Grant Shapps Wants a Bus Fare Cap

Transport Minister Grant Shapps has written an article published in the Daily Telegraph which argues that the Government should impose a cap of £2 on all bus fares in England outside London. This would be paid for by a taxpayers’ subsidy of £260 million for 12 months.

It is suggested this cap would help those most affected by the cost-of-living crisis. Needless to say, this idea has apparently been opposed by HM Treasury.

Comment: This is economic lunacy. For example the typical bus far from London to Newcastle is £10 so £2 clearly nowhere near covers the cost of providing the service. In reality those who can currently afford the £10 would be massively subsidised so it would be a subsidy for both the wealthy and the poor, i.e. it’s not a targeted subsidy for those who can least afford to travel as claimed.

It would also undermine the economics of the rail network as people would choose to travel by bus rather than trains. So the true cost would be even higher as the Government already subsidises rail travel and those subsidies would need to increase if usage was reduced.

Once you start interfering in the economics of transport, you distort demand. Free or low cost travel increases demand which is then supplied at an uneconomic rate.

Where’s the £260 million coming from? From taxes that we all pay so raising the tax burden and reducing the income of everyone else.

This is yet another hare-brained scheme from Grant Shapps to follow on from his support of LTNs, active travel , HS2 and bail-outs of TfL.

Telegraph article: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/08/14/grant-shapps-introduce-2-bus-fare-cap-ease-cost-living-burden/

Roger Lawson

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Bromley Council Strongly Opposes ULEZ Expansion

The London Borough of Bromley has opposed the expansion of the ULEZ to cover the borough and have condemned it as a “cynical tax raid against the borough’s residents”.

Councillor Colin Smith, Leader of Bromley Council, said, “Quite simply, this proposal is wrong on just about every level and is really about paving the way for the introduction of road charging taxes across the whole of London by stealth.

Our borough already has amongst, if not actually the best air quality levels in London, and if this were truly about improving air quality even further, which we obviously support, those responsible would be thinking far harder in terms of broadening the scrappage scheme for non-compliant vehicles and accelerating the roll out of green vehicle charging points and buses”.

You can read his full response to the consultation on ULEZ expansion here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/366/no-to-mayor-of-london-s-ulez-expansion-proposals

Comment: The Council’s response is well argued and basically says that the Council is already doing a good job of minimising and reducing air pollution while the expansion of the ULEZ to cover outer London will not significantly help and will be very costly for many residents.

Expansion of the ULEZ to outer London will hit those with older vehicles hard which are generally the poorer segment of the population. A good article on this subject was published by the Daily Telegraph here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/08/10/sadiq-khans-hatred-motorists-control/ . It’s a symptom of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s hatred of cars despite the fact that public transport in outer London cannot be relied on and many people drive into the outer boroughs from surrounding counties for employment and shopping.

Expansion of the ULEZ makes no economic sense – the money involved would be better spent on other measures to reduce air pollution which is already very low in boroughs such as Bromley.

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TfL Board Meeting and TfL Finances

gold colored coins near calculator

There was a Transport for London (TfL) Board Meeting on the 9th of August to discuss negotiations with the Government on finance. Such meetings should be public but in fact almost all the meeting was closed to the public; even the Government representative who has a seat on the board was excluded.

But there is an interesting board paper that spells out the dire financial position of the organisation – see link below. In summary they need £900m in Government subsidies to stay afloat in the current financial year, i.e. to offset the shortfall in revenue from the pandemic.

The paper says this: “The 2022/23 TfL Budget is based on a ‘managed decline’ scenario. This involved significant service reductions, deteriorating asset condition and no new enhancement schemes. This not only would mean that we will fail to make progress on critical priorities such as safety, decarbonisation and air quality, but it would trap London’s transport network in a vicious circle of deteriorating services and declining demand. Avoiding managed decline is critical to supporting the London economic recovery, and therefore the national economic recovery, following the pandemic”.

In essence they want to continue spending instead of cutting their cloth to meet the new circumstances. They need £1.2 billion just to balance the budget in the current financial year and even more for “longer-term capital funding to avoid the managed decline scenario”.

