The Danger of Encouraging Cycling

There is a very good article which has been published by an organisation named “Single File” on the dangers of encouraging cycling. It suggests London is about to have an explosion in cycling deaths as more cyclists on the roads mean more deaths of cyclists.

It also demolishes the myth that Holland has made cycling both safe and popular. Holland has more than twice the number of fatal cycling deaths than the UK despite the fact that they have many more segregated cycle lanes. The article also points out that getting more people to cycle will not solve London’s traffic congestion problems.

One good quotation from the article is this: “When you reallocate limited road space on a 24×7 basis for bicycles, the problem you introduce is this  –  in London only one in 50 road users are cyclists,  and that’s only during peak hour.  The rest of the time that precious road space becomes woefully underused”.

See https://singlefile.org/london-is-about-to-have-an-explosion-in-cycling-deaths/ for the article.

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London Elections – Runners and Riders

We have elections for the position of London Mayor in May, plus elections for the London Assembly. In addition there are a few bye-elections in the local boroughs although the main elections for those are not until 2022 so you won’t be able to get rid of those councillors who support the LTNs until then. The main candidates for Mayor and their parties are as follows (in alphabetic order):

BAILEY Shaun, Conservative Party Candidate

BALAYEV Kam, Renew

BERRY Sian, Green Party

BROWN Valerie, The Burning Pink Party

CORBYN Piers, Let London Live

FOX Laurence, The Reclaim Party

GAMMONS Peter, UKIP

HEWISON Richard, Rejoin

HUDSON Vanessa, Animal Welfare Party

KELLEHER Steve, Social Democratic Party

KHAN Sadiq, Labour Party

KURTEN David, Heritage Party

LONDON Farah, Independent

OBUNGE Nims, Independent

PORRITT Luisa, Liberal Democrats

REID Mandu, Vote Women’s Equality Party

ROSE Brian, London Real Party

Sadiq Khan is well ahead of Shaun Bailey in the opinion polls with other candidates not appearing to have much chance of winning at this point in time. The BBC has been saying that only candidates from the main parties have ever won the Mayoral election but they are forgetting that Ken Livingstone won the position after standing as an independent – he only later rejoined the Labour Party. You should also bear in mind that the Mayoral vote is a primary/secondary vote system. You get to chose two candidates and your secondary vote will be counted if your first choice does not get an overall majority. This means you can vote for “less popular” candidates as a first choice without detracting from backing the one you might expect to have a chance of winning.

I will cover the policies of the main candidates as published in their manifestos as regards transport issues only. I have omitted those candidates for which I could not find any details of their manifestos or policies related to transport.

Shaun Bailey – He aims for a transport network fit for a global city by restoring order to Transport for London’s finances so we protect the services Londoners rely on. To achieve this he plans to introduce corporate sponsorship on the tube, and retain the concessionary fares for the under 16s and over 60s. This will also enable him to scrap the proposed rise in Council tax arising from the Mayor’s precept. He will use revenues from the ULEZ to replace old buses with zero-emission buses. Cutting harmful emissions by 17%. And Shaun will provide an interest-free loan to every black cab driver so they can switch to electric cabs (he claims this is equivalent of taking one million diesel cars off London’s roads).

Shaun will set up a London Infrastructure Bank. This will be kept in public hands, attracting money from a mixture of private and public sources. The Bank will be used to fund long-term transport projects. Like repairs to Hammersmith Bridge and Crossrail 2.

He will also reverse the congestion charge hike, scrap the ULEZ extension and the proposed outer London road tax. He also says he will listen to Londoners and suspend every single unwanted LTN.

Kam Balayev – I was unable to find a detail manifesto but he says he will “Revise the congestion charge and freeze fares on TfL” (the latter is of course one reason why Khan’s policies have resulted in TfL’s financial difficulties).

Sian Berry – She would “Reduce traffic and cancel the Silvertown Road Tunnel, investing instead in healthy streets, walking, cycling, better buses and new public transport links”. She would expand the ULEZ scheme to cover the whole of London and also introduce a road pricing plan. She will cancel road projects and introduce a workplace parking levy. Plus there will be more funding for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods. Clearly a candidate not likely to be popular with our readers!

Valerie Brown – She would scrap the position of Mayor and replace it with “citizen assemblies”, i.e. the undemocratic system of selecting people in a way other than by a simple vote. Not a candidate to be seriously considered I suggest.

