An article in the Sunday Times by Nicholas Hellen has explained how Oxfordshire County Council was bribed with £33 million of Government funding to install the planned traffic filters. Installing the filters was conditional on funding for 159 electric buses and the Council committed to go ahead six months before a public consultation took place.
Under the proposed scheme residents will need to apply for a permit to pass through six pinch points but will be restricted to 100 days per year or be fined £70. The allocation of Government funding was explicitly linked to a written pledge to introduce the scheme.
The latest attack on the use of motor vehicles is the promotion of the concept of the “15-Minute City”. This is a concept where most daily necessities can be accomplished by either walking or cycling from residents’ homes. Irrespective of the practicality of it, such a scheme can be enforced by splitting a city into neighbourhoods and banning vehicles from driving from one zone into another.
The cities of Oxford and Bath have launched proposals for such schemes.
Oxfordshire County Council, which is run by Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, wants to divide the city of Oxford into six districts. In these districts, it is suggested that most household essentials will be accessible by a quarter-of-an-hour walk or bike ride, and so residents will have no need for a car. The council plans to cut car use and traffic congestion by placing strict rules on car journeys. Under the proposals, if residents drive outside of their designated district more than 100 days per year they could be fined £70. Labour councillor Duncan Enright, cabinet member for travel and development strategy, has already declared that the policy is ‘going to happen, definitely’ irrespective of the outcome of a public consultation.
In Bath the City Council is proposing to split the city into four “cells”. Vehicles would be prohibited from driving from one cell into another. They are also pushing for Low Traffic Neighbourhoods to be implemented.
The concept of 15-minute cities was conceived on the continent where cities like Paris have promoted the idea. But nobody has shown them to be practical in the modern world. We no longer have a range of specialist shops within easy walking distance and the elderly and incapacitated cannot walk or cycle for 15 minutes. Health facilities such as hospitals are rarely within 15 minutes walk and even general practices now tend to be in larger buildings serving a wider area. The single-handed GP serving a local community is long dead.
People have come to rely on cars – either their own or taxi/minicab/PHV services – to get around. And it’s rare that people only have friends and family within 15 minutes as some move house to cheaper neighbourhoods further out from city centres. Jobs are also now rarely available in a local area so travel is required if you want to improve yourself or earn more money – even in London public transport does not always provide a practical commuting route.
Politicians who support this concept rarely consider the practical impacts of what they are proposing and ignore those who object.
As we move into a New Year, this is just the latest example of how motor vehicles and those who use them are being prejudiced by the policies of tin-pot dictators in local councils. They think they know what is good for us but really don’t. The Government should remove the powers from local councils to destroy the road network by closing roads or limiting how they are used.
In the South-East of England we are suffering from major transport disruptions. First from rail strikes affecting London commuters and second by the activities of Just Stop Oil on the road network.
The RMT union have announced further strikes on November 3, 5 and 7 and are balloting their members on pursuing them for another six months. I issued a tweet yesterday which suggested the way to stop these strikes was to give an ultimatum to employees to either work normally or get fired. The problem is that train drivers are so highly paid that a few days out is affordable.
Rather surprisingly I got a response from the RMT which said “In your haste to sound draconian you’ve not considered who would staff the railway or train the replacements if you’ve fired them all? Nothing would move for years!!”.
My response was “Well it worked when Ronald Reagan did it for air traffic controllers, did it not?”. This refers to the events in August 1981 in the USA. To quote from Wikipedia: “After PATCO workers’ refusal to return to work [over a pay dispute], the Reagan administration fired the 11,345 striking air traffic controllers who had ignored the order, and banned them from federal service for life. In the wake of the strike and mass firings, the FAA was faced with the difficult task of hiring and training enough controllers to replace those that had been fired. Under normal conditions, it took three years to train new controllers. Until replacements could be trained, the vacant positions were temporarily filled with a mix of non-participating controllers, supervisors, staff personnel, some non-rated personnel, military controllers, and controllers transferred temporarily from other facilities”.
The US airlines continued operations with minimal disruptions and the Reagan move had a significant impact on union activities in other organisations effectively resetting labour relationships in the USA. Strikes fell in subsequent years. From 370 major strikes in 1970 the number fell to 11 in 2010, and it had a positive effect in reducing inflation.
Just as Margaret Thatcher handled the coal miners in the UK, Reagan’s firm resolve on facing up to the unions created a new and better culture.
