ULEZ Expansion and Changes to Euston Road

This note is a wrap up of recent news.

Euston Road

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.

ULEZ Expansion

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!

See https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/cleanair for what the Mayor and TfL are saying. Please do respond to the consultation.         

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Sadiq Khan Wants Your Views

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, wants your views on the future of London. He has issued a survey which is available on the Talk London platform which asks a number of questions and also allows you to post some general comments.

The survey starts out by asking you to pick your top three choices from the following changes you would like to see in the next ten years:

Safer streets for walking and cycling; Cleaner streets; “Improved parks and green spaces; More attractive outdoor public spaces; More trees and greenery outside of parks; More workplaces; Better public transport; More housing; More attractive high streets and town centres; More physically accessible public spaces; Don’t know”.

This list does not include my top choices at all which would be: “1) Better private transport (i.e. more road space and less congestion, with fewer closed roads, bus lanes and cycle lanes); 2) Fewer people and less encouragement to move into London to reduce the stress on housing provision and transport provision; and 3) Lower taxes such as the ULEZ, Congestion Charge and Mayor’s Council Tax Precept.

I might vote for more trees and greenery but more housing we do not want in an already congested city.

In other words, it’s a typical biased survey from the Mayor that asks both the wrong questions and asks leading questions.

Some of the later survey questions are more innocuous but miss the opportunity to really find out what Londoners want. It then takes you to a section where you can add general comments on a few issues.

This is a good opportunity to give your real feelings about what how you think London should be improved (and you could of course mention the removal of Sadiq Khan as a starter). So please do respond to this survey.

You’ll need to register for the Talk London platform first but that’s easy. Go here to start: https://www.london.gov.uk/talk-london/planning-londons-future?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Clogging Up London’s Road Network

The road network in central London is being destroyed by the actions of Transport for London (TfL) and local boroughs. When roads are closed or congestion made worse by bus or cycle lanes, then the whole network grinds to a halt. Recent new examples are:

King Street/Chiswick High Road Cycle Lane Scheme. See photograph above of the congestion this has caused. The cycle lane impedes emergency vehicles, is dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, increases congestion and hence pollution, ended the King Street bus lane, and reduces parking space which negatively affects local businesses. The congestion doesn’t just stop on King Street. Hammersmith Road, Hammersmith Gyratory, and Fulham Palace Road have all become completed jammed at peak hours which affects the entire Borough.

There is now a petition on Change.org calling for its removal. Please go here to sign:  https://chng.it/65WC85hWgD  

London Bridge and Borough High Street.  In the east of London, TfL introduced an experimental scheme on London Bridge and in Borough High Street in Spring 2020 using the Covid epidemic as an excuse. They are now proposing to extend these schemes for another six months. It effectively closed London Bridge to all traffic except pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists, buses and taxis.

See  https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/london-bridge-corridor and https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/borough-high-street .

TfL are now proposing to extend both schemes for a further six months using an experimental traffic order with another consultation exercise. They claim it has reduced bus journey times but that is hardly surprising when traffic and people in central London have been much reduced by the Covid pandemic.

This scheme is totally unjustifiable as it removes one of the key London river crossings for most traffic and effectively closes that part of the City to vehicles. You can send comments on the latest decision to haveyoursay@tfl.gov.uk

Aldwych Scheme. While I was writing this blog post I received a telephone call complaining about the revised road layout on Aldwych and Kingsway. This has substantially increased traffic congestion in the area and many taxi drivers are complaining about it. It’s yet another defective traffic scheme introduced by TfL for no clear benefit.

Slowing Traffic with 20 Limits. Apart from slowing traffic with more congestion caused by the above schemes, TfL is now proposing to impose lower speed limits on several major roads. Four 20mph speed limits will be introduced, including the A10 – A503 corridor in Haringey, the A13 Commercial Road in Tower Hamlets, the A23 London Road in Croydon and the A107 corridor in Hackney. In addition, a 30mph speed limit has been introduced on a section of the A10 Great Cambridge Road in Enfield and Haringey.

These reductions are aimed at cutting casualties as part of its Vision Zero commitment to reduce road danger and enable more walking and cycling in the capital.  The central London Congestion zone had a 20-mph limit imposed in 2020 and the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) will significantly increase speed enforcement by increasing MPS capacity to enforce up to one million offences by 2024/25, introducing new technology to improve effectiveness of enforcement and rolling out new powers to Police Community Support Officers so that they can stop speeding vehicles and take enforcement action against drivers.