Piers Corbyn – He recently sent me this email: “I am a candidate for Mayor of London and as you may have noticed I am totally opposed to ULEZ extension. I also agree with all (or almost all as far as I can see) your other policies. If Mayor – and this is truly possible, we are finding massive support – I would also review the existing ULEZ for which I cannot see justification. An important issue is extra journey lengths of people from outside zones for avoidance. This increases pollution. I’ve read your superb document on ULEZ extension”. He certainly seems to be a candidate worth considering therefore.

Laurence Fox – He plans to “GET LONDON MOVING”. He proposes free tubes and buses for six months (but the cost and how he might pay for that is unclear) and to scrap all Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and unnecessary cycle lanes. He proposes to scrap “lock-downs” and would put up statues to London’s heroes and heroines – not tear them down. Clearly a “populist” candidate, but has he got any experience of managing a large organisation?

Peter Gammons – He says: “I want to get London moving again. There are over 2 million miles of unused tunnels, streets, and chambers beneath London. This abandoned network was secretly built by the Ministry of Defence, Post Office, and BT”.

He also says: “As mayor, I will put a stop to Khan’s war on motorists. I am passionate about supporting London’s taxi drivers and will launch a full review into reopening roads which Khan has closed. Park Lane is one such road that needs urgent review. I’m tired of hypocrites like Sadiq Khan trying to make everybody walk or cycle whilst he swans around London in a £300,000 five litre Range Rover. Whereas Khan is tearing up trees to build new bicycle lanes, I am proposing a new tree-planting initiative. This is a strategy supported by ecologists for combating CO2 emission. I want to convert these disused spaces into walkways, safe cycle lanes, and create the world’s first underground ‘Pod’ transport system. This ambitious project will speed up the city and clear up London’s congestion – an issue that consecutive Conservative and Labour administrations have failed to solve”. Certainly some interesting ideas from this candidate.

Richard Hewison – Campaigning on a platform to rejoin the EU over which the Mayor has no say so surely a vote for him would be wasted.

Vanessa Hudson – She is primarily a single-issue candidate focussed on animal welfare but she does say that she would: “Incentivise public transport use, demand increased funding from Government to ensure affordability, reliability & safety – improving air quality”.

Steve Kelleher – He would introduce free public transport for people in the three years running up to their 25th birthday to help start new businesses and the search for work.  He will introduce a ‘London Citizen Card’ for those who have lived in the capital for five years consecutively – entitling them to benefits such as occasional free tube travel. Other policies are not clear, perhaps because he seems to have changed party recently.

Sadiq Khan – His main points are: “Continuing to invest in public transport to ensure it is safe, affordable and reliable, keeping fares as low as possible, working to put TfL on a sound, sustainable financial footing after the pandemic, and supporting a revolution in walking and cycling”.

His manifesto of over 100 pages is mainly a celebration of his alleged achievements in the role of Mayor and you can expect more of the same no doubt. But this writer has frequently criticised his management of the finances of TfL and I am opposed to the ULEZ scheme, particularly the extension to the North/South Circular which he clearly intends to proceed with. The Mayor’s Transport strategy as previously adopted has resulted in an enormous waste of money and a degradation of the transport network in London (see https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm for more information).

On LTNs, he has this to say: “Last year, TfL and the London boroughs rapidly rolled out measures to make our streets safer for walking, cycling, and social distancing, such as low-traffic neighbourhoods. Most of these schemes are temporary and implemented under emergency Government guidance. I will work with London boroughs to ensure communities and stakeholder groups are properly consulted on these schemes, refining them where necessary, and making them permanent where they are successful”.

He also says “Building on the introduction of the 24/7 bus lanes trial last year, I will undertake a programme of bus priority schemes, improving reliability of the bus network across the city”. So clearly he plans for more bus lanes.

He will push forward with the Healthy Streets agenda with more funding for cycle lanes, cycle parking and the Santander scheme. He will continue to support the innovative use of timed changes to streets across the capital through ‘School Streets’, ‘Summer Streeteries’ and ‘Lunchtime Streets’ — supporting the return of the hospitality sector. Play Streets in residential areas will be important in helping tackle isolation, improving mental health in our communities. He will explore options for future car-free days in central London.

On road safety he will continue with his Vision Zero Plan despite the fact that it has failed to have a significant impact on the loss of life and injuries. He will accelerate the roll out of 20mph speed limits on the TfL road network and improve the safety of the most dangerous junctions, including a programme of new pedestrian crossings at those junctions currently lacking them.

