Blog Readership survey

Note that I have now been writing this blog since 2010 – how time flies. But it would be interesting to get some feedback from readers so here is a survey you can complete: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/sv/q6q1Z29

It should take less than a minute to complete as it only has three questions in it. It can be completed anonymously but there may be a summary of the results published in due course.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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IPCC Report – The Implications for Drivers

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) have published a report that predicts in stark terms both the historic and predicted changes to the earth’s climate from human activities. This is what they say in the accompanying press release: “Scientists are observing changes in the Earth’s climate in every region and across the whole climate system, according to the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report, released today. Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, and some of the changes already set in motion—such as continued sea level rise—are irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years”.

However they also say that “strong and sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases would limit climate change. While benefits for air quality would come quickly, it could take 20-30 years to see global temperatures stabilize”.

Although there are a few people who do not accept the scientific consensus in the IPCC report, Governments are likely to accept the findings and implement policies accordingly. This is already happening with the UK being at the forefront of measures to reduce carbon emissions which are seen as the main cause of global warming. With the UK Government’s “net zero by 2050” policy we are already seeing major impacts and the imposition of enormous costs on many aspects of our life. All of this is reinforced by media coverage of floods and wild fires that are typically blamed on climate change.

Many such reports are anecdotal in nature – they may simply be random events that occur for non-specific reasons, while reporting of such events is now more common in the modern connected world. But the IPCC report does say “It is virtually certain that hot extremes (including heatwaves) have become more frequent and more intense across most land regions since the 1950s, while cold extremes (including cold waves) have become less frequent and less severe, with high confidence that human-induced climate change is the main driver of these changes”. They also say that heavy precipitation events have increased since the 1950s over most land areas and it is likely that human-induced climate change is the cause. It has also contributed to increases in agricultural and ecological droughts.

The IPCC report is effectively a call for action and that will no doubt be reinforced by the upcoming COP26 summit in Glasgow in November where politicians will be promoting their virtuous visions no doubt. Whether they turn into actions remains to be seen – the past experience suggests they may only turn into token gestures. Economic decisions often thwart the best policies.

What happens if we don’t cut CO2, and methane and other carbon emissions? The IPCC report gives a number of scenarios based on scientific models of differing levels of emissions. Under the high and very high GHG emissions scenarios, global warming of 2°C (relative to 1850– 1900) would be exceeded during the 21st century. Global warming of 2°C would be extremely likely to be exceeded in the intermediate scenario and under the very low and low GHG emissions scenarios, global warming of 2°C is unlikely to be exceeded.

That might seem to be good news, but because of the time lag of the impact of changes in emissions, under the high emissions scenario their best estimate is of a temperature rise of 2.4 °C by 2041-2060 and 4.4 °C by 2081-2100. The latter would be disastrous for many parts of the world with increases in the intensity and frequency of hot extremes (heatwaves and heavy precipitation). The Arctic might become ice free in summer under all the scenarios and sea levels will rise “for centuries to millennia due to continuing deep ocean warming and ice sheet melt”. This could mean a rise of 2 to 3 metres in sea levels if warming is limited to 1.5 °C or 19 to 22 metres with 5 °C of warming!

With so many of the world’s cities on seaboards you can see that flood defences may be totally inadequate to cope with such rises and incapable of being built to resist them. Investments in City of London property would be one casualty. The current Thames flood barrier may be overwhelmed in future years even if GHG emissions stop growing. London is already very vulnerable to road flooding due to a Victoria drainage system while people numbers and buildings have grown apace.

The changes will likely affect the Northern Hemisphere more than the Southern, and there is some good news. For example, the reports says that the growing season has lengthened by two days per decade since the 1950s in the Northern Hemisphere. Farming might extend further north and unproductive land brought into use, but droughts might also remove a lot of marginal land from farming activity. These impacts will be greatly affected by the increase in GRH emissions.

Who can really affect the emissions? Only the big emitters such as the USA, China and Russia can have much impact. The UK produces less than 2% of world emissions.

Does the decarbonisation of transport, particularly in the UK, help at all? In reality not. For example, converting users to electric cars is likely to have minimal impact because the energy requirement and associated CO2 emissions to construct the batteries and make the steel for the car bodies offsets most of the likely benefit. The cost of building a network of charging points and enhancing the electric grid to cope will also be high. Investing in electric car makers or buying electric cars is not going to save the planet.

The big problem which the IPCC report does not cover is that GRH emissions are directly related to the size of the human population and their activities. Particularly what they consume, where they live and how they earn an income.  

