Transport for London (TfL) have published the Mayor’s Bus Action Plan – see link below for the full document. This document promotes bus travel as an “active travel” mode. But what is “active” about sitting on a bus?
The plan is full of such sophistry. Consider the following statement in it: “Meanwhile, climate change is a real and present emergency, as demonstrated by recent flooding in London and across Europe, and increasing numbers of wildfires in Europe, the Middle East, north Africa, North America and Australia. This is why the Mayor of London has made clear his ambition for London to be a world leader in tackling the twin dangers of air pollution and the climate emergency, and has brought forward the 2050 target for London to be a net zero carbon city to 2030”.
There is no evidence that recent storms and flooding are other than random events. Promoting the use of buses certainly won’t help when most of them are still diesel powered.
The big problems with London buses are well known. Bus journey times have slowed thus putting people off using them and the pandemic has contributed to lower usage. More cycle lanes have obstructed buses and diversion of traffic off minor roads in LTNs to major roads has increased congestion. Meanwhile the cost of bus journeys has increased.
In outer London few people want to wait in the rain for the next bus and take circuitous routes to destinations when they can jump in their own private car or call a taxi to do a door-to-door trip in a quicker time.
But the report does say that they can reduce carbon emissions “By accelerating the delivery of a zero-emission bus fleet to 2030”. Is that a commitment to actually deliver a zero emission bus fleet by 2030. No it’s not. It’s the typical weasel words of politicians.
The report says “In contrast, a modern bus service that provides an inclusive customer experience”. What does that mean? It does not explain.
It also says: “A well-connected bus network will enable car-free lifestyles by providing a high-quality, attractive mode of transport to connect new developments to shops, stations and other destinations”. But buses cannot provide for all the needs and trips that people take via car, particularly if you wish to travel outside London or other than in and out of the centre.
How do they propose to speed up bus journey times? By introducing road user charging that will deter other vehicles from using the roads you have paid for. And by putting in more bus lanes and bus plus cycle only streets.
There is one big omission from this report. Namely any consideration of the financial position of London buses. The fact they get massively subsidised out of taxation is not even mentioned. If bus users had to pay the real cost of their journeys they would choose another travel mode.
In summary this report contains some useful facts but it’s full of management speak and is way too long. It ignores the basic problem that buses can only meet a minority of the desires and needs of Londoners for transport.
From today (25/10/2021) the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is expanded to cover everywhere within the North/South Circular. If you drive into it and your car or van is not compliant it will cost you £12.50 per day.
Many people are going to get a big shock because a high proportion of people affected do not seem to be aware of the charges they will suffer – as many as a third of drivers in London and the South-East who will be affected are not aware of the change – see the “This is Money” article link below.
Particularly badly affected are those who bought diesel vehicles a few years ago after encouragement by the Government and will now have to buy a newer vehicle or pay the charge.
We have consistently argued against this unjust imposition of more taxes when the benefit in terms of improved air quality will be both small and of limited duration. See our web site page here for more details: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/environment.htm
You can see the real motivation for expanding the ULEZ when you read that it could bring in an extra £723 million per year for TfL. With the Mayor and TfL suffering from a major budget crisis you can understand why the Mayor is trying to justify this scheme on health grounds. But the facts do not support it.
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.
Transport for London (TfL) have released their latest survey of travel patterns in London. It’s a mine of statistics but the “spin” put on the data is generally grossly misleading. For example, it says “Londoners and visitors make increasingly sustainable choices for how they get around, choosing to walk, cycle and use public transport”. Walking and cycling have slightly increased – see comments below, but how is public transport “sustainable”? A high proportion of public transport is buses and diesel London buses are a major contributor to air pollution while air pollution on the London Underground is worse than on London’s streets so how is that “sustainable”? Of course there is no definition of “sustainable transport” in the Report – it’s simply a way for TfL to claim some things as good and others bad.
Total travel demand in terms of number of trips taken has been flat for the last three years despite the continuing growth in the population. In reality Londoners are choosing to travel less simply because traveling in London has become more difficult. Public transport has become overcrowded while private transport (cars and PHVs) are being discouraged in numerous ways.
Bus journeys declined by 1.8% last year probably due to the same reasons as the decline in use of cars – traffic congestion has slowed journey times, making it quicker to walk in many cases.
