Should I Invest in Oil and/or Buy a New Car?

The stock market is quiescent and it is time to ponder questions such as should I buy more BP shares and should I buy an electric or hybrid car? There is an article in the FT today on the rejection of resolutions focussed on climate change at the ExxonMobil and Chevron annual meetings. It said: “shareholders solidly rejected climate change proposals at the US oil majors’ annual meetings on Wednesday, scaling back support from last year and splitting with results at peers in Europe where resolutions related to global warming have won stronger support. Only 11 per cent of Exxon shareholders supported a petition calling for the company to set emissions reduction targets that would be consistent with the goals of the 2015 Paris climate agreement. A similar proposal at Chevron received less than 10 per cent support”. See FT article here: https://www.ft.com/content/7faccadc-beef-4b10-be53-ae7aceaeafce

Resolutions on this subject at the BP and Shell AGMs were similarly defeated even though many institutional holders like to promote their green credentials.

Individual shareholders need to make up their own minds on how to vote on whether to put companies like BP and Shell out of business by stopping their oil development activities. Both BP and Shell argue for a transition to renewable energy at a pace acceptable to their customers and which does not impose unreasonable short-term costs and I agree with them. The transition to renewable energy for many purposes may make sense but for transportation carbon fuels have a very high energy intensity and the infrastructure to support electric vehicles means a high loss in the transmission system.

I have a pressing personal decision to make on this issue. My diesel-powered Jaguar XF is almost ten years old now and I like to buy a new car when they have done more than 60,000 miles as they get more unreliable and expensive to maintain after that. I don’t do many miles now so a somewhat smaller car might make some sense. But should it be an electric vehicle, a hybrid or a petrol/diesel one?

I think a hybrid is the best bet and have booked a test drive of a Toyota Corolla. They are self-charging hybrids but can only run a short distance on battery power so I am betting that petrol will be readily available for at least the next ten years.

I am surprised that Jaguar are still selling XF models but they do now have a petrol option and a “sportbrake” version which probably shows how well liked the car is but I fear that diesel will be discouraged by regulation soon.

They do sell all-electric models now but they are expensive and are bulky SUV style cars when I prefer smaller vehicles. Note that the environmental benefits of electric cars over petrol ones are quite marginal if you take the all-in lifetime environmental impact costs into account and the latest scare is that the heavier weight of electric vehicles is causing damage to our roads – thus explaining why there are so many potholes in our roads of late. The weight of current electric batteries is becoming a major problem while the production and recycling of batteries is a negative aspect not yet confronted.

Electric cars are cheaper than they used to be but they either have limited range or are expensive (£43,000 to £58,000 for a Tesla Model 3 for example, or over £70,000 for a Jaguar I-Pace).

Readers of this article can suggest alternatives for me to look at. Use the comment box below.

I could of course hold on to my current vehicle for another few years in the hope that Sadiq Khan changes his mind on the ULEZ expansion (my Jaguar XF is not compliant) or is not elected again next May. There are several strong contenders lining up to take him on. But I do so few miles within the ULEZ area (current and future) that it does not bother me much what the Mayor decides to do. Whatever he decides he is bound to be wrong based on his past decision record.

Roger Lawson (Twitter: https://twitter.com/RogerWLawson  )

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London Congestion Charge and Smart User Road Charging Inquiry

We have just passed the twentieth anniversary of the introduction of the London Congestion Charge. This has been hailed as a success by TfL management and Mayor Sadiq Khan but is it? In reality it might have reduced the number of vehicles on the roads of central London as some users have been deterred or changed their travel modes or patterns, but it has not reduced congestion.

This scheme was installed in 2002 to the City and West End with a Western Extension into Kensington and Chelsea introduced in 2007 which was later removed. There is a charge per day for driving anywhere within the zone boundary. This was originally set at £5 per day but rose to £10 at the end of 2010, when the Western Extension was scrapped. It was raised to £11.50 per day from June 2014, and to £15 from June 2020 plus extended to 24 hours per day every day.

The original justification for the charge was that it would solve London’s perennial road traffic congestion (environmental benefits were not an argument used because it was known they would be minimal). But it did not solve the congestion problem with that soon returning to the same level as before and subsequently becoming a lot worse. The environmental claims made by some have also been shown to be false with air pollution within the zone basically unchanged as a result. Neither does it raise any significant funds for public transport improvements because almost all the revenue from the scheme goes in operating costs. Indeed if it was not for the accidental fines people collect from forgetting to pay the charge, it would probably lose money. Note that the Congestion Charge was introduced by socialist car-hating Mayor Ken Livingstone. It has impacted the poor more heavily than the wealthy and hence is a very regressive tax.

