London Transport Commissioner and Mayor’s Special Pleading

The Evening Standard has published an article by London’s Transport Commissioner, Andy Byford (see Reference 1). In it he welcomes the £1 billion in Government funding to keep Transport for London running for another few months.

But like Sadiq Khan’s press release over the deal (see Reference 2), it complains about the lack of a “long-term settlement”. The Mayor even called it “yet another sticking plaster”. They do not seem to understand that the basic problem is that they are looking for taxpayers (i.e. you and me as represented by the Government) to fund an uneconomic business called Transport for London.

Andy Byford does spell out where some of the money will go which includes this: “And it means we can continue with innovative and creative schemes to decarbonise transport by 2030 and to clean-up London’s air through the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emission Zone, further electrifying the bus fleet, promoting active travel — including more Santander cycles — and improving road safety”. In other words, they are spending taxpayers’ money to expand the ULEZ (a very ineffective scheme on a cost/benefit analysis) and provide more cycles. Clearly the approach seems to be to spend their way out of trouble in the socialist paradise of London.  

The Mayor says that TfL only needs emergency funding from the Government because the Covid epidemic cut fare income by 90%. That might have been true in the short term and over a few weeks but the details do not seem to have been disclosed. Usage of public transport is fast recovering so this may be only a temporary problem and the financial problems of TfL are a long-standing failure to run a prudent budget that takes into account not just operating costs but capital expenditure and financing costs in addition.

Regrettably the Mayor is acting like the animal that bites the hand that feeds it with his attacks on the Government.

Roger Lawson

Reference 1: Evening Standard article: https://tinyurl.com/2fc4vtut

Reference 2: Mayor of London Press Release: https://tinyurl.com/82uwfr38

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Telegraph Summarises Surveys Against LTNs, and John Redwood’s Blog Article

The Daily Telegraph has published an analysis of the 10 consultations on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) that local councils have reported to date. Three quarters of the people consulted over LTNs and cycle lanes opposed them.

The councils reporting their survey results include Harrow (82% opposed) and Windsor + Maidenhead (89% opposed). One exception was Bromley though with 64% supporting but their schemes are very limited in scope.

The newspaper also reported that one in three councils have axed, modified or reduced their active travel schemes. They also quote Tony Devenish, Conservative London Assembly Members as saying: “My Government is at fault to some extent, because they gave councils the power not to publicly consult for up to 18 months. You can’t just do these things to people. There has been absolute outcry from the Great British public – and that’s why so many councils have had to U-turn”.

But some Councils such as Lewisham have avoided doing public consultations despite promising to do them, or they keep moving the goalposts by changing the nature of the road closures (for example by changing them to “School Streets” or by reissuing Traffic Orders to avoid legal challenges).

Comment: Such public surveys show that the general public (even those who don’t own a car but rely on public transport such as buses), are opposed to the obstruction of our roads. Roads are essential for the movement of people and goods.

In Praise of the Car

John Redwood, M.P., has spelled out the advantages of cars in a good article on his blog (see Reference 2 below). He says: “Acquiring your first vehicle is a major advance in your personal freedom. Yet today government, Councils and better off greens from the security of their homes in major cities lecture the rest of us on the wickedness of the car. The better off Green city dweller can rely more on the tube or mass transit and has the money for taxis when needed. The aim is to get people out of car ownership or to reduce their use of the car, and in the meantime to cow people into keeping quiet about their reliance on this flexible and most popular form of transport”.

He explains at length why cars are more practical and economic for most of the journeys which he takes. A number of good comments have been added. I hope Grant Shapps reads the article.

Reference 1: Telegraph Article: https://tinyurl.com/2d44vbcn

Reference 2: Redwood Article: https://tinyurl.com/cchhcurc

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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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Mayor Spells Out His Policies in the Times

Sadiq Khan has reiterated his policies on cars and air pollution in an article in the Times. He repeated his call for drivers to give up their cars and said: “Where you can give up using cars, I would encourage that. We can avoid a health crisis that is around air quality and obesity but [it] will also mean that those who do need to use the roads for good reason, be that you are a black-cab driver, electrician, plumber, blue-light services, delivery driver and so forth, are not stuck in traffic and frustrated about productivity when others who have alternatives aren’t using them.”

He repeats his gross exaggeration of the dangers of air pollution to the health of the public as a justification for the expansion of the ULEZ and the proposed charge for entering London from outside. In reality, the expansion of the ULEZ will have minimal impact on air pollution and in just a few years’ time the benefit will have completely disappeared. But there will be massive costs imposed on London’s vehicle owners. See this previous blog post for the data: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2020/04/15/ulez-the-latest-information-including-poor-financial-outcome/

However you look at it, it’s about raising taxes not improving the health of Londoners.

