Latest Air Quality in Bromley Data Shows No Need for ULEZ Expansion

The latest Air Quality Annual Status Report for the London Borough of Bromley which has just been published shows there is no justification for the expansion of the ULEZ scheme to outer London boroughs like Bromley.

To quote from a Council report: “There were no monitored exceedances of the annual or daily mean for Particulate Matter (PM10) in 2021. The annual average was 15.4μgm-3 . This is well below the national limit of 40μgm-3 .

The annual mean for Particulate Matter (PM2.5) concentration in 2021 was 9.7μgm-3 . This was also well below the national limit of 20μgm-3 .

Historically, the trend in Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) concentration at the Harwood Avenue permanent continuous monitoring station, shows a decreasing trend. There was a slight increase from 2020 to 2021. This was due to life returning to normal following the changes to traffic levels during the COVID-19 pandemic and related lockdowns. The trends in NO2 concentrations for diffusion tube monitoring sites (for those with more than one year of data) for the 2015 – 2021 period also show evidence of a decreasing trend and all sites were below the national limit”.

In summary the measured pollution levels are well below national standards even on busy roads and the trend is downwards. There are unlikely to be any negative health impacts from the current levels of air pollution.

You can see the full report in the Agenda Reports Pack (Item 17) for the Council meeting on the 6th September here: https://cds.bromley.gov.uk/ieListDocuments.aspx?CId=127&MId=7414&Ver=4

Roger Lawson

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Census Results – A Problem the Government is Ignoring

Yesterday (28/6/2022) the Office of National Statistics released the first results from the 2021 Census in the UK. The population of England and Wales rose to 59.6 million which is an increase of 6.3% since the last census 10 years ago.

This substantial change which directly affects our quality of life was barely covered in the national media. More people mean more stress on housing provision, more vehicles on our roads and a bigger demand for health services (particularly as the population has aged – there are more older people and they are living longer). Some of the age increase can be blamed on baby boomers growing old.

The population increase has been concentrated in London and the South-East but older people have tended to move out of London being replaced by young immigrants (not just from overseas but from within the UK). The census data might also have been distorted as people tended to move out of central London boroughs to the country during the pandemic.

England now has the highest population density of all major European countries.

One major impact of more population is degradation of the environment – more air pollution and more waste. Here’s a good quote from Sir David Attenborough that is very relevant: “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder – and ultimately impossible – to solve with ever more people”.

What is the Government doing to try and tackle this problem?  In essence very little apart from rather feebly trying to restrict immigration. The birth rate is forecast to fall, but there is as yet no sign of any reduction in the population growth. A growing population might mean a healthy economy but the shortage of housing, particularly in the South-East, has been a major factor in political unrest while the elderly are facing problems in getting medical treatment as the NHS is over-stretched to cope.

The Government is being distracted by many other issues at present in a reactive fashion. Such problems as food and energy security would not be a problem if the UK population was reduced.

Likewise the growth of population, particularly in London and the South-East, has put great stress on the road network. Population growth has zoomed ahead of road capacity which has barely changed in the last few years. This is a recipe for more traffic congestion.

The Government surely needs to be less reactive to short-term problems and look at the longer-term issue of excessive population growth.

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan Commits to Expanding ULEZ to All London

The Mayor of London is pushing ahead with expanding the ULEZ to the whole of London despite strong opposition from outer London boroughs. He has launched a public consultation (see link below) on his proposal. The plan is to expand it in August 2023 and anyone with a non-compliant vehicle will need to pay £12.50 per day – that means older vehicle users, particularly diesel cars and vans.

He claims this is necessary to clean up London’s air but it’s really about raising tax to fill the yawning hole in TfL’s budget.

The consultation document claims it will lead to a 9% reduction in NOx emissions in outer London and a 6% reduction in CO2 emissions but will anyone notice the difference? These changes will not have any significant impact on the health of Londoners and the Mayor’s comments about cutting “harmful emissions to help save the planet” are just nonsense. It won’t save the planet from anything but it will cost many Londoners an enormous amount in paying the charge or having to replace their vehicles.