For more details of the data on congestion and the impact of the Congestion Charge see the reports accessible from this web page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion

The Congestion Charge is of course a remarkably stupid system where the charge is only payable once per day however many times a vehicle drives into the zone or how far they travel. This has encouraged the use of Private Hire Vehicles and taxis which have increased enormously in numbers as a result, thus adding to congestion.

Neither does it encourage low emission vehicles or discourage high emission ones.

Nor does it discourage travel at the busiest times of day as the charge is the same whenever you travel. So there is little benefit in reducing congestion.  

Nor is there any concession to people who need to travel within the zone for medical reasons (several major London hospitals lie within the zone and although there is a refund claim system for NHS patients it is complicated to make claims).  Nor for any other people who provide essential services such as social carers or plumbers/electricians.

Now the Greater London Assembly (GLA) is holding an inquiry into Smart User Road Charging and are inviting evidence – see https://tinyurl.com/5n8h453s . The Freedom for Drivers Foundation has submitted a response to this inquiry which can be read here: https://tinyurl.com/rryz64hw

If the Mayor pushes ahead with the expanded ULEZ he will have a lot more cameras which could be used to make the Congestion Charge system more intelligent but it can never be made a really sophisticated system without a change in the technology.

There is one thing for certain though. Public reaction to road user charging will continue to be negative as it is just seen as a way to raise more tax from drivers.

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Government May Block ULEZ Expansion

Both the Daily Telegraph and Daily Mail have reported that the Government may block the expansion of the ULEZ to outer London. It is suggested they could use Section 143 of the Greater London Authority Act 1999. This gives the Secretary of State the power to veto the Mayor of London’s policies which are inconsistent with national transport policies (see https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1999/29/section/143 ).

Paul Scully, Transport Minister, has argued that as the ULEZ affects many people who live outside of London itself. He said “It affects a whole load of people in Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire who didn’t get a say on it. It is taxation without representation”.

Comment: Whether Section 143 of the Act gives the requisite power to block the Mayor is legally questionable in my view but it might be worth fighting in the Courts. However, and as I have said before, as ultimately the Government has the power to change the 1999 Act, they should threaten to do so. They could simply remove the ability to introduce or continue with charging schemes. Simply threatening to do so would put the Mayor in an impossible position because he would incur very substantial costs in building the camera network which would then not be recoverable.

The Government just needs to make some tough decisions and lay down the law on this issue instead of sitting on the fence and trying to please everyone.

Roger Lawson

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Mayor Sadiq Khan Obstructing London Roads

London Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has embarked on a steadily intensifying witch-hunt amounting to the complete obstruction of motorised commercial and private mobility, through the misuse (potentially illegally) of Temporary Traffic Orders during the Covid-19 outbreak. These have been used to implement lowered speed limits, carriageway narrowings, superfluous cycle lane widenings, and so-called “Modal Filters” (roadblocks in plain English). This has incensed, amongst others, London cabbies: https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/1289098/Sadiq-khan-London-news-public-transport-tfl-taxis-disabled-vulnerable .

This policy particularly adversely affects the elderly and the infirm – who often have no alternative to private car use – but also increases congestion, unnecessarily elevates vehicle emissions and wastes precious economic time. This is time that can be ill afforded, as the whole country seeks to climb out of the deep economic well created by the Covid-19 outbreak.

Campaigns Manager, Roger Lawson, is spearheading the investigation of a legal challenge (https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/lewisham.htm ) to measures implemented in the borough of Lewisham without adequate public notice or consultation.

COVID-19 was not supposed to bring with it rampant inconsiderate cycling schemes and “Low Traffic Neighbourhoods”.

Abusing emergency powers, Park Lane for example is now down to one lane Northbound. With a pre-existing cycle lane already in the park, there is now a parallel, totally redundant one on Park Lane. Mayor Khan inexplicably thinks that this is effective traffic management.

In the past, local authorities had in place a perfectly good, real consultation process that had to be completed with residents, local public transport AND all three of the emergency services, prior to any road closures, so that public safety and response times could be met. Sadly this approach no longer prevails and people’s lives are being put at risk in a mad rush to slash vehicular access.

If you know of any instances of emergency vehicles being delayed by these (or any other traffic impeding) measures in the London area (or indeed anywhere else) and that have had adverse health implications for anyone, which is a failure in a local authority’s basic duty of care, for which they may be punishable in law, then please send us a message.

What local and national politicians actually need to do is avoid the pitfall of making excessive provision for cyclists at the expense of adequate road space for vehicles. The constraints applicable to the realistic extent of future commuter cycling – i.e., distance, terrain and weather; plus the current imperative of avoiding public transport, indicates that car use will be the primary practical mobility solution for the overwhelming majority of road users. So under current circumstances there should actually be concerted efforts to smooth and ease motorised traffic flow and increased provision for car parking; instead of the very opposite.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps’ incomprehensible call to local authorities “to make significant changes to their road layouts to give more space to cyclists and pedestrians, to help embed altered behaviours and demonstrate the positive effects of active travel” is the root of all the road space reallocation problems currently taking place https://www.localgov.co.uk/Roads-to-recovery/50932 .