Cycling in terms of cycled kilometres rose by 5% it is claimed but still only accounts for 2.5% of all trips despite the massive expenditure on cycle superhighways and other cycling facilities. This figure is also distorted by using distance cycled instead of number of trips by that mode. You can see the data more clearly by looking at this chart from the Report:
This shows clearly that cycling has not been growing and any alleged increase is simply down to the growth in the population of London. This is what one person had to say on Twitter: “The same tiny number of people cycled 5% further because the weather was a bit nicer than usual that year; at a cost of £millions to taxpayers, while record numbers of Londoners sleep rough and get murdered. In any other setting this would be surreal: but not in Sadiq Khan’s London”.
The Report also claims success in the Mayor’s objective of promoting more “active travel” such as cycling and walking to make us more healthy. As regards walking the above chart shows how walking has declined over the last ten years. And Figure 5.2 in the Report shows that the percentage of people achieving 20 minutes per day of active travel is basically unchanged in the last ten years.
The big trends over the last ten years have been increases in underground patronage – up 25.6% – and national rail usage – up 41.5%. Which explains why you cannot get a seat on the trains or the underground and during rush hours you’ll either be squeezed into the carriages or can’t even get into the station. This has arisen because of a failure to match public transport provision with the growth in London’s population which incidentally is mainly from immigration as the Report spells out.
Bus journeys declined by 1.7% last year and have actually declined by 0.6% over the last ten years. It seems that nobody likes buses. Perhaps it’s that standing in the cold or rain waiting for a bus or unreliable bus arrival and trip times that puts them off – it certainly does this writer.
Motorised road travel declined slightly in inner and central London but rose slightly in outer London. Londoners are apparently reluctant to give up car use despite the ever increasing restrictions on them. One change though is the use of PHVs (mini-cabs) has risen to offset the decline in private cars. For example it is estimated that as much as 40% of car traffic in central London at certain times is accounted for by PHVs, but their numbers are forecast to fall substantially due to removal of the exemption from the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) and the new ULEZ tax.
The Report notes how serious road traffic casualties increased last year which shows how the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” strategy is failing. But interestingly it also notes that injuries in the London Underground increased by 6% last year to 3,968 while bus passenger injuries declined by 8.6% to 4,889. These are surprisingly high numbers but still less than those injured in road traffic accidents.
Only 56% of London households have access to a car with an even lower proportion in inner London. But this proportion has not substantially changed in the last ten years (see Figure 4.12 in the Report).
The report gives some data on air pollution and in particular of NO2 emissions which mainly come from transport. This has been falling substantially, particularly in central London, mainly due to changes to newer vehicles in the vehicle fleet. See chart below taken from the Report.
The Report goes on to claim an impact from April 2019 from the introduction of the ULEZ in central London but in reality the trends in the above chart will simply have continued so any claim for an impact from the ULEZ is a figment of TfL’s imagination. It is simply too early to claim any impact as reliable data is not yet available. And just to remind you, there is no clear medical evidence of any negative impact of NO2 on human health.
In summary although this TfL Report contains some useful data, it misinterprets the trends in London travel patterns and the impact of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy. Most of the changes in travel trends in London have probably occurred from a rising and ageing population.
The report is very selective in both data reporting and interpretation. For example there is no data on traffic congestion which from most users experience has worsened considerably in recent years. That degradation has taken place from policies pursued by TfL which has meant removal of road space from cycle lane installation, widening of pavements, junction changes, more pedestrian crossings and traffic lights and other negative changes.
However an interesting section of the Report is on future travel demand and possible “Scenarios” in Chapter 14. One of the three scenarios is “Accelerating London” with high levels of population growth and immigration, high housing costs and rising crime rates, i.e. more of the same. A second scenario is a “Rebalanced London” with lower economic growth, a stable population size with actual falls in inner London and a slower pace of life. It sounds positively utopian if you read it. The third scenario is “Innovating London” where there is a focus on more technology both in employment and facilitation of travel. It does not say which the Mayor of London might back however.
Regrettably as with anything the Mayor or TfL issue, the Report is more of a public relations document than an unbiased analysis of the trends in London travel and its causes. It should be read with caution.
The Labour Party are inviting everyone to have their say on Sadiq Khan’s Manifesto for re-election as London Mayor in 2020. You can read about his achievements to date and submit answers to their questions via this web page: https://tinyurl.com/y29yu999 . It is of course a very biased document like all consultations that Mr Khan presides over, but anyone can respond – you don’t need to be a Labour Party member.