He even suggests that his proposals will help to reduce traffic congestion. Again a nonsensical claim unless he manages to discourage vehicle use altogether which is clearly the plan. An outright attack on freedom of movement and the choice of how you travel.

His claims about the impact of the ULEZ in central London are grossly exaggerated. Emissions have reduced mainly because the vehicle fleet has been renewed as older vehicles are scrapped and central Government tax incentives have encouraged more fuel-efficient vehicles (including EVs).

The Mayor says that only one in five drivers in London will be impacted but the financial impact on them will be devastating.

The Mayor has proposed a vehicle scrappage scheme to support low income and disabled people and he mentions a reimbursement scheme for NHS patients but no details are provided. A vehicle scrappage scheme is likely to be very limited in scope and likewise any reimbursement scheme for patients (there is one already but it’s administratively complex and limited so don’t expect it to help much).

There will be a large cost involved in installing all the extra cameras required to enforce the scheme, which TfL can barely afford, and once installed it will give the Mayor the ability to charge all vehicles to drive in London. Don’t expect the Mayor to give up on a new revenue source!

Make sure you respond to the public consultation below and object!  

ULEZ Expansion Consultation: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair?tool=survey_tool

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The Good News and the Bad

The good news is that Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is proposing to drop plans for a Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme that would charge motorists similar to the Birmingham and London schemes. But it depends on agreement with the Government. The charging scheme had already been “paused” until 2026 but now looks like it will be scrapped. Signs already put up for the scheme will need to be removed. See https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-61439444 for more details.

The bad news is that the Daily Telegraph have reported that the Government is to finance Mini-Holland cycling schemes to encourage people to ditch their cars in Britain’s major cities under government plans.

Nineteen local authorities, including Manchester, Hull and Nottinghamshire, are to get government funds for mini-Hollands with segregated bike lanes, traffic calming and residential streets blocked to cars.

It is suggested officials have steered away from describing any of the projects as Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs), which have provoked intense local opposition over road closures and claims of increased congestion on boundary highways in some areas. But they did acknowledge some had LTN features. See Telegraph article here: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/05/14/wheels-motion-turn-british-cities-cycle-friendly-mini-hollands/

Comment: I cannot understand why people think that Holland is a good example to follow. There may be more cycling in some Dutch cities such as Amsterdam but nationally there are more casualties to cyclists than in the UK and traffic congestion is also worse. There is no evidence that introducing such schemes increases cycling (or “active travel”) in the UK. Cycling remains a fair-weather transport mode only followed by young males in flat locations. If people calling for mini-Hollands actually bothered to visit Holland they would see a very different picture. The only good aspect is that Holland has encouraged more off-road cycle paths that separate vehicle traffic from cyclists.  

Instead of spending £200 million on encouraging cycling the Government should spend it on improving the road network to improve road safety and cut traffic congestion.

Another good article in the Telegraph was entitled “Why Boris and the elite are determined to wean us off the car”. It said “Exasperated motorists are feeling pushed out of the picture with rising fuel costs, congestion charges, low traffic zones and speeding fines, and motorists, especially those who travel into cities, feel they are being hit from every direction. Dead ahead there are closed off roads in low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs); to the left there are automated cameras monitoring their every move; to the right low emission zones and 20mph limits. And all around are parking charges and fuel costs that put a hefty dent in your wallet”; “There has now developed in Government an anti-car attitude as opposed to car management, a hostility to the motor vehicle rather than how we can manage this, says former transport minister John Spellar. He puts this down to a London-centric approach to transport that focuses on the problems cars cause in congested cities and ignores different conditions in other areas. As Spellar points out, working Britons outside the capital – particularly manual and shift workers – often rely on their vehicles to get to work, unlike city commuters who can travel by train”. See https://www.telegraph.co.uk/cars/features/boris-elite-determined-wean-us-car/ for the full article.