Unless there is a concerted effort to halt the growth in population and to restrict urbanisation, I doubt that the growth in GRH emissions will be halted. More population means more farming to feed the people and that is a big contributor to methane emissions which is a significant GRH factor (this is highlighted in the latest IPCC report). Similarly construction of homes and offices is a big contributor. Nobody has yet figured out how to produce cement without generating carbon. Hence the suggestion that we should revert to constructing houses out of wood. Investing in growing trees for timber might help. but that is a 20+ years project and it can take 50 years to grow to harvestable size for timber, or longer in northern latitudes.

In conclusion, it’s worth reading the IPCC report (see link below) and pondering how you think the Government should deal with these issues. Please don’t fall into the trap of encouraging your local council to declare a “climate change emergency” as some have already done. Their initiatives such as closing roads to restrict traffic and persuading everyone to cycle will have no impact whatsoever. Gesture politics is what we do not need.

Even the UK Government alone will have no impact unless they can persuade other major countries to take suitable steps. But will they is the key question?  If they don’t all we can do is to try to mitigate the impacts by weather proofing our properties and the transport network while purchasing air conditioning to cope with the heatwaves.

I am sure some readers of this article will consider that I am being too defeatist and that we can all contribute to reducing the problem by eating less meat, looking at the food miles of what we consume, cutting out long holiday flights, changing your central heating boiler, reducing investments in oil/gas/coal producers and other peripheral affectations. But only Governments can really tackle the problem which we should all encourage them to do.

IPCC Sixth Assessment Report: https://www.ipcc.ch/assessment-report/ar6/

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Ealing LTN Consultations

From the OneEaling campaign:

Ealing Council consultation: the time is now!

Dear Supporter,

Ealing Council are holding a final consultation on the LTNs. PLEASE make sure you have your say. This has to be done by 23rd July!

After this consultation, the LTNs will either be scrapped if the majority want them removed or made permanent if the majority want them to stay in place.

This is your LAST CHANCE to have your say on ALL of these schemes, everyone is eligible and all can express their views on each scheme. Make sure you fill in the reason why you do not want each LTN, those living within/surrounding the LTNs will have more weighting but those who run businesses and work in the area will also be considered.

Below are the all links and the SurveyMonkey link is the actual voting part. It takes less than a minute to complete each survey.

Please share this amongst everyone you know locally, friends, neighbours, colleagues, etc.

LTN30: Loveday

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/lovedayroadltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/lovedayltn

LTN35: Mattock Lane

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/mattocklaneltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/mattockltn

LTN32: Junction Road

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/junctionroadltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/junctionltn

LTN20: West Ealing North (Waitrose)

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/westealingnorthltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/westealingnorthltn

LTN08: Olive Road (Popes Lane)

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/oliveroadltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/oliveltn

LTN48: Adrienne Ave (Greenford)

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/adrienneavenueltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/adrienneltn

LTN25 Acton Central

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/actoncentralltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/actoncentralltn

Deans Road/Montague Rd Consultation for LTN to be reinstated:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/deanmontagueltn

https://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/201268/low_traffic_neighbourhoods/2821/deans_road_and_montague_avenue_low_traffic_neighbourhood/1

Thank you for your continued support.

The OneEaling Team

Inflexible Trains and Trams – Birmingham Halts Metro Services

I have pointed out in previous articles that trains and trams are not just expensive to build and run, but are also very inflexible. They are also vulnerable to breakdowns of individual trains/trams that can rapidly bring the whole of a network to a halt.

A good example of their inflexibility has been given by the halting of all services on the West Midlands Metro system. A fault has been found on the trams so all 21 trams have been withdrawn from services until further notice.

Would this have happened if the service had used buses? No because trams are typically specially constructed vehicles so cannot be easily replaced while buses are more standard and can be rented at short notice.

Many people, including public transport managers and politicians have an irrational love of trams. They forget the lessons of history. Birmingham had an extensive tram network which ran from 1904 until 1953. But it was abandoned in favour of buses which enable routes to be changed very quickly and with much lower maintenance costs. That was why trams were withdrawn in Birmingham and many other UK cities after the second world war.

The closure of the West Midlands Metro service is particularly damaging because the new CAZ in Birmingham starts today (14th June). Car users now face a charge of £8 per day unless they run a compliant vehicle.

There is a Facebook group for those who oppose the Birmingham CAZ: https://www.facebook.com/groups/abcaz

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Lies, Damn Lies, Statistics and School Streets

Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, has claimed in a tweet that “closing roads around schools to traffic at pick-up and drop-off times has reduced polluting nitrogen dioxide levels by up to 23%”. He has also issued a press release saying the same thing and giving more details – see below.