Comment: This is of course an example of how the MPS under Cressida Dick has lost track of its priorities. Instead of cutting knife crime and keeping the roads open the MPS prefers instead to spend money on speed limit enforcement.  

This is yet more harassment of drivers which will have little impact on road casualties. Vision Zero is failing to achieve its objectives in cutting accidents because reducing speed limits alone by just putting up signs does not have any impact as is clear from studies published by the DfT. To cut accidents roads need to be re-engineered and money spent on driver education.

Central London is becoming a “no go” area for private car drivers and making life very difficult for taxi/PHV and delivery vehicle drivers. This is simply encouraging businesses and retailers to move out and will impoverish London in due course.

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Bishopsgate Road Closure – Give Your Views

Transport for London (TfL) have opened a new consultation on the Streetspace Scheme they installed on Bishopsgate in the City of London. This comprises the closure of the road (which is the A10) to all but buses and cyclists during most of the day – see map above.

This road is a key part of the road network in central London and its closure has created many problems, particularly for taxi drivers. But it has damaged the whole road network by creating extra congestion in the area.

This scheme was subject to a legal challenge by UTAG and they won the case in the High Court (see our comments at the time here: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/01/21/streetspace-plan-for-bishopsgate-overturned-in-high-court/ ), but last August TfL won an appeal against the judgement.

TfL have decided to retain the scheme on an experimental basis partly because traffic patterns in London are hugely variable at the moment. The new consultation will last for six months.

We have submitted some comments already but you need to do the same. Go here to respond: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/bishopsgate?

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Tottenham Court Road – Give Your Views

The London Borough of Camden has issued a consultation on the changes they have made to roads in the Tottenham Court Road area (see link below). That included changing Tottenham Court Road to two-way traffic; restricting areas of Tottenham Court Road to buses and cycling only between 8am – 7pm Mondays to Saturdays; adding new segregated cycle lanes on Gower Street / Bloomsbury Street and many other changes.

This has effectively made the area inaccessible to almost all vehicles and made life exceedingly difficult as a result for people who need to visit the area on business. It’s been enormously damaging as Tottenham Court Road was a key part of the London road network.

One might accept that improvements to the roads were necessary but the result is an extreme anti-vehicle outcome which was unnecessary.

Please respond to the consultation and tell Camden what you think.

Camden Consultation: https://camdenswestendproject.commonplace.is/

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Slowing London Down with a Fake Consultation

You thought traffic in London was slow enough? Well Transport for London (TfL) have now published their report on the “consultation” into the permanent reduction of the speed limit on the Westway to 30mph, Park Lane (Northbound) to 20mph, and 13km of other routes in Westminster to 20mph. That includes on the Marylebone Road, Vauxhall Bridge Road and Edgware Road between the A40 and St. John’s Wood Road – see map below.

Needless to say, they’re planning on going ahead with it. But did you even know about this consultation? This writer certainly did not and the number of responses from the public was only 224 which surely suggests it was not widely known.

Comment: These are some of the main roads in central London and are vital to maintenance of an efficient road network. It is inconceivable that users of these roads would support such a change. It’s yet another example of TfL attempting to halt all use of motor vehicles and deter people from driving in London by making it inconvenient and frustrating.

It’s also a great example of how TfL does fake consultations with no publicity and done in mid-summer when many people are on holiday.

The Consultation Report is present here: https://haveyoursay.tfl.gov.uk/lowering-speeds-westminster and you can see a map below.

Roger Lawson

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Travel in London Report – Mayor’s Objectives Not Met

Before Christmas Transport for London (TfL) published its 14th Report on Travel in London. It’s basically a collection of data on transport trends in the capital. At 263 pages I’ll only provide a brief summary of some of the key points here – see link below for the full report.

Pandemic Impact

The Report includes data showing the impact of the pandemic. By November 2021 the demand for public transport overall was down to around 70% from pre-pandemic levels. London Underground was 65% and bus demand was about 75%. But road traffic only reduced to about 95% as people chose to avoid using public transport by using private transport (i.e. cars or PHVs) or walking.