His solution to the problem of TfL’s finances is to introduce an outer London tax for those who drive into London from outside (which they won’t get a vote on of course), to ask the Government for more money and to have Vehicle Excise Duty given to him.

David Kurten – He wants to Get London Moving. Policies include: “Remove pop-up cycle lanes and road blockages. No more LTNs. Stop ULEZ and Congestion Charge expansion”. He also says: “UNBLOCK OUR ROADS.      Remove Khan’s pop-up cycle lanes and traffic barriers. No more cycle superhighways on trunk routes. End road blockages between neighbourhoods​. Unblock the Embankment. Build the Silvertown tunnel” and “END THE WAR ON MOTORISTS. Scrap evening and weekend congestion charging. No ULEZ or congestion charge expansion. No LEZ charge increases. No pay-as-you-go road pricing”.

He would also scrap HS2 but complete Crossrail. He is a founder member of the Heritage Party that believes in “free speech and liberty, traditional family values, national sovereignty, and financial responsibility”.

Farah London – She will introduce 100 days of free travel across London “as an important first step to reinvigorate the city’s economy as the COVID pandemic retreats”. She would “reverse the road restrictions and remove LTNs, plus bring back high street parking. She has been actively campaigning against LTNs in some of the boroughs.

She would abolish time travel restrictions for Freedom Pass Holders and introduce a QR code plate on all bicycles to identify riders and cycle owners for control of traffic offences plus make helmets with a QR code mandatory. In effect she has a number of interesting ideas. It’s worth reading her manifesto as she is one of the more credible independent candidates.

Luisa Porritt – She would introduce road pricing and scrap the Silvertown Tunnel. But I am not sure how much she knows about it as she alleged recently that it will be a motorway which is surely not true. The recent closure of the Blackwall Tunnel due to a car fire which brought gridlock to a wide area of London demonstrated the need for additional Thames crossings.

She says: “Drivers would be charged based on much they drive, how much pollution they create – with fair exemptions and discounts for special needs and work use. This will clean up our air and raise funds for our public transport network in a fairer way than the congestion charge”.

Brian Rose – He would scrap the Congestion Charge and his manifesto says this: “Ensure that Transport For London (TfL) is managed in a fiscally responsible manner by avoiding further government bailouts due to historic poor financial management; Build a transportation system of the future that promises to lead the world in technology, customer experience, and environmental friendly practices to deliver a world-class transportation service to all citizens. This will be accomplished by leveraging the innovation, expertise, and accountability of the private sector with the long- term planning that only the public sector can provide; Freeze fare increases for children, vulnerable groups, the elderly and disabled; Remove the physical friction that prohibits unimpeded movement in the capital by abolishing all restricted access for taxis to major carriageways, removing pedestrian social distancing barricades and rethinking empty cycle lanes by proposing mixed use zones to allow the traffic flow of both cars and cycles”.

Comment: he might have wider appeal if he does not appear in photographs wearing a pin-striped suit.

Conclusion: How to select the right candidate(s) to choose for tactical voting? I would suggest the following approach:

Ignore the race, gender or party of the candidates – just focus on their policies and their past track records and experience. The Mayor of London has a massive budget so preferably the chosen candidate should have both political and business experience. Otherwise simply look at their manifestos and decide whether you can trust them to implement the policies you like.

As regards the London Assembly elections, there seem to be few details available on individual manifestos but presumably they will follow their party’s policies as declared for the Mayoral role. More details may be available nearer the date of the elections (the 6th of May). But bear in mind that regrettably the London Assembly has minimal power to control the Mayor who acts as a dictator.

Roger Lawson

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Blackwall Tunnel Fire

A car has caught fire in the Blackwall Tunnel northbound this morning. Both tunnels are now closed and gridlock is spreading over South-East London as a result.

This shows how important it is to build the Silvertown Tunnel as there are few alternative routes to cope with current volumes of traffic. The older tunnels such as the northbound Blackwall Tunnel and the Rotherhithe Tunnel are known to be very dangerous and vulnerable to fires as they have no escape routes and limited fire prevention/control measures.

It’s symptomatic of the ageing and archaic Thames River crossings in London that these tunnels are still in use. Hammersmith Bridge is also closed and needs repair. Under investment in London road infrastructure by recent Mayors is the cause. They have preferred to spend money on grandiose rail/underground projects.

