Dulwich LTN in Southwark Borough

One of our contacts has received the following from One Dulwich who are opposing the road closures in the area. It includes a link to a brilliant YouTube video showing the resulting traffic queues:

One Dulwich
Your Action Needed Dear all, Six key issues that need your urgent action this week:

1) Register for the May review If you haven’t already done so, please register for the May review of the current Dulwich LTNs. Our report on ‘Who closed Dulwich Village junction?’, which looks at an earlier review in 2019, raises serious concerns about the Council’s ability to run a public consultation. The process was poor, data was misrepresented, and there is evidence of bias and selective reporting. You can read our News report here. We hope the new review will be fair and transparent. When the Council finally publishes its plans, we’ll analyse the structure of the consultation – and any published data – and share our thoughts with you, in case this is useful before you fill in your response.

2) Where has all the traffic gone? A good visual summary of local traffic displacement can be seen here. Please watch and share.

3) Urgent: your written objections by 16 May Now is the time to make your formal written objections to the Streetspace ETOs on Burbage Road, Dulwich Village, Townley Road and Turney Road that came into force on 16 November. You might want to question the 24/7 closures that gave rise to them, or object to the length and/or timing of the restrictions, safety concerns, or the way these measures have displaced traffic. Please send your objections to traffic.orders@southwark.gov.uk quoting the reference TMO2021-EXP16_LSP Dulwich 2. As always, you can copy in the decision-maker catherine.rose@southwark.gov.uk, highways@southwark.gov.uk and, if you’d like to, onedulwich@gmail.com.

4) The Dulwich Society’s future policy We hear that the Dulwich Society – regularly consulted by the Council on all Dulwich issues – will hold a Special General Meeting on 28 June to discuss its policy on travel and environment. How will the Society position its response to the review in the light of this discussion? If you’re a Dulwich Society member (annual fee £10 per household), please put this date in your diary: more details from secretary@dulwichsociety.com.

5) Posters and leaflets We have teamed up with the Dulwich Alliance to produce leaflets (see www.dulwichalliance.org) and posters objecting to the current road closures. If you’d like to display a poster in your window, please contact dulwichalliance@gmail.com for more details.

6) Please contribute to the fighting fund As part of the Dulwich Alliance, One Dulwich is delighted to see that donations to the fighting fund to produce campaign leaflets and posters, and to progress legal advice, have now reached £12,000. Thank you! Please continue to spread the word. Contact us with queries, offers of help, or new information, via onedulwich@gmail.com. Best wishes and thanks again for your support,   The One Dulwich Team  SUPPORT ONE DULWICH 

Please support the One Dulwich campaign.

Roger Lawson

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Pushing Ahead with the ULEZ and Making Motoring Unaffordable

As expected, Sadiq Khan is pushing ahead with expanding the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to the North/South Circular in October. Signs warning of entering into the zone are already being put up (see above).

Mr Khan has issued a press release announcing this which you can read here: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/ulez-to-be-expanded . He claims to have a mandate from Londoners to put environment and climate policies at the heart of his second term despite the fact that only a minority of Londoners actually voted for him. He also claims his policies will “improve London’s air and halt the climate emergency”. The former is not true and the latter is a figment of his imagination.

What he does spell out though is that 100,000 car owners, 35,000 van owners and 3,000 HGVs will be affected although the AA estimates the total number of motorists affected at more like 350,000. Owners of cars will have to pay £12.50 per day and most are still blissfully unaware of the impact this will have on them. But it will raise as much as £1 billion per annum in the next few years. The financial gain is what is driving this new taxation, not the environmental benefit.

The claims about the improvements in London’s air quality from the existing ULEZ zone are erroneous. It has improved because of national regulations on vehicle emissions and the change to the vehicle fleet as older vehicles are replaced. The recent changes have been solely down to the fact that with Covid epidemic lockdowns in place, the number of vehicles on the road of all kinds has been much reduced.

