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 meets 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 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

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

Travel in London – It’s Certainly Changing

A report that should be essential reading for everyone who has to travel around the London metropolis has recently been published by Transport for London (TfL). It’s called “Travel in London – Report 8). It shows how transport in London has been changing, partly as a result of the growth in population, partly from attempts to encourage cycling and “modal shift” in general and the impact of a buoyant economy. Here’s a brief summary of the contents, with some comments.

The population of London grew to a record 8.6 million people in 2015, the highest point since 1939. In 2014 total trips rose to 26.6 million in the average day – that’s 8% more than in 2008, and 2% more than the previous year. In other words, travel has been showing strong growth in London.

There is however a trend for falling private car use, but rising use of public transport and more cycling and walking. As it says “a feat unprecedented in any major city“, driven by “consistent policies”. The population of London is expected to continue to grow rapidly, but will feature more older people.

About half of all bus journeys in England are now made in London – an unbelievable figure which demonstrates just how much they are subsidised. But bus patronage has levelled off in recent years because of “a similar trend in service supply”, i.e. fewer buses are being run as subsidies have been slightly reduced so the consumption falls to put it in plain English.

London Underground, DLR and Overground rail services likewise show strong growth with more capacity on these lines supporting the growth.

Road traffic has fallen for much of the last decade, but has increased in the last two years. For example traffic volumes were up by 3.4% in central London in the most recent year, and 1.9% in outer London. This is thought to reflect population growth and economic trends, but the increase in traffic has brought pressure to bear as congestion rises from reduced road space and other causes. As the document says: “….effective network capacity for general traffic continued to be reallocated to other MTS (Mayors Transport Strategy) priorities“.  I think they mean changes to accommodate more cyclists, more bus lanes, removal of gyratories in the name of road safety and similar such measures. There was a sharp 13% increase in average traffic delay in 2014 according to the report, which won’t surprise anyone who has to drive in London – and that does not even reflect the changes made since the start of 2015.

The number of licensed taxis has remained stable, but the number of private hire vehicles (minicabs) has risen sharply – up by 19% in the latest year alone. That has had a significant impact on traffic congestion of course.

Cycling levels rose by 10.3% between 2013 and 2014, and walking has risen but only by the same trend as population growth. There could be more people commuting into central London by bike than by car soon, but that change is much less noticeable in the outer London boroughs.

There are positive trends in CO2, PM10 and NOX emissions (a lot of which come from transport vehicles) reflecting initiatives to improve local air quality.

Comment: this report shows the impact that Boris Johnson’s policies have been having on transport in London. Basically more people cycling, with cars discouraged by reductions in road capacity. Cycling has also been encouraged by sharp increases in public transport fares which have been rising faster than inflation making it one of the most expensive cities in the world for public transport – unless of course you are one of those who hold a Freedom pass where your travel is subsidised by the rest of the population for reasons which this writer finds difficult to understand. Originally introduced by the Greater London Council in 1973, it has remained a financial millstone around the necks of London boroughs even though the GLA was subsequently abolished by Margaret Thatcher.

Encouraging more cycling has had some unintended consequences because it is one of the less safe modes of transport, particularly when you get a lot of new, inexperienced cyclists on the roads or those who like to “pedal furiously” as is now a frequent sight on the roads of London. The end result is demands for more measures to improve the safety of cyclists, which can be very expensive.

Are all these changes of benefit? You might not think so if you are one of those increasing numbers of older people who are not able or willing to cycle. It seems unfortunate that Londoners have never really been asked what they would like as public consultations on these matters have been low key and certainly the cost/benefit of all these changes have never been spelled out. But it seems unlikely that this will be a debating topic for the competing Mayoral candidates.

Roger Lawson