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More Changes at Bank

The City of London Corporation have been working assiduously to remove all traffic from London’s streets in the last couple of years regardless of the impact on residents, businesses and visitors. Bank Junction has already been subjected to severe restrictions on all vehicles except buses and cycles, thus effectively closing this key junction in the centre of the City. Even taxis have been excluded much to the annoyance of taxi drivers. The Corporation are now proposing to go a step further and close more of the roads, even to buses.

The latest changes include the following:

  • The closure of Threadneedle Street to motor vehicles that runs along the south of the Bank of England.
  • The closure of Queen Victoria Street between Bucklersbury and Bank Junction for motor vehicles, except those vehicles exiting Walbrook in a westbound direction.
  • Closing Princes Street except for buses and cycles northbound; and except as a route for servicing to Cornhill in a southbound direction.

It includes proposals for widening pavements around the junction which the road closures will enable (artist’s impression above). Bus routes will also have to be changed.

For more details and to respond to a public consultation go here: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/services/streets/all-change-at-bank-project

Comment: It was certainly the case that Bank Junction was a problem on two grounds: 1) the volume of pedestrians using the junction with the station being enlarged when pavements are very narrow (at least until the recent epidemic); and 2) as regards road safety with frequent casualties including fatalities. The complex nature of the junction with many buses passing through it and high pedestrian traffic were partly to blame.

It therefore was not unreasonable to look at simplifying the junction to enable more pedestrian space and improve the environment. However, the removal of all traffic was very damaging to the road network in the City of London, and has caused traffic to simply move to other roads with additional congestion.  

The latest changes do not improve matters but will make things worse. For example if Threadneedle Street is to be closed it should also be closed to cyclists to avoid conflicts with pedestrians.

Please respond to the public consultation if you have an interest in these roads.

Roger Lawson

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Towing Away of Vehicles Was Illegal

The Daily Mail has reported that for many years the removal (towing away) of vehicles as part of parking enforcement operations was not covered by legislation. They say: “An incredible legal gaffe could result in millions of motorists launching appeals against parking penalties handed out over the past 30 years. Enforcement powers relied on by police and local authorities were accidentally deleted from the statute book, the Mail can reveal today. Powers to charge motorists for removing and impounding vehicles were introduced in 1984 but were ‘inadvertently removed due to a drafting error’ in 1991 – and no one noticed until now”.

Some London boroughs such as Hackney and Camden (Hackney towed away 14,673 vehicles from 2011 to 2015 alone) were very active in using this procedure.

As someone who suffered from this pernicious practice in circa 2005 – towed away for slightly overstaying in a parking bay – I have sent the London Borough of Camden a letter requesting a refund of the several hundreds of pounds in charges. I will advise any result in due course.

This practice has been abandoned by most councils except for extreme situations such as causing an obstruction, but it was always a very dubious procedure. In my case the tow company also caused damage to my vehicle which they denied doing.

See https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9431497/Millions-towed-away-drivers-claw-fines-laws-left-statute-book-30-years.html for the Mail article.

Roger Lawson

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Times Covers Delays to Emergency Services from LTNs

The Times newspaper covered the delays to fire services yesterday (29/3/2021) caused by the introduction of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs).

They reported that slowed emergency responses caused by traffic calming have jumped by more than one third in London boroughs. The article suggested that frontline workers were concerned that management was ignoring the problem due to political pressure. The Times notes that one serving officer, who asked not to be named, said: “The bosses are controlled by Sadiq Khan and don’t want to upset him as he controls the budget”. Another quote supplied was “They don’t even want bollards with keys as it takes too long. When it comes to strokes or heart attacks, every second counts.”

See full article here: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/3248bade-8ff6-11eb-930d-e9e6e3751f8f?shareToken=7e22feaa3656a60f5cfdf82e77775245

We covered the issue of emergency service delays in a note to our Lewisham campaign supporters which included the following evidence:

Many examples of delays to ambulances, police and fire service vehicles caused by road closures, road narrowing by cycle lanes and modal filters have been reported across London. The following letter from a paramedic was recently published in Private Eye.

Dead-end roads

Sir,

I saw the cartoon (Rotten Boroughs, Eye 1538) depicting “low traffic neighbourhood” barriers in Ealing preventing ambulance crews from getting to jobs. These are now pan-London and in Lewisham and Crystal Palace have caused severe delays getting to cardiac arrest calls.