But the study on which this claim is based was only launched in September 2020 so the period covered is one where traffic was much reduced due to the pandemic and when schools were closed. It is hardly likely to be representative of the normal conditions.

The press release also claims that School Streets are popular with parents but those affected by the road closures who do not have children were not included in the survey. The Mayor even claims that “18% of parents are driving to school less during the pandemic, helping to clean up London’s air”. That’s surely hardly surprising as the schools have been closed!

This looks like a good example of selecting the statistics and the surveyed population that suit your argument while ignoring the bigger picture and the truth.

School Streets are allegedly so popular that Lewisham Council have introduced road closures on roads where there are no schools under the name of School Streets, simply to stop people driving through the Lee Green LTN area. The Council seems to think they can fool people into supporting the LTN by such dubious sophistry.

Mayor’s Press Release: https://www.london.gov.uk/press-releases/mayoral/school-streets-improve-air-quality

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Pollution in LTN Rose, Nigel Farage’s Roads Election Pledge, and Emergency Service Access Problems

The Daily Telegraph has run a couple of interesting articles on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) recently. The first one (see Reference 1 below for link to the article) reports that NO2 levels fell substantially in Wandsworth after an LTN was removed. The air pollution increased on main roads where traffic congestion increased, often grinding to a halt during rush hours. There were also problems with access by emergency services to the LTNs.

The article also lists the 31 councils who have removed, modified or cancelled green roads initiatives.

The second article was on the commitment by Nigel Farage and his Reform Party (formerly the Brexit Party) to field candidates who oppose local politicians (“any and everyone”) who support the madness of the Government’s green transport revolution – see Reference 2.

Mr Farage is quoted as saying: “If measures to improve the environment really are necessary, they can only be introduced sensibly and with proper consultation, not sneaked through cynically under the guise of the pandemic”.

Comment: We would certainly agree with that. The Reform Party might gain a lot of supporters in Labour controlled London boroughs such as Lewisham, Lambeth, Croydon and others where LTNs have proved to be deeply unpopular. Such boroughs were seen as good targets for the Brexit Party in the past as the concerns of many working-class voters have been ignored by the new socialist elite.

Emergency Service Access Problems Reported by the London Ambulance Service

The second Telegraph article also mentions a Freedom of Information Act request handled by the Borough of Greenwich (see Reference 3). It includes these comments from the London Ambulance Service:

“The London Ambulance Service (LAS) cannot support any scheme that involves the closure of a road to traffic using static bollards, lockable bollards, coffin bollards, gates or physical barriers like planters. The main reason for this is our vehicles do not carry any form GERDA or FB keys to access these obstacles and delays can be detrimental to patient safety.

Existing schemes already create us problems and gates and bollards are not generally routinely maintained pan London and are difficult to unlock anyway.

The nearest available ambulance is dispatched to a 999 call so we do not profile emergency access routes like the LFB because any crew from across London can be dispatched if they are nearest and this might not be a local crew.

Any delay in response to an address behind closures could be detrimental to patient safety and cause serious harm, injury or even death to a patient due to the ambulance response being delayed.

Consideration also needs to be given to the wider health and social care providers who will need access to address and are on tight schedules. Patient transport ambulance picking patients up for chemotherapy or dialysis appointments, district and community healthcare teams and social care carers will all be delayed by having to navigated additional road closures and restrictions leading to delayed care, welfare issues, humanitarian concerns and potential for emergency admission as a result of delays. Addition missed clinical appointments has a detrimental effect on service delivery and patient flow through the NHS system. Consideration of exemptions for these staff through restrictions would also need to be given.

Although the LAS does support the need to ensure social distancing this cannot be at the detriment of patients calling 999, but currently the use of any kind of bollards/gate/planter to close road is not acceptable”.

Clearly the “modal filters” used in so many LTN schemes are not advisable such as that blocking access to an ambulance in Lee Green (photo above). . Such objections may be why Councils are now installing camera systems to close roads instead. But that just creates complaints about the number of PCNs generated through inadvertent mistakes.

Reference 1: Pollution rose in Low Traffic Neighbourhood: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/05/exclusive-pollution-rises-low-traffic-neighbourhoods/

Reference 2: Nigel Farage’s roads election pledge:  https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2020/12/05/exclusive-nigel-farages-roads-election-pledge/

Reference 3: London Ambulance Service FOI Letter: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/low_traffice_neighbourhood_corre_7#incoming-1657822

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Air Quality and the ULEZ – It’s a Vindictive but Unjustified Measure

This article is by James Hockney who is a Councillor in the London Borough of Enfield and represents the Bush Hill Park ward. He was the Conservatives Parliamentary Candidate for the Edmonton constituency at the last General Election.

