to tackle other sources of air pollution and the best way to do that is to stop the growth in the London population or even reduce it.

Postscript: on 9/4/2017:  This interview with Professor Tony Frew, a respiratory expert on TalkRadio is definitely worth listening to if you want the facts about air pollution and its sources: http://talkradio.co.uk/news/sadiq-khans-40000-pollution-deaths-year-zombie-statistic-and-isnt-true-says-respiratory

Julia Hartley-Brewer whom conducted that interview also attacked the promotion of the 40,000 deaths per year in the UK from air pollution in an article in the Daily Telegraph on the 7th April. She said “This 40,000 figure is alarmingly high. It is also alarmingly wrong”.

And as of today I am still awaiting a response from TfL on the data requested giving the data on the impact of the ULEZ on air pollution. Not even an acknowledgement of my request so far so I have submitted a Freedom of Information Act request.

Roger Lawson