Walking actually increased substantially and cycling did increase but mainly for leisure cycling at weekends. Weekday peak commuter travel is not recovering rapidly as there is more working from home, and this is particularly noticeable in central London.

Mode Share

The mode share proportion since 2000 is shown in the above chart. You can see that despite the encouragement for cycling in recent years and particularly by the LTNs of late, cycling has remained a very small proportion and any increase during the pandemic was mainly for leisure.

To quote from page 11 of the Report: “The overall active, efficient and sustainable mode share for travel in 2020 is estimated at 58.3 per cent, compared to 63.2 per cent in 2019”. That includes walking, cycling and public transport use, although why public transport should be considered “sustainable” is not clear. But clearly the effect of the pandemic has been to frustrate the Mayor’s objective to get us all out of our cars and increase “sustainable travel” modes to 80% by 2041. In fact, the active travel mode objective of 20 minutes per day (walking/cycling) for 70% of the population has instead fallen to 35% in the latest quarter probably due to less by those working from home.

Air Pollution

The Report contains some data on air pollution some of which comes from road and other transport of course. But it shows how air pollution has been substantially reducing in the last few years. One interesting comment in the Report is that “The Mayor’s Transport Strategy set a target for London to be a zero carbon city by 2050. However, the Mayor has recently called for this to be brought forward to 2030, recognising the importance of the climate change emergency we face”. That’s news to me. So a diesel/petrol car bought this year might be banned in eight years time if the Mayor has his way!

London’s Population

The good news is that limited data suggests the population of London has decreased with significant reductions in international inward migration. The pandemic has deterred international travel while Londoners have moved out to homes in the country and there may have been some “excess deaths” from the pandemic.

Low Traffic Neighbourhoods

The Report comments on the Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) on page 123 but the data reported is very selective and biased. They conclude with this statement: “In summary, LTNs have a wide range of different and interconnected impacts but the evidence suggests that these are largely positive and that it is in the longer term where most of the benefits become apparent. Therefore, TfL shall continue to support and, where appropriate, conduct further research for a complete and thorough evaluation of LTN impacts”. It seems they have not yet accepted that the majority of residents do not support LTNs as is clear from recent surveys and public consultations in local boroughs, Lewisham being the latest one which we will comment on later.

Traffic Congestion

A section of the Report covers traffic congestion (pages 143 on). It reports that over the last decade “A slow but generally consistent trend of reducing traffic volumes in central and inner London…”; “Traffic volumes in outer London have, however, grown over this period; and “Generally lower car traffic, higher freight traffic, particularly LGVs, and dramatic changes to the numbers of private hire vehicles”. But this comment shows the impact of the Mayor’s policies: “Continued reductions to the effective capacity of London’s roads, generally reflecting other Mayoral priorities such as reducing road danger, requiring enhanced operational management of the road network”. Yes as we all know, London has become more congested in the last few years due to damaging policies.

There has been an allegation widely reported that traffic on minor roads in London has increased substantially in recent years but the Report contradicts that. It says: “Notably, the volume estimates for London’s major roads remained broadly unchanged, and there was no evidence of an (observed) increasing year-on-year trend in minor road traffic from available independent data over the preceding decade”. It seems the claimed increase might have been an aberration based on misleading statistical data.

How do you measure traffic congestion? One way is by traffic speed but that can be misleading. The best way is to look at “excess delay” which compares actual travel time versus that under “free-flow” conditions. The Report actually shows some data on this which is the first for some time to my knowledge. The chart below shows congestion worsening from 2010 and particularly in the period 2015-2019, but a big improvement thereafter as travel generally was reduced due to the pandemic. But it is still worse than ten years ago!

In conclusion, the Travel in London Report does contain some very interesting data, albeit distorted by the pandemic as travel patterns and volume changed. But it shows how defective has been the Mayor’s Transport Strategy as people have resisted change to modes while road capacity has been reduced.

Travel in London Report 14: https://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-14.pdf

Roger Lawson

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London Is Now The Most Congested City

A report by traffic information supplier Inrix says London has become the most congested city in the world. Its drivers are losing an average of 148 hours per years sitting in traffic. Other UK cities with major congestion problems are Cambridge, Bristol, Exeter and Cheltenham.

Inrix’s Peter Lees blames a lot of the problem on cycle lanes which have made congestion worse. That is certainly true in London where the expenditure on cycle lanes has been very counter-productive. Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) have also contributed in a big way to increased traffic congestion in many parts of London.