Such “environmental” taxes and the demand by Government that we all move to electric vehicles are likely to make the ownership of private cars something for the rich alone in future. Carlos Tavares, the leader of Stellantis (they own Alfa Romeo, Chrysler, Citroën, Dodge, Fiat, Jeep, Lancia, Maserati, Opel, Peugeot and Vauxhall brands) said recently that “The brutality with which change is imposed on this industry is an understatement. It’s completely top down and completely brutal. How do we protect freedom of mobility to the middle classes that may not be able to afford to buy €35,000 battery electric vehicles where today for the same conventional product they pay half for it?”

In effect, private mobility may become something only available to the wealthy with everyone else having to use public transport or cycle. Is that a world you wish to live in?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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The Mayor of London’s Agenda and New York’s Congestion Charge

Our new Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a tweet that spells out his priorities. This is what he said:

Okay—here’s the plan:

🔨 Create + protect jobs
💰 Help businesses grow
🌳 Tackle the climate crisis
🏠 Build new homes
🚓 Invest in policing
🎬 Create opportunities for young people
🏆 Celebrate diversity
💪🏽 Root out inequality
⚽ Deliver an amazing Euro2020

<END>

These are all fine words, but rather like the Government’s policies as outlined in the Queen’s Speech, rather short on detail. It also contains phrases like “celebrate diversity” that are not just meaningless, but do not lead to specific actions or budget allocations. Many people would argue that there is too much diversity in London and that leads to social incoherence, and why should the Mayor be spending time or money on celebrating it anyway? We all know that the population of London is now very diverse and we have all come to accept that. So what is there to celebrate?

One big issue is certainly the comment that he plans to “Tackle the Climate Crisis”. Is there one? If you look at many London boroughs who have introduced Low Traffic Neighbourhoods they have justified this on the basis of tackling climate change. They argue that it is important to cut emissions from vehicles when doing so will have minimal impact on the climate. Climate may be influenced by man-made emissions (although some dispute that) but cutting vehicle emissions in London will have a negligible influence. Emissions in London come from many different sources and directly relate to the population of London and their requirements for buildings, heating and transport. The Mayor’s policies imply more businesses, more buildings to accommodate them, more homes for the workers and more infrastructure to support them so this is all contradictory.

Only if the Mayor adopted a policy of reducing the population of London while providing more infrastructure – particularly in terms of transport – would the environment be improved.

New York, New York

It’s interesting to look at another major city which has similar transport problems – a heavily congested road network and a public transport system in deficit. Just like the impact of the Covid epidemic on the budgets of Transport for London, New York is facing a major problem. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) budget (which covers the subway and some bus services and is equivalent to TfL in London) is projecting a deficit of $16 billion for the period 2020 to 2024, even after major cuts in services.

New York is planning to introduce congestion charging to cut traffic and of course generate some income for the MTA – as much as $15 billion by charging $10 to $15 dollars per day for those entering Manhattan. But the adjacent state of New Jersey, from which many people commute into New York City, is threatening retaliation. Senator Laguna and Assemblyman Tully are developing legislation that would impose tolls on non-residents driving between New Jersey and New York. Mr Tully said “We should not be used to fund the MTA”.

This is equivalent to Essex or Kent imposing a tax on Londoners who drive into their counties if Sadiq Khan imposed a toll on those who drive into London from outside the M25 – as he is proposing. This is surely a very good response to such a threat!

County Councils that border the M25 should surely be asking the Government for such legislation, or asking the Government to stop this taxation without representation.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Avoiding Road Taxes

With Sadiq Khan being re-elected many Londoners are going to be faced with an expanded ULEZ scheme in October. That means £12.50 per day for every day you use non-compliant vehicles within the North/South Circular. Perhaps you think that your vehicle will be compliant because it’s relatively new, but that is not the case for diesel cars. Petrol cars sold after 2005 are generally compliant but diesel cars that are not Euro-6 standard (registered since September 2015 mostly) are not.