Looking at TfL as a business (which is what it is) this is surely pure hogwash. Businesses that do not reduce their expenditure to match income end up going bust. As will TfL unless they change their approach.

It’s interesting to look at who is on the board of TfL. It’s full of academics, trade unionists and politicians, not business people. And it’s chaired by Sadiq Khan. This is one of the key problems. Until TfL is taken out of the control of the Mayor and the board is replaced by people with business experience of running transport organisations, nothing will change. They will continue to rely on Government (i.e. taxpayer) hand-outs rather than taking the tough decisions necessary.

Roger Lawson

Board Paper: https://board.tfl.gov.uk/documents/s18400/board-20220809-item03-Update%20on%20TfL%20Funding.pdf

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ANPR Cameras Eroding Privacy

Are you concerned about the erosion of privacy? One issue that is coming to the fore but has not yet caught the attention of the public is the use of cameras on our roads to monitor our behaviour and potentially to catch criminals.

The cameras used to monitor drivers to ensure they pay the Congestion Charge or ULEZ charges were never intended to be routinely used by the police. Limited access to ANPR cameras was granted for specific investigations some years ago but Sadiq Khan now wants to expand their use. This is being legally challenged by London Assembly Member Sian Berry and an organisation called the Open Rights Group. Ms Berry has said:” I am deeply disappointed that the Mayor has not listened to repeated warnings that sharing the cameras from the expanded clean air zone with the police was a huge increase in surveillance of Londoners that should not be signed off by his office. I have been telling the Mayor since 2019 that sharing this data with the police is wrong and that Londoners must have their say in any decision”.

The expanded use of the cameras might include pictures of vehicles and their occupants and include the use of facial recognition technology which the Met already has available.

The Information Commissioners Office (ICO) has laid down guidelines on the use of cameras in public places and in essence there needs to be reasonable justification. There is a Biometrics and Surveillance Camera Commissioner who has recently questioned the legality of the use of ANPR cameras to enforce the proposed expanded ULEZ. He said there is limited evidence it would benefit society and therefore its legality is questionable.

Cameras are now being used to enforce Low Traffic Neighbourhood and School Street schemes by some Councils and this has turned into a money-making project in many cases. The profits to be made from such schemes should not be a justification for the use of ANPR cameras but they often are.

Comment: This whole area needs to be more subject to public debate and regulation. Some people think that expanding surveillance would reduce crime although there is limited evidence to support that. Others think that they do not want to live in a surveillance society where your every move is monitored and recorded.

One question is how cost effective such monitoring would be. Accessing ANPR images when specificially required and justified for the investigation of crimes is one thing. But a more general monitoring capability might involve enormous costs even if some of the activity could be automated.

Roger Lawson

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Speed Humps Come to Chislehurst

New speed humps have appeared in the Chislehurst High Street Car Park. Such humps are exceedingly painful to people like me with back pain complaints (of which there are a great number).

As Bromley Council have an adopted policy of a preference for non-vertical deflection traffic calming schemes I am very surprised that these humps have been installed. I would guess they have been installed to stop wheelies and other motorised ASB in this car park, no doubt to the annoyance of local residents, but I am not sure they will stop that anyway. Why has the Council ignored its own policy?

Was there any consultation with councillors or the Chislehurst Society before these were installed? I am not currently aware of any.

I have campaigned against the use of speed humps for many years. You can read all about the negative aspects of them on this web page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-humps.htm

Roger Lawson

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The Death of the UK Motor Industry?

Toyota have warned the Government that it may cease making cars in the UK if a ban on sales of hybrid vehicles is introduced. That is currently scheduled for 2035 but even after 2030 there may be very tight restrictions on what qualifies for an exemption. Self-charging cars such as the Corolla might not qualify.

Toyota have a big car manufacturing plant employing 3,000 people in Burnaston, Derbyshire and in Deeside, North Wales. There is also the problem that Toyota might be impacted by Government mandates on the proportion of vehicles sold that are purely electric when Toyota has promoted hybrid vehicles for some years starting with the Prius.

Honda has also closed their plant in Swindon and these closures will reduce UK car production very significantly. Meanwhile it looks like Aston Martin will need another bailout to keep it afloat.