On a recent job we were literally at the end of a street adjoining the road the cardiac arrest was on. Due to the barricade we had to take an almost five-minute detour around the side streets before we found our way to the address. Five minutes probably doesn’t seem long to whoever came up with the idea of the barriers, but to a London Ambulance Service (LAS) crew trying to get to a cardiac arrest patient and give that first shock, it slashes our chances of a viable resuscitation. In this case the patient did not survive.

We’re not able to call attention to the issue because our internal problem-reporting software only allows us to report equipment or personnel failures within LAS; there is no way for us to quantify’ the number of fatal delays caused by the council’s arbitrary road closures and no structure in place for us to report this. With the huge spike in Covid-related cardiac arrest calls we’ve seen in the past few months, these barricades are literally killing patients. Private Eye is the first publication I’ve seen so much as mention it.

PARAMEDIC (name supplied), London.

<END>

Residents who live within LTNs may have quieter roads but they need to bear in mind that their lives will be threatened if they suffer a medical emergency.

The Daily Telegraph also reported on a Freedom of Information Act request handled by the Borough of Greenwich. It included some comments from the London Ambulance Service:

“The London Ambulance Service (LAS) cannot support any scheme that involves the closure of a road to traffic using static bollards, lockable bollards, coffin bollards, gates or physical barriers like planters. The main reason for this is our vehicles do not carry any form GERDA or FB keys to access these obstacles and delays can be detrimental to patient safety.

Existing schemes already create us problems and gates and bollards are not generally routinely maintained pan London and are difficult to unlock anyway.

The nearest available ambulance is dispatched to a 999 call so we do not profile emergency access routes like the LFB because any crew from across London can be dispatched if they are nearest and this might not be a local crew.

Any delay in response to an address behind closures could be detrimental to patient safety and cause serious harm, injury or even death to a patient due to the ambulance response being delayed.

Consideration also needs to be given to the wider health and social care providers who will need access to address and are on tight schedules. Patient transport ambulance picking patients up for chemotherapy or dialysis appointments, district and community healthcare teams and social care carers will all be delayed by having to navigated additional road closures and restrictions leading to delayed care, welfare issues, humanitarian concerns and potential for emergency admission as a result of delays. Addition missed clinical appointments has a detrimental effect on service delivery and patient flow through the NHS system. Consideration of exemptions for these staff through restrictions would also need to be given.

Although the LAS does support the need to ensure social distancing this cannot be at the detriment of patients calling 999, but currently the use of any kind of bollards/gate/planter to close road is not acceptable”.

Clearly the “modal filters” used in so many LTN schemes are not advisable such as those used in Lee Green. Such objections may be why Councils are now installing camera systems to close roads instead. But that just creates complaints about the number of PCNs generated through inadvertent mistakes.

It is very obvious that the supporters of LTN schemes are ignoring the clear evidence of the impact on emergency services.

Roger Lawson

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Is the Police Bill Disproportionate?

After the events over the weekend in Bristol, which effectively degenerated into a riot with several police officers injured, it’s worth considering the issues raised. The demonstrations under the banner “Kill the Bill” (a very provocative phrase as Bill is often used as a name for the police), were aimed at stopping the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament. This is a long and complex piece of legislation but you can read a summary of it by the BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56400751

Apart from the fact that the Bristol demonstrations were a clear breach of the Covid regulations re public gatherings, this legislation to tighten up the rules around public demonstrations was surely long overdue. In fact after the campaigns by Extinction Rebellion which closed bridges across the Thames in London in 2018, I wrote to Cressida Dick (head of the Metropolitan Police) on the issue. This is some of what I said: “These [demonstrations] have caused very considerable disruption to traffic which the police have done nothing about apparently. Obstructing the public highway is an offence, as presumably you are well aware, so why are the police not intervening to stop these demonstrations?”

I got a long and complex reply effectively saying the current state of the law made it difficult to halt these events. The new legislation is clearly aimed at giving the police clearer powers which is surely to be welcomed.

I don’t think anyone objects to peaceful demonstrations that enable protestors to bring issues to the attention of the public. But when they obstruct traffic, close roads, or otherwise harass people going about their normal business then it is time to step in to stop them.

Roger Lawson

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Have Lewisham’s Road Closures Made Our Streets a Predators’ Paradise?