You can check the taxes you pay in Congestion Charges and ULEZ charges in London for your current vehicle here: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/check-your-vehicle/

Personally I made the mistake of buying a diesel car in 2013 after the Government chose to exhort people to purchase them to cut CO2 emissions and car manufacturers such as Jaguar dropped most of their petrol models. With me doing relatively low mileage in recent years, and hardly any in the last year while we have been in lock-down, my vehicle would have lasted several more years. This retrospective legislation to penalise vehicles that were compliant with all emissions regulations when purchased is somewhat annoying to say the least.

If you live inside the North/South Circular you will have a difficult choice to make come October. Either buy a new compliant vehicle or trade-in for a second-hand one that is. You might consider an electric or hybrid vehicle for example.

But there are some other options. I happened to read an article published by Motoring Research recently on “What is a historic vehicle?” which intrigued me. Historic vehicles are those more than 40 years old. Such vehicles (except those used for commercial purposes) are exempt from the ULEZ and are also exempt from road tax (Vehicle Excise Duty).

In theory you could buy a restored classic car for a reasonable price and save a lot in tax. But you need to pick the vehicle carefully. Most “popular” cars more than 40 years old are likely to be full of rust and have very high mileages so they won’t be good buys. Classic cars such as E-Type Jaguars might be attractive but are now very expensive if well preserved. But there are other Jaguar models such as early XJs or 2.4 models that would be more practical. Parts would be readily available but maintenance costs might be high.

Having run some ancient and decrepit vehicles when I was younger, I am not particularly recommending this approach unless you are keen on classic cars and don’t need to use a vehicle every day.

It’s always amusing to watch the TV programme Bangers and Cash available on some channels. It’s very clear that the cost of restoring a beat-up vehicle is never recouped so buy a fully restored vehicle if you want a classic. And be careful on your choice. Vehicles that were unreliable and expensive to maintain when new will not have changed. While some models such as Jaguar E-Types are way too expensive for the average person.  

But there is another option which is to move to a ULEZ compliant vehicle that is not brand new. The car I owned before my current one was a Jaguar XJ8 registered in 2006 with petrol V8 engine and that is ULEZ compliant. See photograph above. This had an aluminium body so shouldn’t rust and you can pick a good one up for £12,000. This was a superb and spacious vehicle with all mod-cons. Perhaps I should simply go back in time and buy another? Or one can buy a low mileage Bentley Continental of a similar age for £25,000.  

If you want to go for something smaller and cheaper, look at Japanese cars which are generally reliable and Japan retained the love of petrol versus diesel. How about a one-owner Lexus GS 450H (a hybrid power train) with 66,000 miles on the clock for £7,500 advertised on AutoTrader if you want a luxury vehicle with a gesture to environmental soundness?

There are certainly some interesting and good quality vehicles that would enable you to avoid paying Sadiq Khan’s tax every day – at least for the present.  

Remember the ULEZ tax is about raising money for the Mayor’s empire, not about improving air quality where it will have minimal impact – see this page for the evidence: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Roger Lawson

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Comments on Election Results

So we have Sadiq Khan as Mayor of London for another few years. That’s a most disappointing outcome for anyone who understands how his transport policies have damaged the capital. His main contender, Shaun Bailey, did better than expected and did manage to achieve 35% of the votes on the first round versus Khan’s 40%. But on the second round it was 55% for Khan to 44% for Bailey.

The multiplicity of candidates and parties certainly helped Sadiq Khan to get re-elected, although his majority was reduced from the 2016 election. On the first round, all the votes for other than the two leading candidates totalled 625,000 whereas Khan got only 1,014,000 (that’s only 120,000 more than Bailey). The reallocation of votes in the second round were more in favour of Khan and hence the outcome.

The turn-out was low at only 41%.

The Conservatives did well at the national level, with a good win in Hartlepool, but that was not significantly translated into improvements in London. The Government’s handling of the pandemic crisis seems to have been appreciated with Boris Johnson’s handling of the Brexit negotiations being also supported.