As regards the Just Stop Oil (JSO) campaign the closure of the Dartford Bridge created enormous traffic jams and delayed people for many hours. The whole of south-east London was affected as many people commute around the M25. The Metropolitan Police tweeted they had “made 404 arrests linked to JSO activity. We have needed nearly 5500 officer shifts diverted from local communities in London, to deal with the serious disruption caused by this activity”. The total cost including the delays to people must be many millions of pounds.
The Police seem to be totally ineffective in stopping the activities of JSO. People get arrested but then released. Fines, if any, are minimal. There is a Bill currently going through Parliament that might assist – The Public Order Bill – see https://www.parallelparliament.co.uk/bills/2022-23/publicorder . It creates a number of new offences relating to “locking-on”, obstructing major transport works and interfering with the use or operation of key national infrastructure. It also confers preventative powers for the police to search for and seize articles related to protest-related offences and provides for a new preventative court order, the Serious Disruption Prevention Order, to disrupt the activities of repeat offenders”. But will it be applied vigorously?
The Police already have considerable powers that are not used and JSO could be proscribed as a “terrorist organisation” as they meet the criteria. Let us hope the Public Order Bill is passed quickly. But it’s really down to the Government to take a lead on this matter even if they may be distracted by financial matters at present.
Peaceful demonstrations are OK but disruption to normal life should not be permitted under any circumstances.
The Holborn gyratory in London has been the scene of some fatal accidents to cyclists so the London Borough of Camden is proposing some changes to improve safety. But the changes proposed are somewhat trivial in nature although they are likely to reduce the capacity of the roads and hence increase traffic congestion and air pollution. There is no information provided on any modelling of traffic flows that might have been done.
The changes include the right turn lane on Kingsway northbound being changed into a right turn only into Remnant Street which is surely a bit odd.
These changes might benefit cyclists but they prejudice all other road users. More substantive changes are surely required to really solve the road safety problems in this area.
Transport for London (TfL) have launched a public consultation on the changes made to Park Lane. This road has always been a key road through central London to avoid more congested areas. But the introduction of bus and cycle lanes has reduced the road space for all other vehicles and caused congestion as a result (see photo above). What used to be a three-lane highway is now only one.
A cycle lane is also unnecessary as there is a cycle path in parallel in the Park itself which would be both more convenient and more pleasant for cyclists. There is no benefit to pedestrians in these changes.
This is another example of the prejudice against cars and vans while cyclists and buses get priority
The sad death of Queen Elizabeth reminds me of my own mother’s death at the age of 100. They looked similar in later life. Both managed to die in their own home which is the best place from which to leave. Will Charles III make a good king? We will have to wait and see but his name is not propitious bearing in mind the track record of the previous two. As I am not a monarchist I will say no more.
It was interesting to see an open coal fire in use in the photographs of Liz Truss with the Queen. Balmoral does not have central heating apparently while Buckingham Palace does have a CHP plant. But the bill to run the later was about half a million pounds per annum before the projected price increases. So King Charles might welcome Truss’s announcement to cap the maximum price of gas and electricity.
This is a cap on prices, not on overall cost so people with big houses with large gas consumption will still pay more. But at least it will replace the OFGEM price cap which was an irrational policy. Fracking is also being permitted to boost local gas production.
Truss did not give in to calls for this largess to be funded through a windfall tax. She said this would undermine the national interest by discouraging the very investment we need to secure home-grown energy supplies. You can’t tax your way to growth she said. So it will be funded by more Government debt in essence.
Is this wise? I believe it is the lesser of evils as it will help to bring inflation under control which is essential to keep the economy healthy and avoid a severe recession. These decisions by Truss and her new cabinet are positive in my view. But she is still committed to net zero by 2050 which is simply an unrealistic and unachievable objective.
With a new Prime Minister we are getting a new Cabinet. Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps has gone, thank god, to be replaced by Anne-Marie Trevelyan. She might be pro road building as in 2007 she campaigned to dual the A1 in the North of England. Liz Truss also supports road building – in a recent speech she said “We will get spades in the ground to make sure people are not facing unaffordable energy bills and we will also make sure, that we are building hospitals, schools, roads, and broadband”.
Other new Ministers in the Department for Transport are Kevin Foster MP and Lucy Frazer MP.
This is all positive news. Other good news is that Andrew Gilligan, the transport advisor to Boris Johnson and a keen promoter of cycling, has gone.