Perhaps the Mayor is short of ideas to ensure he gets re-elected. His last big vote winner was freezing public transport fares but after three years of holding the tide back of inflation in King Canute fashion he has managed to dig a deep hole in Transport for London’s finances which simply cannot continue. Bus services are being reduced as a result while traffic congestion increases. His policies on Congestion Charging and the ULEZ will impose higher costs on many Londoners with minimal public health benefit. He has also clearly failed to tackle rising violent crime and not solved London’s housing problem – indeed his only proposal for the latter is to introduce rent controls which would make matters worse.
But he does admit to increasing the Council Tax Precept (what you pay to the Mayor from your local council taxes) to the maximum allowed. No thanks Mr Mayor. All his other claimed achievements are quite trivial in relation to the problems Londoners perceive as key issues.
All the way through the document, the Mayor emphasises that he has limited powers over many aspects and clearly wants more. But it would be very dangerous to give him more.
Here are some of the questions and how you may care to respond to them (I have only covered those questions that are relevant to transport):
Environment and Climate Change:
Question: How do we take the next steps to clean up London’s air and oversee a massive shift from polluting cars to walking, cycling and electric vehicles at the same time?
Answer: concentrate on fixing the vehicles over which you have control and which are major contributors to air pollution, i.e. diesel buses. You also need to tackle air pollution on the Underground. Otherwise any measures should be justified on cost/benefit grounds and scare-mongering over an imaginary public health crisis as the justification for higher taxes should be stopped. The expansion of the ULEZ to the North/South Circular should be halted and the introduction of more Cycling schemes that create more traffic congestion (and hence air pollution) should be halted.
Question: How else can Sadiq make London’s transport system affordable and accessible to all Londoners?
Answer: Stop wasting money on schemes with very poor cost/benefits (such as the proposed Rotherhithe bridge and most of the Cycle Superhighways the finance for which has to come out of public transport fares. He needs to stop spending money and imposing taxes on road users to make the transport system more affordable for everyone. That includes halting the investment in 20 MPH speed limit schemes and cycle schemes that have poor cost/benefits. He should also cease support of road-pricing and workplace parking levies.
Question: What are the future major schemes that Sadiq could focus on delivering?
Answer: The Silvertown Tunnel is one which will be a major benefit for east London. Repairing the Hammersmith Bridge is another for West Londoners. Improving major east-west and north-south road routes such as the Embankment rather than degrading them with 20 MPH speed limits and cycle lanes should be another key objective.
Question: What more can be done to promote walking and cycling?
Answer: Some youth elixirs for the elderly and inform would help and concealing the dangers or cycling is another. That is of course just a witty response to a proposal that is unnecessary and has major disbenefits.
Question: When asking for more powers and devolution from Government on transport issues, where should Sadiq focus his energies?
Answer: Give the Mayor powers to introduce policies to reduce the population of London so as to reduce pressure on the transport, housing and public health systems. Specifically redistribution of business and people out of London and powers to reduce immigration and encourage birth control.
He should also argue for a commitment to devolve more powers to local boroughs so as to avoid TfL dictating local borough policies and more funds financed by central Government to be given to local boroughs solely to be used on improving the road network in London. In addition the Mayor should be given the power to set sensible minimum parking standards for new developments (not maximum ones) in London boroughs.
Those are just a few ideas to help Mr Khan, or indeed his opponents, to get elected.
The Sun Newspaper has reported on the success, or rather failure, of 20-mph wide area speed limits, to reduce accidents. They have obtained figures from 20 local councils using the Freedom of Information Act where £11 million of taxpayers’ cash was spent on the lower limit. But in some cases, rates of serious accidents (Killed and Serious Injuries – KSIs) have actually gone up they reported.
AA President said that the schemes were a “waste of money”, effectively implying that if the money had been spent on other road safety measures, more lives and serious accidents would have been saved.
Examples the Sun gave were Bath where £804,000 was spent but a 2016 report revealed that the KSI’s went up in 7 out of the 13 zones where speeds were cut, and in Manchester £1.7 million was spent on a heavily criticised scheme while in Hampshire other schemes showed no benefit in terms of accident reduction.
We have of course reported similar problems before including in the City of London where a blanket 20 mph scheme has resulted in more minor injury reports.
20s Plenty founder Rod King called the articles “sloppy journalism” (one also appeared in the Daily Mail on the same subject). 20s Plenty has tried to debunk the reports of a number of local councils on their 20 mph schemes – for example they called the Bath report “biased, lacking in statistical rigour and not meeting several local authority duties on competency and equality”. But anyone who has surveyed all the evidence on such schemes will know that simply putting up signs typically reduces traffic speed by only 1 mph and that can have no significant impact on road casualties. In reality it seems to have the opposite effect in many cases as pedestrians no longer take so much care when crossing the road.