But London was different. Why is that? The Conservatives certainly lost popularity in London over the Brexit issue with a large number of EU nationals now in London, who could vote unlike in the Parliamentary elections. Was Shaun Bailey a good candidate and did he put forward attractive policies? I am not sure he had the impact needed to overcome an incumbent Mayor although he was better than Zac Goldsmith who was the last Conservative contender. London has become a very polarised city in socio-economic terms with large numbers of immigrants many of whom rely to some extent on social security handouts or are in low-paid jobs. There has also been a high level of unemployment in recent months because of the epidemic which might have been a major concern and housing continues to be a problem for many (Sadiq Khan’s promotion of rent controls may have been politically appealing if not very practical and with long term negative consequences if implemented).

Political organisation and the use of social media also seemed to be stronger in the Labour Party with Sadiq Khan using his position as Mayor to promote himself in the media.

How did the parties fare in the few local Council bye-elections in London (the main ones are not until next year)? It’s interesting to look at the four bye-elections in Lewisham where concerns about the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) might have had an impact. In Bellingham, Catford South, New Cross and Sydenham the percentage support for the incumbent Labour Party all fell – from 66% in 2018 in Bellingham to 55% this year for example. But that was not enough to change the dominance of Labour – we still have one party in control.

It was not clear that local issues were a major concern or that the electorate were influenced by them. But the inability to do much local campaigning may have had an impact and more concern about other matters such as crime and housing than local transport, traffic congestion and air pollution may have had an impact. The general apathy about local politics also hindered a rational choice – for example turnout of voters in Bellingham was only 36%!

Even the confusing voting arrangements might also have had an impact with three different votes – for the Mayor, for London Assembly Members and for local Councillors not helping. The encouragement of postal voting, particularly by Sadiq Khan, might also have influenced the vote as it is easier to commit vote fraud that way, i.e. submit a vote on behalf of someone else or “coach” people how to complete the forms.  

In conclusion, and as someone who has been voting for the last 50 years, it’s worth saying that the quality of candidates and their policies seems to be dropping. Who would ever have guessed that unimpressive individuals such as Sadiq Khan or Nicola Sturgeon could ever become leaders in London or Scotland? They have both pursued very divisive politics in the apparent desire to stay in power rather than advocate what is good for the people and country as a whole.

Perhaps the problem is that few people wish to get involved in politics nowadays and those with talent avoid it. There is just too much back-biting and personal abuse in politics.

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Speed Awareness Courses to be Made Legal?

One of the aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (see Reference 1 below) that is currently going through Parliament and which has largely gone unreported is Section 67 which covers education courses as an alternative to prosecution for motoring offences.

We have pointed out previously that the offer of speed awareness courses was likely to be illegal. It’s a perversion of justice to waive prosecution on payment of a sum of money, and there is no evidence that attending such a course has any impact on road safety. See Reference 2 below for a web site that gives a full explanation.

The new Bill does at least bring the use of such courses into law and allows the Secretary of State to regulate them. However it permits the police to set a fee that is higher than the cost of providing the course. Any such excess must be used for the purpose of promoting road safety, but that does include the provision of more speed cameras and police to operate them. So the gravy train of the industry of speed enforcement will continue, if not expand even further.

In conclusion, this will remain a dubious practice, with money driving the schemes not road safety.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: https://bills.parliament.uk/bills/2839

Reference 2: https://www.speed-awareness.org/

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Congestion Charge Rise to be Scrapped?

In June 2020 the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) was raised to £15 per day and made effective for 24 hours per day for 7 days per week. This was declared to be a “temporary” change to cope with the impact on TfL finances of the Covid pandemic and to discourage car use which might rise in the short term as people avoided public transport. Mayor Sadiq Khan blamed the Government for forcing him to make the change although Government Ministers said it was solely his decision.

But on the 26th April Khan said in a hustings meeting that “I will be negotiating with the Government so we don’t have to have it [the increased congestion charge] seven days a week or up until 10pm”.

But Conservative Mayoral Candidate Shaun Bailey said this to City AM in response: “Sadiq Khan is making things complicated. But the truth is very simple.