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SUVs and Campaign Against       

You have probably seen in the news a campaign against SUVs with tyres being let down. This is undoubtedly a criminal act which should be condemned.

But it’s worth saying that SUVs are an irrational choice of vehicle except for the very few who have a very large family or need to transport a lot of goods. An SUV typically is shaped like a brick and has a large frontal area. Therefore it will have higher wind resistance and fuel consumption than a smaller vehicle. If you want a luxury vehicle with plenty of space inside you don’t need to buy an SUV. Even electric SUVs will have a reduced range over comparable smaller vehicles.

So my view is that SUVs should be avoided and they have certainly contributed to higher overall air pollution in the last few years. But attacking the vehicle or their owners is wrong.

Roger Lawson

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Manchester Campaign Against CAZ and Bromley Air Quality

While Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, plans to expand his ULEZ scheme, in Manchester there has been a very effective campaign against their proposed CAZ scheme. Mayor Andy Burnham is now back-tracking on the proposals.

Daily charges for the most polluting vehicles that don’t meet emission standards – HGVs, buses, non-Greater Manchester licensed taxis and Private Hire Vehicles (PHVs) – had been due to begin on 30 May 2022 but will now not go ahead. The withdrawn legal direction would have led to charges for non-compliant vans, Greater Manchester-licensed taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) from June 2023. Private cars, motorcycles and mopeds were exempt. Concerns about financial hardship for local people and the availability of compliant vehicles led the Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester local authority leaders to ask government to lift its legal direction. Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities have until 1 July 2022 to work with government to develop a new plan that will clean up the air while protecting livelihoods.

The campaign against the Manchester CAZ has 90,000 supporters under the banner Rethink GM. Go here for more information: www.rethinkgm.co.uk and to register support. On the home page click “Forums” then “Register” with just your name and email. The web site also provides a link to an active Facebook page.

Meanwhile the London Borough of Bromley have shown that it is not necessary to impose expensive ULEZ or CAZ schemes to clean up the air (most of that borough is outside the London ULEZ scheme). A press release from Bromley reports that updated data from the London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory shows that between 2016 and 2019 there was a 23% decline in NO2 across the borough, a 19% decline in PM2.5 and a 28% decline in PM10 particulates.

Bromley claims to now be the “cleanest and greenest borough in London”.

For more details see Bromley press release here: https://www.bromley.gov.uk/news/article/2825/big_improvements_in_air_quality

Comment: Bromley has of course ignored demands for LTNs and road closures and is keen to keep traffic moving. But they have pursued positive initiatives such as electric bus trials. Unlike many Labour controlled boroughs in London they have taken a more empirical and less dogmatic approach to the air quality issue.

Readers are reminded that the London ULEZ did little to contribute to improvements in air quality so why is the Mayor wanting to expand it? See https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/ . It will cost a great deal to install hundreds of new cameras to expand the zone and high operating costs, apart from the impact on residents who will need to buy new vehicles or pay £12.50 per day. Although the Mayor says he has abandoned the idea of a boundary charge for people driving into London from outside, the extra cameras will make it very easy to introduce such a scheme!

Roger Lawson

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Expansion of the ULEZ to All of London

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he plans to expand the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London next year (see press release below).

The latest proposal from the Mayor is yet another example of how his policies are all driven by money. The ULEZ was and is an enormously expensive scheme that is having minimal impact on air pollution levels (these are more influenced by Government taxation policies and the fact that older polluting vehicles do get scrapped sooner or later).

There is no evidence that air pollution significantly affects the life expectancy of Londoners – those who live in the most polluted boroughs often live longer.

His claims about a climate change emergency is just scaremongering and certainly his policies will have no impact whatsoever on global climate change which if it is affected by anything is by CO2 emissions in China and the USA, not by emissions in London.