The Corolla is a reasonably priced self-charging hybrid with either a 1.8 or 2.0 litre petrol engine. It is a reasonable compromise between emission reduction and flexibility. It is a great pity that the UK Government is not encouraging the retention of hybrid vehicle sales past 2030 or 2035 which are not far away now. Purely electric vehicles are far from ideal for those in remote parts of the country where charging points are limited, or for those who do not have off-road parking.

A self-charging hybrid can go some distance on electric power alone so can substantially reduce emissions on short trips which are common in city driving conditions.

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Telegraph Article on Our Right to Drive Freely

There was a very good article by David Frost on the right to drive freely published by the Daily Telegraph today (29/7/2022). He talks about a world where private cars are banned. He suggests Governments haven’t quite done that but there are people who want to ban cars in some large cities and suggests one day some feeble Red-Green mayor somewhere in Europe will surely give in to it. Meanwhile our leaders are doing everything short of it.

To quote from the article: “But this is not just about technology. It is about human flourishing. The bicycle first allowed people to move from where they lived. The car hugely expanded it. The van and delivery lorry got goods all around the country and the car gave people access to this huge choice. People could go out whatever the weather. They could buy enough food for a week and free up time for things they preferred doing. The disabled, the old, or just those seeking a day out somewhere different, all could get to where they needed to go”; and “There is obviously no substitute for the car outside urban areas. But, even in big cities, public transport will never do everything we need. It runs where the planners want it and when the transport unions allow it. Not everyone wants to travel to the city centre or along a tube line. Only the private car, under autonomous control, can take you where you want to go. Too many of our modern rulers would rather you didn’t.”

He concludes with the comment “Cars are about freedom – going where you want and no one saying you can’t”. That well summarises what the Freedom for Drivers Foundation stands for.

To read the article go here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/07/29/must-never-surrender-right-drive-freely/

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Mayor Falsely Claims ULEZ has Improved Air in London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a press release and a report claiming that the air in London is a lot cleaner after the last expansion of the ULEZ. For example, it is suggested that NO2 concentrations alongside roads in inner London are estimated to be 20 per cent lower than they would have been without the ULEZ and its expansion.

This is no doubt an attempt to justify a further expansion to the whole of London which is still open to public consultation.  However if you read the detailed report it is not at all clear why air quality in some locations has improved, however much it is to be welcomed.

Other factors that may have affected the figures have been ignored. For example the report says this: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (“the pandemic”) and individual, regional and national responses to address it, mean that 2020 and 2021 have been different from previous years. This is particularly so for travel and transport as people reacted to lockdown measures and wider concerns about the pandemic by changing their work and travel habits. The pandemic impacted traffic volumes in London in 2020 and 2021, with central London being especially affected. This will in turn have impacted pollution levels across the city. In July 2021 most lockdown restrictions were formally lifted, and much of the economy has now returned to near normal levels of activity. However, central London traffic levels are still not back to pre-pandemic levels”.

It is also worth noting that as vehicles get replaced or upgraded, newer ones tend to be a lot cleaner. There is a natural turnover of vehicles and newer ones are cleaner plus people have been avoiding buying diesel vehicles whose numbers registered in London have fallen. Many people and businesses are also now buying electric vehicles and not just to avoid paying a ULEZ charge.

Another big change is that more London buses are now ULEZ compliant and HGVs have also been replaced with cleaner vehicles. These have had big impacts on air pollution in London along main roads.

But all these changes have not justified the ULEZ expansion and the costs imposed on car and van drivers. Neither do they justify further expansion of the ULEZ which will cost TfL many millions of pounds to implement and cost some drivers a great deal also. If you have not already responded to the public consultation, please do so from the link below:

Clean Air Consultation: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair

TfL cannot afford to spend the money on expanding the ULEZ as they are already desperately short of money so why do they want to do it? Probably because it will give them the capability to introduce a London-wide road charging system using the cameras that will be installed.

TfL Report: https://www.london.gov.uk/WHAT-WE-DO/environment/environment-publications/expanded-ultra-low-emission-zone-six-month-report

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Attempts to Undermine Democratic Processes in Bromley over School Streets

School Streets are liked by some people but heartily disliked by others. There is little evidence of real benefits while they cause problems for some residents within the area, block delivery or service vehicles and can simply cause school-run vehicles to move to nearby roads.