Times Article: https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/c71af668-a4ff-11eb-be8f-c06519de93dd?shareToken=88c7f827c16cd944a33cd315efb17e2d

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Mayoral Race Hotting-Up

The campaigns to get elected as the next Mayor of London are getting more active. For those who are considering voting for Sadiq Khan, an article published in the Independent makes it look like an ominous choice for anyone who wants to drive in London.

The article said that he vows to press ahead with controversial plans to get Londoners out of their cars.  The current Mayor said to the Independent that we “need to make sure we don’t go from one health crisis of Covid, to another one – even worse – of air quality”. Of course this makes for good political banter but it is untrue that air pollution is a major health crisis. It is certainly worth improving what air pollution there is in London as it might tackle some health issues but it has been steadily improving for years and years in most areas. Londoners have been living longer which puts a lie to the claim of major health crisis. Air pollution has only been highlighted in some locations recently because of the impact of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) which has made things worse, while sources of air pollution other than vehicles are ignored.

Sadiq Khan said this in the article: “Our roads should be limited to blue light services, to electricians, to plumbers, to commercial drivers, to taxis, to those that need to use our roads – delivery drivers and so forth – rather than individuals that could be walking, cycling and using public transport”. So it seems those who wish to drive their family to their friends or relatives elsewhere in the country should be banned from using London’s roads. And doing a week’s shopping and carrying it home or visiting doctors should also be banned. Meanwhile the hypocrite that he is drives around in an armoured Range Rover (cost: £300,000 according to the Mail OnLine).

The Independent article is a classic example of how to throw mud at your opponents and to ignore the desires of the residents of London to have the LTN roads re-opened. See article on the link below for the full horror of what Mr Khan believes which includes some very misleading comments about his opponent’s policies.

To read about all the candidates and their policies in a less biased form, read this previous blog post:  https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/04/10/london-elections-runners-and-riders/

The Independent Article: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/london-mayor-sadiq-khan-traffic-b1834758.html

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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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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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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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Why LTNs are Failing, and Deserve to Do So

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) are still spreading over London but opposition to them is growing. Some have even been removed or substantially reduced already due to local opposition. It’s worth reviewing why they have failed or generated such opposition, and why they are even being installed in the first place.

The support for LTNs comes from a desire to reduce traffic, particularly on residential streets. This is promoted by their supporters as a way to reduce air pollution and to tackle climate change. A number of London councils have declared “climate emergencies” which they say justifies an attack on the use of vehicles, particularly internal combustion driven ones. But this has extended to halting the use of all vehicles which it is argued will  reduce traffic accidents, enable children to play in the streets and encourage people to walk and cycle, thereby making us healthier and live longer.

Even those who own vehicles (about 50% of London households own a car) would like to see less traffic as high traffic levels cause congestion and hence extended journey times. Many residents who own cars want to drive via the shortest and least congested routes possible but don’t want folks from adjacent neighbourhoods driving down their street.

There are undoubtedly good arguments for encouraging healthy life styles not just for your personal benefit but because it reduces the cost of the NHS which we all pay for out of taxes. However the introduction of LTNs as a solution to excessive traffic has followed the law of unintended consequences. Firstly they tend to simply redistribute traffic from minor roads onto surrounding major roads. Those roads become more congested and as the traffic is slow moving or stationary, it creates more air pollution for residents of those roads not less.

LTNs do not reduce the demand for travel. They might encourage the use of walking or cycling by the healthy and young cohort of the population but there is very little evidence of a significant change in the habits of existing car drivers. In other words, the claimed “modal shift” generated by “modal filters” and such like is frequently a mirage. The traffic does not “evaporate” as claimed but gets redistributed or delayed as circuitous routes are taken. The elderly and disabled are particularly disadvantaged as they may be unable to walk or cycle far, if at all. But their needs are frequently ignored by council planners who tend to be young and unsympathetic – indeed the Equalities Act which protects minorities is often not properly considered.

Of course it does depend to some extent on how well designed is an LTN. It has been long standing practice to close some minor roads to avoid excessive traffic which should be on major roads. At least that is the theory but in London even major roads are commonly roads on which people live in apartments, i.e. they are residential roads also.

Other roads such as major shopping “high streets” have been pedestrianised to the advantage of shoppers and retailers. This writer certainly has no objection to such measures which remove traffic to other roads as long as the needs of the disabled are taken into account.

Although overall vehicle ownership and traffic volumes have actually not been rising in London in the last few years, the closure of roads, the addition of cycle and bus lanes, and other measures such as removal of gyratories, more traffic lights with reduced timings and more pedestrian crossings have resulted in more congestion. The growth of ride hailing apps such as Uber have also contributed to more congestion in some parts of the capital.

The population of London has been rising rapidly, encouraged by Mayors of all political complexions. This has put more pressure on transport and on housing provision. Even public transport has become heavily congested while buses are delayed and become less attractive to use by the traffic congestion. The rise of deliveries of internet orders by LGVs has also increased markedly leading to higher use of minor roads which has also been supported by the use of Satnavs.