Comment: The result in London is a direct consequence of the defective Mayor’s Transport Strategy which has encouraged cycling when that remains a minority interest. Public transport has been massively subsidised while the road network has been corrupted by dogmatic policies.

The Mayor needs to learn that you cannot solve traffic congestion by taxing motorists as should be self-evident by now. Clearly a different approach is needed but the Mayor and TfL management put their heads in the sand and ignore the problems they have created.

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How to Reform London’s Transport

Following on from my previous blog post about the financial crisis faced by Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor (see link below) I have given some thought to how the problems might be resolved.

The solution from Sadiq Khan and London’s Transport Commissioner is to ask the Government for more money. Not just some millions of pounds in immediate bail-outs but billions in the next few years.  There is no doubting the dire financial situation that TfL has got itself into partly because of the Covid epidemic which has reduced income substantially. But it was slow in responding to that and had not been managing its financial resources properly for years.

The big problem is that TfL has been run to pander to its political master whose key focus is to please the population of London so they can get re-elected when the time comes. But TfL is not just a useful transport service to serve the growing population of London but is in essence a business. It should be run like a business and if it is not it will continue to rack up losses and need repeated bail-outs.

The rot set in when the Mayor of London was given responsibility for TfL (and he chairs the Board of TfL), particularly when TfL took over responsibility for all underground, bus and main roads in the capital. From Ken Livingstone onwards, decisions have been made to please the electorate rather than ensure that TfL ran on a commercial basis. Ken expanded the bus network enormously which resulted in subsidies of over £1billion per year. Buses ran more frequently on routes that were often under-used but only now is the network being reduced.

Concessionary fares such as the Freedom Pass were expanded – again a very popular policy but one which imposed costs on the transport operators even if local councils covered some of the costs.

Ken installed a Congestion Charge system (in essence a tax) while promising it would solve traffic congestion which it never did and now we have the ULEZ tax which it was claimed would solve London’s air pollution problems, but which it has not – see Reference 2.

Sadiq Khan froze public transport fares for 5 years until March 2021. This no doubt helped him to get elected. But this was a political decision not a sensible financial one. He gambled on revenues from Crossrail filling the budget gap that was created but that project was over budget and severely delayed. When the Covid epidemic hit there was no margin of safety left to absorb the reduction in income that comes from bus and tube fares.

Instead of cutting services to meet the reduced demand level and hence save costs, services were maintained at a high level for political reasons and to avoid conflicts with trade unions. That’s not how any commercial business would have tackled the problem.

TfL is a commercial business where less than half its income comes from fares paid by willing customers. Much of it comes from grants and other subsidies, often indirectly from taxpayers. That is the core of the problem which no politician, whatever the hue of the Major of London, is going to tackle.

The solution to many of these problems is to remove TfL from elected political control and give it a clear mandate to be run solely on a commercial basis. A commission, independent from the Mayor of London, should be established with very specific terms of reference which should be binding on a new London Transport Commissioner. Such a commission should report to a Government minister but be independent in terms of policy making and executive decisions, i.e. the Government and any Mayor of London should only have a consultative role.

The remaining issue is whether roads and public transport should be combined under the same Transport Commissioner with roads being financed and maintained to some extent from public transport fares. Although the Mayor currently obtains some income from the Congestion and ULEZ charges, he argues that he should receive a share of national taxes used to finance road development and maintenance. That would only make sense if it was removed from political control in London.

But there is a built-in basis for irrational decisions if the London Transport Commissioner is responsible for multiple transport modes – underground, surface rail, London buses, taxis/PHVs and private vehicles (cars, LGVs and HGVs). Each of these should be made standalone businesses so that no one role subsidises the other. They should be made independent profit and cost centres. London Underground should not subsidise London Buses and vice versa. Road vehicles including buses should be covering the maintenance costs of the road network (including that for bridges, flyovers and tunnels) in London. If there is any surplus in any one sector it should be used to expand the relevant network and improve services, not be used to subsidise other loss-making activities.

The claim for a single transport body such as TfL was that it would enable the construction of an integrated transport system but apart from a common fare payment system there is little real integration.

The above is a manifesto to reform London transport so that it meets the needs of consumers of its services on a viable economic basis in the future. No other solution can do that.