The expanded ULEZ will add substantial costs to many Londoners and even encourage them to move elsewhere. London is becoming a city only a place to live in for the young and fit and who are willing to put up with using public transport.

There will be a full public consultation on these proposals in due course but in the meantime there is a survey you can respond to on the Talk London platform – see https://www.london.gov.uk/talk-london/reducing-emissions-transport? Please respond to it.

Anyone directly affected by these proposals should write to their Member of Parliament because only the Government can stop Sadiq Khan pursuing these damaging policies. See https://www.parliament.uk/get-involved/contact-an-mp-or-lord/contact-your-mp/

Mayor of London’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/mayor-sets-out-london-wide-ulez-plans

More information from the Freedom for Drivers Foundation on the ULEZ and its costs here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm

Roger Lawson

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How the World Really Works – Book Review

It is important for everyone to understand what factors are driving the world’s economies. This is particularly so when there are concerns about global warming and the alleged degradation of the environment as the world’s population continues to increase.

A good primer on this subject is a recently published book by Prof. Vaclav Smil entitled “How the World Really Works”. The author covers wide ranging topics from energy supply to food supply in a very analytic way based on established facts rather than polemics which he criticises as being far too common in the modern world.

His chapter on food production is particularly interesting and he shows how we now manage to feed 8 billion people reasonably well which would have been inconceivable 100 years ago. How do we do it? By using energy supplied mostly from fossil fuels to create fertilizers and by manufacturing farm machinery and road/rail/shipping transport to distribute the products efficiently. The author points out that if we reverted to solely “organic” farming methods we would be lucky to feed half the world’s population.

He covers the supply of key products such as steel, plastics and cement which are essential for our modern standard of living and how they are not only energy intensive in production but that there are few alternatives. He clearly supports the view that the climate is being affected by man’s activities but points out that the changing of energy production, food  production and the production of key products cannot be easily achieved. Certainly it will be difficult to achieve that in the timescales demanded by European politicians when the major carbon emitters of China, India, USA, and Russia are moving so slowly.

Meanwhile any forecasts of the use of oil declining or reserves running out should be treated with scepticism as the price of oil reaches a 7 year high of $95 per barrel. No doubt there will be the usual gripes by motorists who drive petrol/diesel vehicles over the price of fuel and the claimed excess profits being made by oil companies, which in my view are a persistent myth. If you look at the profits of companies such as BP, which it has been suggested should be subject to a “windfall tax”, they are not particularly great if averaged over the last 20 years. In fact returns on capital invested are worse than for many other public companies.

The author looks at the risks in the future for the world, many of which are uncertain. He mentions the risk of a big “Carrington event” – a geomagnetic storm occurring today would cause widespread electrical disruptions, blackouts, and damage due to extended outages of the electrical grid. If that is not enough to scare you he suggests that another pandemic similar to Covid-19 is very likely as such epidemics have happened about every 20 years in the past and might be more virulent in future. But planning for such events, which were historically well known, was minimal and continues to be so.

He does not propose solutions to global warming other than that we do have many tools to enable us to adapt and cope with the issue. For example, farming could be made more efficient and wasted food reduced. Electrification of vehicles might help in a minor way and he is particularly critical of the increase in the use of SUVs in the last 20 years which has been particularly damaging (I cannot but agree with him on that point – if folks are concerned about the high price of fuel they should purchase more economic vehicles and particularly avoid SUVs). But this is not a book containing simple remedies to the world’s problems. It is more one that gives you an understanding of how we got to where we are now and where we might be going.

For example, the use of coal in energy generation can be much reduced, and oil/gas also to some extent. Nuclear fission is a good source of clean energy and fission is a possibility even if he was not aware of the latest announcements on the latter. But it is inconceivable that there will be short-term revolutions in energy supply.

Altogether the book is worth reading just to get an understanding of how the world currently works – as the book’s title suggests.