But the attack on private cars continues. Oxfordshire County Council is proposing to restrict private cars from the City Centre altogether but permitting taxis, PHVs, LGVs, HGVs etc. Local residents will be given permits to use on 100 days per year. This draconian measure is subject to a public consultation – see https://letstalk.oxfordshire.gov.uk/traffic-filters-2022 . Please respond to it before the 3rd October although this is a very biased survey with way too many questions. I added these comments however: “This survey is totally biased with preconceived answers to the questions imposed to get the answers you are looking for. A total disgrace!”.
I hope the new Transport Ministers will put a stop to such schemes which are inherently illogical.
You can “follow” this blog by entering your email address in the box below. You will then receive an email alerting you to new posts as they are added.
I have received an email from TfL concerning the Park Lane scheme which was introduced in 2020 as an emergency response to the Covid epidemic. The latest email tries to justify making the scheme permanent and says “there is a strong case for less motor traffic and more space for walking and cycling along Park Lane including at Hyde Park Corner and Marble Arch”.
It rejects the argument that cyclists can ride through the park because that is “inconvenient for people on foot using the park….”. It looks like TfL have already made up their mind to make the scheme permanent although they do say there will be another public consultation in the autumn.
Comment: Park Lane is a key route for north-south traffic in London and has always been a major road – it used to have a 40 mph speed limit now reduced to 20 mph. The scheme as introduced has created a lot of unnecessary traffic congestion when the number of cyclists using the cycle lane is very small.
In reality a small number of cyclists are being favoured while thousands of vehicle users are being prejudiced.
Note: the latest email from Fraser MacDonald, Strategic Consultations Lead, does not contain his contact information. This is symptomatic of the approach of TfL management who do not want to receive any feedback on their statements. Appallingly undemocratic.
Photo above is of Park Lane opposite Stanhope Gate in the August Bank Holiday week from a TfL camera showing a queue of slow-moving traffic in mid-morning. Totally unnecessary but due to the road being reduced to one lane.
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.
Firstly Transport for London (TfL) are changing the Euston Road scheme. This scheme which introduced a cycle lane has caused terrible traffic congestion on what is one of the key arterial roads in London particularly for east/west traffic. To quote from TfL:
“We have decided to make significant alterations to the scheme, including reinstating the bus lane and the removal of the temporary eastbound cycle lane. We will, however, retain some elements of the scheme which is set out below.
As London gets busier our monitoring has identified significant increases to bus journey times along Euston Road, resulting in delays to bus passengers. We are also seeing increased traffic congestion on Euston Road. Furthermore, High Speed 2 (HS2) construction works are planned in and around Euston Station and HS2 will need to use road space on the Euston Road as part of their construction plans.
Reinstating the bus lane on Euston Road should help to reduce the delays currently experienced. As road space will be required for the HS2 works, it will not be possible to maintain a cycle lane here. Cyclists can continue to use the bus lane and there is an alternative route just south of Euston Road.
We will shortly remove the cycle lane and reinstate the eastbound bus and traffic lane along Euston Road. We are currently planning a construction programme for the works which we expect to take place later in the summer, although we will write to local businesses and residents to confirm the extent of works and dates when confirmed”.
Comment: All they seem concerned about is bus journey times when this scheme degraded the road network for all vehicle users and was yet another damaging and ill-conceived road scheme in London.
Opposition to the expansion of the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London is growing. A new petition has been raised against it on change.org. Please sign it here: https://chng.it/wCC249NWK8
Sadiq Khan has claimed that “the greatest number of deaths attributable to toxic air are in outer London boroughs”. This is a false claim with no evidence to support it. There may be more deaths from respiratory disease in outer London but that is because there are more elderly people living in outer London boroughs. There is no connection to air pollution as boroughs such as Bromley have cleaner air than central London boroughs.
The Mayor claims that the ULEZ expansion will also “tackle the climate emergency” and “reduce congestion”. How exactly? He does not explain.
In reality the Mayor is using false statistics to justify imposing more taxes on vehicle owners and targeting the small minority of people who drive older vehicles. They can typically ill-afford to upgrade their vehicles.
The Mayor even concedes that “the dominant proportion of road transport emissions are now non-exhaust emissions including tyre and brake wear along with road wear and resuspension of particles as vehicles travel on roads….”. You can therefore anticipate that after older vehicles there will be new taxes soon to deter all vehicle usage. You have been warned!