Rod King and 20s Plenty are like all fanatics – they ignore the negative impact of their policies and fail to see the truth. They are blinded in their zeal to reduce speed limits in the false presumption that reducing speeds are the answer to all road safety problems. But cutting road casualties is not as simple as that.
We still await a Government report on a more comprehensive study of 20 mph schemes.
In London, Transport for London (TfL) continue to finance such schemes in local boroughs and must have spent millions to date on them. Another example of unwise policies and reckless expenditure by TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan, plus his predecessors. It is a great pity that money was not spent on road engineering to improve the safety of roads and junctions.
The Mayor actually wants to impose 20 mph speed limits on many major roads in London under his “Vision Zero” road safety plans. UKIP Transport Spokesperson Jill Seymour has challenged TfL to provide undisputed evidence of the justification for such proposals. She said “The authorities have strangled the main roads, and made them the most congested and slowest of any city in Europe. London is a mess when it comes to transport…..the London authorities, led by Sadiq Khan, appear to have a vendetta against personal transport and the car, and do everything they possibly can do to discriminate against it”. That’s definitely the truth of the matter.
Joy Morrisey is on the Conservative short list to contest the next Mayoral election in London. She wrote an article for City AM last week (4/9/2018) that echoes much of what we have been saying about transport in London.
Firstly she attacked Sadiq Khan’s record on transport and the ballooning deficit in Transport for London (TfL). She suggests it is a priority to get operating costs under control and that a fresh approach is needed. Here’s an extract of what else she had to say:
“At present, it is not always clear what the current mayor’s plans are – “plans” would suggest that real thought had gone into the mistakes he keeps making and the promises he keeps breaking. But we can see the policies: Khan is trying to force motorists off the road, while squeezing as much money as possible out of those who need to drive.
The mayor’s intention to extend the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) all the way out to the North and South Circulars in 2021 is a case in point.
Consider a family who live just outside the zone, who cannot afford to replace their old car, which they need to drive their kids to a school just inside the zone. They would pay £12.50 a day under Khan’s scheme. A pensioner who has to drive himself to, for example, Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone would pay the same.
It gets worse. The cost of the infrastructure needed to cover this expanded area has been estimated at £780m.
That’s money that should be spent on genuinely improving London’s air quality. For example, £600m would pay for the replacement of 2,000 diesel buses with hybrid vehicles, which emit nearly 80 per cent less nitrogen dioxide.
We need to make it easier for Londoners to leave their car at home, but without punishing those who do drive for making an entirely rational and reasonable choice.
If I became mayor in 2020, I would scrap Khan’s unfair and ill-considered ULEZ expansion, and focus on more effective ways to improve both air quality and transport options in the capital, for all Londoners.
Londoners cannot afford another four years of a mayor guided by cheap headlines and misplaced ideology. Right now, we might be hopelessly lost on our journey towards better transport, but under a different mayor, London can find its direction again.”
All very sensible policies and surely a good basis for an election winning campaign. Let’s hope that she wins the nomination. The other candidates are Andrew Boff and Shaun Bailey
Let the best man/woman win. But more than one candidate suggests the Mayor needs more powers. Surely it’s more a case of Sadiq Khan not using the powers he already has effectively to improve the transport network, control crime, build more houses and improve the environment.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has announced measures to improve road safety in London including a 20-mph speed limit on all major roads within the Congestion Charge zone. That will include such major arteries as the Embankment and Upper/Lower Thames Street. In addition he will be encouraging local London boroughs to introduce the same limit on TfL controlled roads in 32 town centres.
He is also proposing to improve 73 junctions which have been identified as those with the worse road safety record. These proposals are part of the Mayor’s “Vision Zero” policy which attempts to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the roads.
Comment: Campaign Director Roger Lawson had these comments on the proposals:
The Mayor trots out those old misleading claims that reducing speed limits will remove almost all fatal and serious accidents. This is simply not borne out by the facts. For example, the City of London Corporation that covers the square mile introduced a blanket 20-mph speed limit in 2014. It had negligible impact on overall casualty figures, minor injuries actually increased and there were 2 fatalities in that area in 2016 – see references below. The results of signed-only 20 mph schemes have been very mixed and a Government report on the subject is still awaited.
Although the “Vision Zero” concept might make for good media coverage it does not necessarily help if ill-informed road safety policies are introduced. The reduction in speed limits will slow traffic causing additional costs in increased journey times and the police will no doubt be vigorously enforcing these new limits.