The Mayor decided to raise the Congestion Charge and the Mayor can choose to reverse it – today. The fact that he isn’t tells us everything we need to know.

Khan is trying to win votes by promising to cut the very taxes he raised. That’s like an arsonist trying to get out of jail by promising to put out the fire he started”.

Bailey went on to reiterate a pledge he made last June, saying: “As Mayor, I’ll reverse the Congestion Charge hike on day one, no consultation, no studies, no ifs, not buts. This is the fresh start that London needs.”

Comment: From my personal experience of driving into central London for hospital visits in the last few weeks, the raised congestion tax made absolutely no difference. When nobody was going to work in central London the traffic disappeared. When they returned the traffic was worse than it was before the lock-downs.

This looks like another attempt to win votes by bribing the electorate from Sadiq Khan which he has been so adept at doing in the past. But will he actually remove the “temporary” increase and extended times? His statement is ambiguous to say the least.

I suggest Shaun Bailey is more to be trusted on this than Sadiq Kahn, something to bear in mind when voting next week.

Roger Lawson

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Another London Borough Scraps LTNs

The London Borough of Harrow is to remove cycle lanes and Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) after a formal review and public consultation.

LTNs in the Headstone South, Francis Road and Vaughan Road schemes were opposed by between 65% and 80% of respondents to public consultation. The Council also claimed they increased congestion, increased air pollution and delayed emergency services.

The decision to remove the schemes was taken at a Cabinet Meeting on the 29th April. This is what the Leader of Harrow Council Graham Henson said:

“It is clear from the statutory consultation undertaken over the past six months that there is little support for the cycle lanes and low traffic neighbourhoods implemented as part of the national initiative.

And so, the decision to remove these experimental schemes is the right one for Harrow – we will keep residents informed about when this will take place.

We have listened to and understand residents’ concerns about how the schemes were implemented. Going forward the council will do things differently – engaging with our residents to shape projects before they are implemented.

We have some difficult decisions ahead of us to make our streets safer for all road users and reach our Climate Emergency pledge to lower emissions in the borough and be carbon neutral by 2030 but we will approach this challenge together in partnership with our residents.”

The Council is still persisting with their plans for School Streets.

Harrow Council Announcement: https://www.harrow.gov.uk/news/article/10913/council-to-remove-cycle-lanes-and-low-traffic-neighbourhood-schemes

A good report by the Daily Telegraph on events in Harrow is here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2021/04/17/green-road-schemes-ripped-council-landmark-decision-following/

Comment: Harrow Council is Labour controlled but by a slim majority over the Conservatives. It is remarkable how quickly the above decision was taken and it seems clear that the public opposition to the schemes had a big impact on the views of Councillors. It is good that Councillors did pay attention to the views of their electorate unlike in other London boroughs where dogma has overridden common sense.

Roger Lawson

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Towing Away of Vehicles Was Not Illegal

I mentioned in a previous blog post the claim by the Daily Mail that charging for removing vehicles by Councils was illegal from 1991 (see https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/04/05/towing-away-of-vehicles-was-illegal/ ).

I wrote to the London Borough of Camden on this issue and have received the following response:

“I understand, having read your letter, that you believe Camden’s powers to remove and charge for a removal were unlawful at this time [in 2005].

Following the publication within the daily mail, we approached the department for transport (DfT) to outline our concerns regarding the article and potential implications for us and other councils. Additionally we set out our reasons why we did not agree with the position in the explanatory note regarding the ability for local authorities to charge for vehicle removals, storage and disposal.  It was our belief that whilst sections 99-102 of the RTRA 1984 are not the simplest to follow, the legislation needs to be read as a whole to understand the full procedure and all aspects of the process that were covered.

We received a response from DfT that supports our view that local authorities’ powers to charge for the removal, storage and disposal of vehicles remain and were not inadvertently removed and that Sections 102(2) and 102(2A) still exist.