We all want better air quality, right? Well, I have good news for you. It is getting better. 

This map from 2013 shows almost all of London outside the Central London Congestion Charge area with emissions within safe levels. Main trunk roads routes and major junctions, plus Heathrow, are the exceptions. 

However, this map is seven years old and the situation has improved.

In the latest report on Air Quality from Aether UK, which dates from 2017, it was estimated that almost all the areas identified as having dangerous levels of pollution in a study in 2010, now had safe levels of air quality. TfL’s own figures show a steady fall in emissions of NOx and this is predicted to continue.

There are a number of reasons for this. European Union legislation has been requiring lower emissions from vehicles for more than two decades. The latest standards are deemed acceptable, even in the new Ultra Low Emission Zone in Central London. Heavier vehicles have also been subject to the “Low Emission Zone” – which covers almost all of London – since 2008. A Ken Livingstone policy; implemented by Boris Johnson.

Car use has also fallen dramatically, with journeys to work by car or motorcycle in London halving from almost 154m a year in 2000 to just over 70m a year in 2017. Cycling in the same period has almost quadrupled from 11m to 40m and public transport use has increased from 260m journeys to 330m.

So, are further measures justified?

This chart from the Aether UK report suggests not:

Already, it is estimated that fewer than 1% of Londoners are exposed to air quality above the safe level. This is attributed to earlier tightening of vehicle standards and modal shift away from cars, trends that are continuing.

Lastly, whilst it is an emotive issue – and whenever one of those poorly maintained vans drives past you with its exhaust belching sooty black smoke, a very visible and noxious one – the focus on vehicles is perhaps missing the point. Again, TfL’s own reports show that domestic and commercial gas heating is the source of almost one quarter of all NOx emissions and almost half of those in Central London. Interestingly, at the time of the consultation on expanding the ULEZ, the figures for all of London showed road transport responsible for 51% of all emissions. This suggests they have fallen by a quarter in the last seven years.

When it comes to particulate emissions the story is similar. Tightening standards have cut PM10 particulate emission from vehicles by almost 95% and PM2.5 emissions have fallen by 75%. It is also unlikely that the ULEZ will cut particulate emissions very much anyway, as the majority of particulates come from brake and tyre wear and the “re-suspension” of those particles. Switching to electric vehicles isn’t going to help with that as they still need to steer and stop.

This rather makes the very marginal benefit of extending the central London ULEZ out to the A406/A205 boundary appear to be a vindictive measure, not one driven by evidence. There is a very marginal early benefit, coming from an assumption that it will bring forward decisions to change vehicles, but by 2030, emissions are predicted to be at exactly the same level with or without the scheme. 

Sadly for some people that is not going to be an option. The high-mileage company car will get changed. But if you are an elderly couple with limited cash and a fixed pension income, changing a car you probably bought expecting it to see you out, is probably not an option. So, they will pay £12.50 to drive to their local hospital. And that just doesn’t seem fair. 

It also seems unfair that the motorist is demonised as the polluter when they have done more than anybody else in the past twenty years to improve air quality. 

The expansion of ULEZ is part of a concerted attack on motorists and driving. At the same time, Councils are pushing ahead with projects like re-building the Edmonton incinerator. This project alone will emit more than 10% of the likely emissions from all the non-exempt vehicles currently driving in London. And it will generate extra traffic on the A406 as it needs to bring waste in from a far wider area than the seven partner Boroughs which form the North London Waste Authority. It is by rethinking projects like the Edmonton incinerator and by focussing on reducing our reliance on gas for domestic and commercial heating and cooking where those gains will need to come from.

If you want to help stop the expansion of the zone, please sign the petition at www.stopulez.com , share this message with your friends, family and work colleagues and consider donating to help support more adverts around London to raise awareness.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London 

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New Parking Ticket App Combats Private & Council Tickets

Getting a parking ticket is often a cause of concern for drivers. A new App is now available to help motorists challenge such tickets.

Private companies have long issued parking charge notices use a combination of contract law and Protections of Freedoms Act 2012 (POFA 2012). Councils issue penalty charge notices which primarily are based on the Road Traffic Act 1991, Traffic Management Act 2004 and Civil Enforcement … 2007.

The first reaction for most drivers is that the parking ticket is unfair and a money-making scheme.  Whilst this is true in principle, the fact is all parking enforcement falls under some legislation which councils and private companies have to comply with.

The trouble is, most motorists do not have time to read each law and the regulations in order to understand how to fight their parking tickets. Previous apps have sorely focussed on helping drivers write letters based on mitigation. 