What can actually be done that would really reduce traffic in London and cut air pollution? Here are some more realistic ideas:

  • Reducing air pollution by obstructing traffic (a typical focus of LTNs) simply does not work. The solution is to produce vehicles that generate less pollution. In fact this is well on the way to being achieved by Government regulation and taxation, and by improved diesel/petrol engines.
  • Reducing the population of London would relieve the problem of traffic congestion, public transport congestion and housing insufficiency. Why does no politician advocate it?
  • Investing in expanding and improving the road network would also help while putting in LTNs does the opposite.

Note that none of those measures will actually do anything about climate change, whether you believe in man-made global warming or not. The contribution of road transport to CO2 emissions globally is only 18% and is falling while emissions from aircraft and shipping is rising. Meanwhile other sources such as home/office heating, industrial processes and construction are very big contributors. These emissions do of course directly relate to population levels so that’s another reason for reducing the population.

But global emissions are dominated by the big and populous countries such as the USA, China, India and Russia. The UK only contributes about 1%. So when local councillors such as Councillor Scott in Croydon suggest we are all doomed unless we cut vehicle use, he needs to go tell it to Joe Biden et al. 

The UK is already focussed on achieving net-zero carbon emissions and is well ahead of other countries in that objective. But whether it is economically practical to achieve that, or wise to even aim for it, has yet to be confirmed. But it is certainly the case that putting in LTNs in local boroughs will have absolutely no impact on the outcome.

Regrettably many local councillors seem to think they got elected to save the world rather than sticking to their job of listening to their local electorate and improving their borough by practical steps. Even central Government politicians have fallen into this trap, hence the encouragement with funding from Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, for LTNs.

In the meantime all LTNs are doing is creating enormous inconvenience for many of London’s residents to no purpose. It’s like a religion where supporters of LTNs claim benefits which are unproven but they think all you need to do is believe in them and the world will be a better place. No it will not be.

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More School Streets, Streetspace Consultation, MPs on TV and Travel Statistics

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is promoting the installation of even more “School Streets” where roads are closed during rush hours to cut pollution. Such closures are typically enforced by cameras, providing another source of revenue to local councils.

Already 430 have been funded with 300 now installed. By 2019 there were actually very few schools remaining where there were illegal levels of pollution. Were these reductions down to the implementation of school streets? Probably not because air pollution blows around and it’s more likely that general improvements in vehicle technology and the ULEZ scheme made the biggest impacts. 

The ABD certainly supports the encouragement of drivers on the school run to use other transport modes (such as children walking to school) but closing roads actually prejudices other road users who have legitimate reasons to be on the roads. Some roads where there are good alternative routes might be closed without too much prejudice but in other cases they are unreasonable. They have been introduced in boroughs such as Lewisham without proper consultation with local residents.

See Reference 1 below for details.

Streetspace Consultation

Numerous “Streetspace” schemes are being installed across London in boroughs such as Bromley, Camden, City of London,  Croydon, Greenwich, Hackney, Haringey, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Merton, Richmond, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. They typically involve reallocating road space as the name suggests, with road closures, and more cycle lanes being common aspects.

Transport for London (TfL) have now launched a public consultation on these schemes that anyone can respond to. See https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/general/streetspace-for-london/consultation/

PLEASE RESPOND.

MPs Debate Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

On the 12th November ITV ran a programme called the “Late Debate” which included Janet Daby (M.P. for Lewisham East) and David Simmonds (M.P. for Ruislip, Northwood and Pinner). They covered the controversy over Low Traffic Neighbourhoods but did not take a strong position against them unfortunately despite the many complaints they have generated. They both ducked the problems they create to a large extent. But you may want to watch it to see what your M.P. is saying if you live in those constituencies. See Reference 2 below.

Cycling Revolution Not Happening and the Impact on TfL

The Department for Transport (DfT) have published some statistics on travel mode usage since the Covid-19 epidemic hit – see Reference 3 below.

It shows there was a significant increase in April this year and during the summer months, but has now fallen back to more normal lower levels.

It also shows how transport on the Underground and Buses in London was decimated in the early stages of the epidemic and remains at very low levels. Hence the financial difficulties of TfL.

But the Government is about to throw another £175 million at active travel schemes (i.e. more for cycling). The only caveat is that local councils will have to do more consultation or they may lose future funding.

Reference 1: Mayor’s Statement on School Streets: https://tinyurl.com/y3eu5ck4

Reference 2: ITV London Debate:  https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=421993052295871  

Reference 3: DfT Travel Statistics: https://tinyurl.com/yd9xoqss

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

You can “follow” this blog by clicking on the bottom right in most browsers or by using the Contact page (see under the About tab) to send us a message requesting. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.