There are of course other possible escapes from TfL’s financial problems. It has assets it could sell off. Perhaps someone would like to buy the London Underground?  But that will never happen while it is subject to political interference. Or it could borrow more money but that would not solve the basic financial problem. When expenditure exceeds income in your household budget, the last thing you should do is to increase your mortgage or raise the limit on your credit cards.

As it stands, the Mayor’s only solution seems to be to ask his fairy godmother (the Government) to come up with oodles of more cash. The Government should ignore the Mayor’s wailing and threats and get down to imposing substantial reform along the lines I suggest.

Roger Lawson

Ref 1. Transport Crisis in London blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/19/transport-crisis-in-london/ 

Ref 2. ULEZ Had Minimal Impact blog post: https://freedomfordrivers.blog/2021/11/17/ulez-had-minimal-impact-on-air-pollution/

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Transport Crisis in London

Both Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Andy Byford, London Transport Commissioner, have warned that unless they get more money from the Government then there are going to be savage cuts in public transport and on major infrastructure projects. The latter might include the required repairs to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the A40 Westway and A12 Gallows Corner flyover leading to their closure.

Some 100 bus routes face the axe and frequencies may be cut on 200 other routes. Other proposals are no more electric buses, no more step-free stations, no more “Healthy Streets” cycling and walking schemes and no more 20mph zones or safer junctions.

Now some readers might welcome some of those things and clearly the Mayor is trying to scare the Government into providing more funding within weeks. But some of those suggestions like closure of the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Westway would be disastrous for the functioning of the road network in both east and west London.

How did TfL get themselves into such a mess? It all stems from the policies adopted by Ken Livingstone which was for massive subsidies to buses and commitments for large expenditure on Crossrail and other underground projects. The bus network has certainly been greatly expanded but at a cost that was never justified and Crossrail has been a financial disaster. Over budget, over schedule, and never justified on a cost/benefit basis. The Mayor was relying on income from it to cover TfL’s future budgets which it never has.

Boris Johnson never tackled the problems created by Livingstone when he was Mayor while Sadiq Khan has actually made matters worse by spending enormous amounts of money on cycle lanes, LTNs, and other schemes that have damaged the road network. He has also encouraged the growth in the population of London while the infrastructure never kept up with it despite massive central Government funding.

A report in the Express shows that £515 more per person was spent on transport schemes in London than on the North of England. A new report from the IPPR North think tank has published an independent analysis of transport spending over the past decade. Between 2009/10-2019/20, the North received just £349 per person in transport spending. In comparison, the UK as a whole received £430 per person, while London received a staggering £864 per person. Where did it all go one might ask? On pointless and generally uneconomic schemes not justified by any cost/benefit analysis is the answer.

The daft transport schemes such as the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ have actually encouraged people to move out of London and the cuts to public transport that are proposed will expedite that trend. With falling income from bus and tube fares already caused by the pandemic, the outlook is certainly bleak. But failing to maintain the infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and flyovers while the Major prefers to spend money on other things is surely a sign of gross incompetence.

London needs a new transport plan where expenditure is matched to income and needless subsidies removed. In other words, people should pay the cost of the trips they take on public transport and free riders should be stopped. But will a socialist Mayor ever take such steps? I doubt it. So London is likely to go into further decline and more people will move out.

But London is at the heart of the UK economy so there is some justification for central Government stepping in once again to reform London’s governance. We need less populism (which generally means hand-outs to win votes) and more financial acumen in the leadership. Certainly the current arrangement where you have a virtual dictator in the role of Mayor and a toothless London Assembly is not working.

The key to improving the London transport network is not to have it all (both public and private transport) under the control of one body (TfL) which leads to lack of competition and perverse incentives. For example, encouraging cycling to relieve pressure on public transport while causing more road traffic congestion and introducing schemes such as the ULEZ to help subsidise public transport while increasing the cost of private transport.

Perhaps we need a new Dr Beeching to put the London transport network back into a cost-effective structure as he did for British Rail. But at least the Government seems to have taken some rational decisions by cancelling the eastern link of HS2 to Leeds. Just like Crossrail in London, HS2 was never justified in terms of benefits achievable and the money would have been better spent on smaller projects. But politicians love grandiose schemes. Reality seems to be finally sinking in on the national scene even if not yet in London.

Roger Lawson

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