The New App

This has now changed with the launch of the Parking Mate UK app which provides a simple way to write appeal letters but the defences also include references to the law which makes it easier for drivers to fight their case.

The Parking Mate UK app allows drivers to:

•         Write appeal letters for private and council issued parking tickets

•         Receive a PDF of the appeal letters instantly

•         It also warns drivers if they are mentioning something that could harm their appeal chances

The company is currently reviewing a data set of ALL successful London Tribunals appeals from 2004 to May 2020 to build easy options for each contravention and allow every motorist to appeal any parking fine. For example, notices have to be issued within specific time limits and the wording of notices must be correct.  

An Example: Westminster Penalty Charge Success

There was a case of Westminster council issuing 12 tickets to 2 vans for a local business during lockdown at £130 per ticket. The law does not allow councils to issue more than 1 parking ticket to a vehicle, instead, if they believe a vehicle is a persistent offender, they should remove it. The defence for this appeal was simply that the council had issued more than 1 PCN for a continuous contravention and 10 tickets were cancelled right away saving £1,300.

Less Than 1% Of Council Tickets Are Appealed

Of the 5,952,808 tickets issued in London in 2018-19, only 36,511 were appealed, which is 0.61%. If 20% of motorists appealed, the company estimates that 90% of these appeals would win their appeal on a number of factors:

Statistics from 2018-19 in the London Tribunal for the percentage of appeals allowed says: Harrow 75%; Redbridge 73%; Ealing 68%; Lambeth 67%; and Hillingdon 63%. The lowest was Sutton with 24%.

The App producers believe that if they can make the process easy for motorists to appeal their parking tickets, we will see more appeals being successful and drivers saving their hard earned money.

About Parking Mate UK

The company was founded by Leo Musami, a former Senior Technology Project Manager who had worked with leading companies such as Accenture, C2FO, Summit Media and Centrica.

Leo has long been helping family and friends appeal tickets and after winning a number of cases for relatives, he decided to dedicate his time to helping drivers. The goal initially was to focus on helping drivers to write appeal letters, however it quickly became clear that debt recovery, court claims and bailiff enforcement were problems affecting many motorists.

Website link: https://parkingmateuk.com

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Hackney Closing Roads Without Consultation

The London Borough of Hackney is closing a number of roads using Experimental Traffic Orders (ETOs). These do not require any consultation before being put into effect; you can only comment later. The roads affected immediately are Ashenden Road, Gore Road, Meeson Street, Ufton Road and Barnabas Road.

Councillor Jon Burke is the Cabinet Member on the Council responsible for these moves. When I complained on Twitter about these closures and the lack of consultation, he responded “We consult local residents, not the rat-runners”. Clearly Councillor Burke has no clear idea on how democracy should work. Calling people who use vehicles “rats” is abusive and it is wrong to ignore the general public but just listen to a few people. And in reality most of the people using these roads will be local residents.

This unfortunately is the kind of thing that is happening of late in some London boroughs (Lewisham is another example), where the Covid-19 epidemic is being used as an excuse to close roads. Local democracy is being undermined by claims of expediency. Road closures do not help with social distancing. They also create more traffic congestion and longer journey times. It’s basically just an excuse to pander to the wishes of cyclists as these are closures using “modal filters” that still allow cyclists. We believe that all roads should be shared by different users, not closed to vehicle traffic.

The danger is that Experimental Traffic Orders can easily be turned into Permanent ones. We are generally opposed to road closures as they damage the road network. We have submitted objections to these closures which you can also do by sending an email to streetscene.consultations@hackney.gov.uk – quote Traffic Order Numbers TT1420 and TT1421.

Note that all Traffic Orders need to be published in The Gazette (see https://www.thegazette.co.uk/ ) where all official notices appear. To search for notices from any London Borough use the search function to search for the boroughs name, e.g. “London Borough of Hackney”).

You could also send comments to Jon Burke. His email address is Jon.Burke@Hackney.gov.uk and his Twitter account is @jonburkeUK .

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Legal Action Against Congestion Charge Increase

Congestion_Charge_Logo

A law firm is raising funds to fight the proposed changes to the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax). That includes a sharp price rise and extended hours. This is what they say:

“We believe that the Mayor of London has acted unlawfully by overriding his duty as a public body to act fairly in the exercise of his function, namely his failure to engage in a formal consultation period with those affected that is adequate and fair as established in the case law. A flawed consultation process restricting the right to be heard is now a common ground for judicial review”.

Go here for more information or to make a donation: https://www.gofundme.com/f/join-the-legal-challenge-to-the-congestion-charge?

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