Specifically they stated that section 102(2) RTRA by section 68 Road Traffic Act 1991 were largely undone by the changes subsequently made to section 102(2) by Paragraph 4(2) of Schedule 11 to the TMA 2004. None of these changes as far as they can see had removed a local authority’s power to charge for removal, storage or disposal of a vehicle.

In light of this, it would appear that the explanatory note on page 19 (paragraph 83) is incorrect with respect to borough powers.

Therefore, I do believe the removal of your vehicle was conducted lawfully at the time”.

Having looked at the relevant legislation, which is exceedingly complicated and difficult to understand, it is certainly not clear that there was any intention to remove the power to charge for vehicle removal.

I have therefore accepted Camden Council’s explanation.

Roger Lawson

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Electric Cars, Buses and Trucks – Problems Remain

Electric cars are rapidly becoming more viable, both economically and practically, for many vehicle users. They can surely be helpful in cleaning up London’s air which needs improving because there are still hot spots of air pollution in the City. The Freedom for Drivers Foundation is fully supportive of the Government’s encouragement of electric vehicles although we see potential problems with the banning of the sale of all new internal combustion engined (IC) cars in 2030. That now includes a ban on many hybrid vehicles which can be a good compromise for those who have no off-road parking (and hence cannot easily plug in their vehicles) or do long journeys to remote parts of the country.

2030 is of course a long time away and the range of electric cars may be very different then, and the cost much lower, which are the two things that put off many people from buying them at present. Batteries need improving to extend the range of vehicles and reduce recharging time. But this can probably only be done to a limited extent with Lithium-ion batteries, the predominant technology in use at present.

There was a good article published by the Financial Times recently on the battery problem and how it might be solved by the development of solid-state batteries. It suggested batteries will be available to give a 700km range for cars, although it’s probably a few years away before they could be put into mass production. See https://www.ft.com/content/c4e075b8-7289-4756-9bfe-60bf50f0cf66

With improved batteries, giving longer range and an improved charging infrastructure around the country, one can see that by 2030 there may be no good reason for most people to worry about having to buy an electric vehicle although those with no off-road parking may still face problems as kerb-side charging is still an issue.

Buses in London are still a major contributor to air pollution and although the Mayor has made promises about the increased use of electric or hybrid buses, particularly in central London, those promises are slow in realisation. It will not be until 2037 that all 9,200 buses across London will be zero emission. The Mayor and TfL are also betting on the use of hydrogen. See https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/environment/pollution-and-air-quality/cleaner-buses for more details. Other Mayoral candidates have promised a faster roll out of electric buses.

HGVs and LGVs are another major source of pollution. LGVs (vans) are available in electric form but do not yet seem very popular, probably because of the price. An electric Ford Transit (E-Transit) won’t even be available before 2022.

HGVs have also been a problem because of the limited loads they can carry and the need for frequent recharging.  But UK Bakery company Warburtons have recently announced the acquisition of its first 16 tonne electric truck, a Renault Trucks D Z.E. The vehicle has been given Warburtons orange livery with the slogan “Our electric trucks are the best thing since sliced bread” on the side.

It will be used to operate out of its Enfield bakery and can cover up to 150 kilometres on a single charge. It can carry around six tonnes of bread and bakery products to multiple locations across London.

One can see that the market for new electric vehicles of all kinds is rapidly changing. They are becoming more viable for many people and for many applications. With used IC vehicles being available for many years and the market for second-hand electric vehicles developing, there seems to be no reason to oppose the Government’s policies in principle.

However, there are particular problems in London due to the pace of change and the ULEZ implementation. Those who own older vehicles, particularly diesel ones, will need to buy a newer vehicle come October 2021 or pay £12.50 per day if they live within the South Circular. For retired people, this could be a major if not impossible burden when they are often people who rely on their cars to get around. Tradespeople who use older vans also face the same problem.

The current Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has not considered the plight of such people and how their problems could be relieved. The basic issue is the application of rules about the taxation of vehicles retrospectively, i.e. to vehicles that were legal to drive anywhere when they were purchased. This is morally wrong.

It would not hamper the general move to lower emissions to give such users some relief.    

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