Many people will say that with average London traffic speed now nearer 10 mph than 20 mph, it may not make much difference. But that is not always the case. For example, outside rush hour times traffic moves much faster than 20 mph on many parts of the TfL road network (the “red routes”). This just looks like another attempt by the Mayor to remove all vehicles from the streets of London so as to achieve his vision of almost no private vehicle use (including cars, LGVs, taxis and PHVs) as spelled out in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy.
The only sensible part of his proposal is to improve junctions where there is a known poor accident record. Otherwise this latest move to slow traffic in London is another nail in the coffin of an efficient road transport network for our capital city. Sadiq Khan is surely the most incompetent London Mayor we have yet had.
As I have already pointed out, once the infrastructure is put in place for this scheme it will enable the Mayor to introduce congestion charging schemes in future over most of London. But there are lots of other possible negative scenarios.
You may say, I am not too concerned because I don’t drive an old diesel vehicle or I can afford to buy a new vehicle that is exempt. But once the Mayor obtains this power to obtain money from vehicle owners in London he can easily vary the rules so that everyone is paying a lot more money in taxes.
For example, he could claim that come 2022, the new ULEZ has proved to be less effective than expected in reducing air pollution. Indeed that is very likely to be the case. Or he might simply say that air pollution is still not good enough. He could justify charging all vehicle users accordingly, even the latest petrol and diesel vehicles. Indeed he could argue that even electric vehicles should be included as they generate particulates from brake and tyre wear. So it could be not just £12.50 per day for older diesel vehicles, but for everyone!
In addition as we saw with the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) this was initially set at £5 per day but is now £11.50, i.e. it’s more than doubled but has not proved any more effective. It now generates significant revenue for TfL above operating costs. So instead of the ULEZ charge being £12.50 it could soon be moved to £15, £20 or even £30 per day and for everyone.
Do you think that the Mayor and TfL have no such intention and have not even looked to the future prospects for this scheme? Think again. The ULEZ is being driven by the desire for more income by the Mayor. Follow the money as always in politics. Discouraging motor vehicles by high charges on everyone who owns one would be perfectly consistent with his objective, as stated in his Transport Strategy, to reduce car usage to a fraction of what it is at present.
A particularly sickening aspect of this matter is the involvement by the Mayor of very young schoolchildren to promote his policies and his politics. He announced the latest extension at Netley Primary School in Euston. This “photo opportunity” was covered by the national media extensively. But what do schoolchildren know about this subject? And why should their teachers be allowing this kind of politicking in their schools? Netley Primary School is close to the Marylebone Road, one of the most polluted roads in London, but even so this hardly justifies the involvement of young children. Mayor Sadiq Khan is a serial offender in this regard as he has done this previously. Children should not be used by politicians to promote their financial policies.
A report in Local Transport Today (LTT) has highlighted how some London Boroughs are strongly opposed to Mayor Sadiq Khan’s London Plan which is currently the subject of a public consultation. The main concern is the proposed new controls on parking provision in new housing developments. These have been substantially reduced such that many developments in central London will have exactly zero provision for parking (and that would be legally enforced). Even outer London where public transport access is high (PTAL levels 5 and 6) would also be covered by the zero rule, and even where PTAL levels are much lower parking provision will be severely restricted.
This is of course part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy to drive car usage out of London altogether. In addition he is reducing the ability of local Boroughs to make their own decisions on what is most appropriate for their boroughs, thus increasing the centralised dictatorship or the Mayor and TfL. This is what Lisa Fairmaner of L.B.Kingston had to say to councillors “[It is] a direct challenge to local government in London with the mayor taking over a detailed planning policy role that should be carried out by local authorities through their local plans”. She suggested the Mayor was exceeding his powers.
The Leader of Bromley Council, Councillor Colin Smith, issued a statement in December which criticised the housing targets and impossibility of providing the necessary infrastructure to support many more residents. The maximum parking provision was also criticised by Bromley in the LTT report, including the inability of councils to set minimum parking provision standards.
It is surely no surprise that outer London boroughs, and their residents, are not happy with the Mayor’s proposals which are as usual developed with a mindset that cycling, walking and public transport are the only transport modes that should be used in London. This simply takes no account of the needs and desires of many residents, particularly the elderly and disabled of which there are enormous numbers in London. Restricting parking provision does not stop people owning cars but just causes the roads to be clogged up by parked vehicles with obstructive parking becoming commonplace. Parking provision should be dictated solely by market demand for it, as we said in our submission to the London Plan consultation.