On the 15th July there was another attempt by a concerted political campaign of Labour and LibDem sympathisers, and supported by newly -elected Chislehurst councillors, to attack the Conservative administrations policy on School Streets in Bromley. A special “call-in” meeting of the Environment and Community Services PDS Committee was held to review the adopted policy with many questions being submitted by the public to it.

This is what Committee Chairman Councillor Will Rowlands had to say in response to one question: “The committee discussed, at some length, the matter at its meeting on June 21st. Two opposition parties have abused, in my view, the ‘call in’ procedure to have a second meeting on the subject by either misunderstanding or wilfully misrepresenting the amended recommendations by the PDS Committee, which I accepted in full. It has been further exacerbated by a politically motivated campaign to flood the agenda with 41 very similar questions again based on a false premise. These questions have taken up the valuable time of senior staff when they could be engaged in more productive work. I have referred the matter to the Constitution Working Party with a view to tightening the rules on ‘call ins’ and on questions to meetings called to do with ‘call ins”.

Comment: Clearly there is a difference of opinion on the merits of School Streets among the public and councillors. But a decision was taken and a policy adopted in the normal manner. I suggest such Streets can only be appropriate in limited circumstances, and where both immediate local residents and the wider community supports them, and there is good and specific justification on cost/benefit grounds.

Public highways need to be kept open at all times for vehicles if only to ensure that disabled people who rely on them can use the roads. The use of cameras to enforce School Streets is also to be opposed as we already have too many cameras infringing privacy and they should not be used to raise income for councils as has been happening in other London boroughs such as Lewisham, Hackney, Islington and Croydon (typically those one might classify as being “anti-car”).

It is most unfortunate that those members of the public in Bromley who support School Streets are ignoring the rules on Council meetings and hence attempting to undermine the democratic process. They are also misrepresenting the Council’s policy in that Bromley has not ruled out the use of School Streets altogether.

When an issue is contentious, it should not be decided by who shouts loudest but on rational analysis of the issues. The Council’s policy decision was not unreasonable.

To see a report on the questions posed at the Council meeting and the responses, go here: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?MId=7485&x=1

From the questions posed it would seem some people believe School Streets will solve the problem of child obesity, tackle air pollution issues (if any) and reduce road casualties. There is little evidence to support any of these statements. If parents want to have healthier children they should stop feeding them junk foods, stop driving them to school and give them some education about how to stay safe.

Note: See our previous comments about School Streets in Bromley here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2022/06/22/school-streets-in-bromley/

Roger Lawson

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ULEZ Expansion to Cost £200 Million

The expansion of the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London will cost £200 million according to a report in the Evening Standard. Based on FOI Act requests, they report that this is required mainly to pay for the extra cameras and does not include the cost of a scrappage scheme which has been promised. Neither does it include the cost imposed on London residents who would need to change their vehicles.

As many as 40,000 vehicles would need to be changed so that’s potentially many more millions of pounds imposed on a proportion of the population with very little benefit.

Nick Rogers, a Tory member of the London Assembly, is quoted as saying “£200m could buy 500 electric buses or fund hundreds of low-traffic “school streets”.

This is yet another example of the reckless expenditure by Mayor Sadiq Khan and TfL. When you are running out of money (as TfL is), you need to stop spending it. TfL might get more income in the short term from non-compliant vehicles paying the charge or from fines on those who don’t pay, but that would likely soon disappear as people changed their vehicles.

Another recent example of gross waste was the disclosure that almost 600 TfL staff earn more than £100,000. The financial management of TfL is clearly out of control. TfL pays such high salaries that it sucks in traffic engineers and management from London boroughs and outside London thus denuding them of valuable expertise.

TfL needs to be removed from the control of the Mayor, and a public transport authority (which is what TfL is) should not have control of the roads used by private vehicles. As we have said before, major reform of the governance and control of TfL is required.  

Evening Standard article: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/ulez-expansion-greater-london-boundary-cost-two-hundred-million-pounds-b1011721.html

The public consultation on expansion of the ULEZ is still open so please respond to it here if you have not already done so: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair?cid=clean-air

Roger Lawson

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