Incidentally some of the events covered in How the World Really Works are also discussed in my own recently published book entitled “A Journal of the Coronavirus Year” which covers not just the recent pandemic but the changes that have happened in the last 75 years of my lifetime including some of the vehicles I have owned. It’s now available from Amazon – see https://www.amazon.co.uk/Journal-Coronavirus-Year-2020-2021-Biographical/dp/0954539648/ for more information.

Roger Lawson

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Sadiq Khan’s Plan to Screw Drivers Even More

Two days ago (on 17/01/2022) I pointed out on this blog that the Mayor’s Budget document spelled out that road pricing in London was definitely anticipated. His budgets for future years depend on it.

It became clearer what he is planning yesterday when both the BBC and London Evening Standard provided more details of the Mayor’s plan – see links below.

His proposals include a small daily charge on everyone who drives in London – perhaps £2. He claims this is required based on a report commissioned by City Hall that found that a 27% reduction in London’s car traffic was required by 2030 to meet net-zero ambitions. He has the powers to introduce this but he is also considering a London entry charge for anyone who drives in from outside. A boundary charge (of perhaps £3.5 per day) would require Government consent when they don’t currently favour it.

Longer term, by the end of the decade, he would like to introduce a pay- per-mile system although the technology to do that is not yet available.

In the meantime it looks very likely that he will extend the ULEZ to the whole of London.

The Mayor has said “I have got to make sure there is a disincentive to drive your car, particularly if it is petrol or diesel, when there are alternatives, like public transport”. Yes he would like to force everyone to use public transport which of course he has a financial incentive to advocate. It’s yet another reason to take TfL out of the control of the Mayor.

The justification for these measures is to tackle air pollution and defeat climate change. It certainly won’t do the latter and there is a very good debunking of the claims of death from air pollution on the web site Not a Lot of People Know That – see link below.

Improving air quality is certainly something the Freedom for Drivers Foundation supports but there needs to be a clear cost/benefit and the measures our national Government has been taking have been by far the most effective to reduce air pollution. London’s measures introduced by Sadiq Khan have been enormously financially damaging with very little benefit. He postures about saving the world while spending your money ineffectively.

BBC Report: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-60030127

Evening Standard Report: https://www.standard.co.uk/news/london/sadiq-khan-clean-air-charge-petrol-diesel-cars-ulez-expansion-london-b977223.html?

Deaths from Air Pollution: https://notalotofpeopleknowthat.wordpress.com/2017/08/15/claims-of-40000-deaths-from-air-pollution-debunked-by-death-statistics/

Roger Lawson

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ULEZ Had Minimal Impact on Air Pollution

According to a new study by Imperial College, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) had minimal impact on air pollution in London.

The researchers used publicly available air quality data to measure changes in pollution in the twelve-week period from 25 February 2019, before the ULEZ was introduced, to 20 May 2019, after it had been implemented. They controlled for the effects of weather variations, and then used statistical analysis to look for and quantify changes in pollution.

They found that, compared to the overall decrease in London’s air pollution levels, the ULEZ caused only small improvements in air quality in the weeks following its start date: an average reduction of less than 3 per cent for nitrogen dioxide concentrations, and insignificant effects on ozone and particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations. They also found that the biggest improvements in air quality in London in fact took place before the ULEZ was introduced in 2019.

Although London’s air quality has been substantially improving in recent years, that improvement is down to other factors such as newer vehicles in use, and central Government measures such as tax incentives. The ULEZ scheme, and particularly its expansion to cover a lot of outer London, was never justified on a cost/benefit analysis. See our analysis of the ULEZ here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm . Its introduction was clearly motivated by financial revenues to the Mayor and TfL, not by health benefits.

You can read more details of the study from the link below but the comment that air pollution in London causes 4,000 deaths per year is simply wrong.

https://www.imperial.ac.uk/news/231894/london-pollution-improved-with-evidence-small/

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