There has been much debate of late about the safety of women when walking the streets of London. The following article is written by a resident of Lewisham and gives her views on the subject and the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods:

Over the course of my 40 years spent living on Burnt Ash Hill, I have walked home from the train station or the bus stop after a night out many, many times.   Advice to women who are walking home alone recommends that they should try to stick to well lit, busy streets.  In this regard, I count myself lucky to live where I do because there is always traffic.  This may well give a false sense of security because not every driver will stop if they see an incident happening in the street but there is always the hope that the approach of a car will deter or at least disturb a potential attacker and may lead to someone intervening to prevent something bad happening.  But what is it like to walk at night on the roads that have been closed by Lewisham Council on the pretext of the Covid pandemic?  Their justification is that it will improve the ability to socially distance.   But does it really make the streets safer?

To answer that question, I decided to walk along two streets that have been closed.   Admittedly, when I left home at 6.45pm it was not completely dark, but it was close enough as I didn’t want to be out much later.  Walking down Burnt Ash Hill it was reassuringly busy and crossing over the South Circular and down to the shops where the lights from the shop fronts allowed me to make out the colour of the jacket worn by the man in front of me allowed me a measure of confidence.   This changed when I turned left into Holme Lacey Road.  At the road closed sign, I turned into Dallinger Road.   The further I walked along this road the quieter it became as the traffic noise decreased almost to nothing.   From the start of this road to the end just one car passed me and the family travelling in it parked up and went into their house.   Further along, a woman was collecting her child from the minder.  She got into her car but had to turn around in the road so would not be driving past me.   Just one cyclist rode by.  I emerged and turned right onto Manor Lane and then right onto Holme Lacey Road.  By now, the light had faded, and it was fully dark.  No vehicles passed me there.  I was happy to get back to the bright lights of Burnt Ash Road. 

When I was doing the walk, catching the virus was the last thing on my mind.  I was more concerned with getting out of the closed roads in one piece.  I would not want to do this walk, alone, after catching the last train home. 

Of course, the flip side of living on Burnt Ash Hill is that when lockdown finishes these road closures will once again lead to queues of traffic outside my front door for three to four hours a day.  It is not the virus that will kill me now that I have had the jab.  It is the toxic air that is created by the traffic jams.  In the meantime, potential predators seem to have been given a helping hand for which I am sure they are extremely grateful.

Christine Warwicker

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Tories Abandoning London?

There was a good article in the Telegraph by Allister Heath yesterday about the Tories abysmal showing in London politics (they are likely to lose the Mayoral vote to Sadiq Khan in May if you believe the latest poll results). This is some of what he said under the headline “The Tories have abandoned Sadiq Khan’s London to a doom-spiral of permanent decline”:

“The reality is that while the Tories will happily take your tax money, they won’t lift a finger to help you. They prefer to help Khan: refusing to criticise the Met Police’s deplorable performance, which the mayor is ultimately responsible for; handing over billions for Transport for London, chaired by the mayor, without seizing genuine control; and promoting Low Traffic Neighbourhoods and anti-car measures that infuriate Tory voters. Covid should have been a chance to force an insolvent London mayoralty into special measures, and engineer a renegotiation of the dysfunctional devolution settlement; instead, Labour has been handed victory on a plate.

London’s “agglomeration economics” model is based on a massive, almost self-financing public transport infrastructure ferrying workers into central offices. Much of that will return, but even a 10 per cent permanent decline in commuter trips will bankrupt the transport system, forcing higher taxes and user fees, further discouraging demand.

At some stage, remote working will trigger Beeching-style cuts, tipping central London into a spiral of decline and dispersing economic activity across the nation and even the world.

Dense cities generally require more state intervention, planning and spending than exburbs. Instead, the Tories are pursuing an urban policy indistinguishable from Labour’s, have fallen in love with neo-communist ideas such as the 15-minute city – good for childless 20-something Deliveroo addicts, terrible for extended families, religious and cultural life and school choice – and transport policies that lock in ever greater levels of public subsidy.

The Government appears oblivious to all this, and has decided that it wants to win Hartlepool, not Harrow. Why not both? In abandoning Londoners to long-term decline, while simultaneously and mindlessly embracing Left-wing urbanism, it is betraying not just its electorate but also the country’s long-term interests”.

Comment: Many London boroughs are now so dominated by extreme left councillors that they pursue extreme policies with glee and without opposition. There is no active local democracy in such circumstances. Some London councils have only Labour councillors, i.e. no other parties represented and no independents.

It certainly seems that support for Tory mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey is waning although there are a number of other contenders for the job of Mayor. My position is that Sadiq Khan has done a very poor job. His policies have been divisive and he has not tackled the big issues in London of housing, crime and transport while running up massive financial deficits. The road network is becoming paralysed by the growth of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods, a policy actually promoted by central Government and Conservative ministers.

Sadiq Khan seems to prefer to spend more time on attacking the Government and playing politics than actually doing the job he was elected to do. Only a few years ago the common saying was “Vote for anyone but Ken” in the era of Ken Livingstone after the public became disillusioned with his performance. Now the saying is surely “Vote for anyone but Khan”.  

Roger Lawson

Full Telegraph article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/03/17/tories-have-abandoned-sadiq-khans-london-doom-spiral-permanent/

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A Better Deal for Bus Users, Or Is It?

Transport Minister Grant Shapps has announced “A better deal for bus users”. He claims “fill a double-decker with motorists and it’s possible to remove 75 cars from the road”. That is clearly not true on most roads because it does not take into account the density of such traffic. Very few roads see nose to tail bus traffic that would maximise the volume of people carried. Most bus lanes actually carry less people than they would if they were left to carry all traffic because the frequency of buses is low.

Bus traffic has been falling across the UK for some years – for example passenger numbers were down by over 6% in 2018/19. See Reference 1 below. The only part of the country where bus journeys have been rising (until the recent decline caused by the Covid epidemic) is London which accounts for over 50% of all bus journeys. London buses are massively subsidised and congestion on other public transport services such as the underground and on the roads has encouraged usage. The use of concessionary fares such as the Freedom Pass in London has also promoted use at the expense of rising local taxes to pay for them.

Why do people in the rest of the country choose to own and drive cars when a bus would be cheaper? Because buses are not door-to-door services and you have to fit in with their schedules rather than pick your own travel times. Also anyone who uses buses will have experienced the problem of standing in the cold and rain for the next bus only to find it never turns up because it’s been cancelled.

How does Grant Shapps aim to make buses more attractive? By developing a National Bus Strategy and giving hand-outs to bus operators (or “grant funding” as it is euphemistically called).

He also intends to ensure that buses are given priority in new road schemes (i.e. more bus lanes). The Government will be providing taxpayers money to fund such schemes.  

The Government will also provide more funding to assist the purchase of all-electric or hybrid buses so as to improve air quality. This is a positive move as diesel buses are still a major contributor to air pollution, particularly in London and other major cities. While cars have got much cleaner in recent years, buses have not with too many old diesels still in use.

A summary of what is proposed is as follows:

  • National Bus Strategy focussed on passenger priorities.
  • review of £250 million bus service operators grant to ensure it supports the environment and improved passenger journeys.
  • over £20 million investment in bus priority measures in the West Midlands.
  • all new road investments receiving government funding to explicitly address bus priority measures to improve bus journey times and reliability.
  • refreshing the government’s guidance to local authorities to provide up to date advice on prioritising those vehicles which can carry the most people.
  • investing up to £50 million to deliver Britain’s first all-electric bus town or city.
  • improving information for bus passengers through new digital services and at bus stops.
  • challenging industry to deliver a campaign to attract people to buses
  • incentivising multi-operator ticketing with lower fares.
  • trialling new ‘superbus’ network approach to deliver low fare, high frequency services and funding 4-year pilot of a lower fare network in Cornwall.
  • ambition for all buses to accept contactless payment for passenger convenience.
  • £30 million extra bus funding to be paid direct to local authorities to enable them to improve current bus services or restore lost services.
  • £20 million to support demand responsive services in rural and suburban areas.

But it’s worth pointing out that the level of investment and subsidies is still quite trivial in comparison with that spent on rail services (for example £106 billion on building HS2 alone).

Grant Shapps announcement looks like a canard to win political support in some areas rather than something that will have a real impact. Bus users will continue to be the poor relations of other public transport users, and this writer does not see it encouraging people to get out of their cars and onto buses.

Spending money on bus priority measures rather than improving the road network for all vehicle users is simply a mistake. In summary this looks like another misconceived policy from Grant Shapps’ Department rather like the recent encouragement of LTNs.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1. Bus journey statistics: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/bus-statistics

Reference 1. Shapps’ Announcement: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/a-better-deal-for-bus-users

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