In the final reckoning, all politicians are fortunately electorally disposable, and their policies are reversible – as subsequent recent events are already demonstrating locally in London boroughs (see for example:  https://www.autoexpress.co.uk/news/352786/local-authorities-backtrack-closing-roads-cars ).

We have a rolling campaign to oppose these fundamentally anti-mobility and anti-democratic policies which are all part of Sadiq Khan’s London Transport Strategy which he adopted a couple of years ago but is now using the Covid-19 epidemic as an excuse to bring them in without proper public consultation. See https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm for more information and to register your support.

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Mayor’s Vision Zero Strategy Failing

In 2018 the Mayor of London launched the Vision Zero strategy to reduce road casualties in the capital city. But road casualty figures for 2018 show that Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) on London’s road actually increased by 5% to 4,065 in 2018. Vision Zero is a key part of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy along with the encouragement for modal shift with the aim of getting more people walking and cycling.

However, cyclist fatalities actually rose by 20% to 12, and cyclist serious injuries rose by 14% to 770. Cycling is one of the most dangerous ways to travel so is this encouragement to cycling misconceived?

The trend in London KSIs matches the national picture where road deaths have plateaued in recent years. See chart below from the DfT report of national road casualties in 2018.

National Fatalities 2018

We will no doubt see renewed calls for lower speed limits and more enforcement, but the Freedom for Drivers Foundation has consistently argued that the focus on simplistic solutions to road safety problems, such as traffic speed reductions, cannot and will not work to cut the horrendous toll of road casualties. The encouragement of cycling is surely an example of an unintended consequence of a policy introduced with the best of intentions to improve the health of the population. In London enormous expenditure on Cycle Superhighways and cycle lanes of other kinds has been incurred in the last few years. This was justified on improving cycle safety but in reality the impact is not apparent. The encouragement of cycling may have actually made the road casualty statistics worse.

We argue that Vision Zero is a counter-productive road safety fantasy, and that more attention should be paid to road user education and road engineering.

London Road Casualties 2018: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/casualties-in-greater-london-2018.pdf

National Road Casualties 2018: https://tinyurl.com/yy4ouonf

Postscript: With the appointment of Andrew Gilligan as a transport advisor to our new Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who as former London Cycling Commissioner under Boris was a big contributor to the growth of cycling in the capital and what many argue is the wasted expenditure on Cycle Superhighways, will we see the same defective policies being spread across the country?

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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20 MPH Speed Limits Spreading in London

20 MPH Sign

Transport for London (TfL) have announced that 20 MPH speed limits are to be imposed on many central London roads. That will include many of the key arterial routes including:

Victoria Embankment, Upper/Lower Thames Street and Tower Hill, Albert Embankment, Millbank, Borough High Street, Blackfriars Road, Elephant and Castle roads and Aldgate “gyratory” even though that no longer exists.

These proposals are part of the “Vision Zero Action Plan” and Mayor Sadiq Khan’s Transport Strategy which we have strongly opposed (see  https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm for campaign details). It’s just another step in discouraging and impeding vehicle traffic which is adding to journey times and damaging London.

Will it have any impact on road casualties as claimed? Highly unlikely as the City of London wide-area 20-MPH scheme has demonstrated where there was no overall reduction in road accidents and minor casualties actually increased. The solution to road casualties is to look at where accidents occur and re-engineer the roads. Not more speed cameras and lower speed limits.

There is a public consultation and more details of the proposal you can access here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/streets/20/ . PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU RESPOND TO THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION ASAP.

These are some of the comments we have already submitted which you can copy:

“There proposals will not have any benefit for those walking and cycling but as it will slow bus journeys, the numbers travelling by bus will continue to fall as they have been lately, thus reducing TfL income.

As regards vehicle users, I think they will ignore the 20 limit as they do elsewhere if they consider the new speed limit inappropriate, as it undoubtedly will be in certain traffic conditions. It will just result in more speeding prosecutions which is already being used by the police to finance their operations by diversion to speed awareness courses – a totally unethical practice.

It will add delays to journeys. To minimise the impact, the solution would be to look at road engineering measures where too many accidents occur instead – and I don’t mean speed humps or tables which have a very negative impact on those with medical conditions. Indeed I would suggest that you are discriminating against the disabled by implementing raised tables.

A 20-mph speed limit will not reduce casualties as demonstrated by the statistics from the City of London’s 20 mph speed limit which actually resulted in minor accidents increasing and no overall benefit.

In summary we are opposed to these proposals in general, and there is no cost, or cost/benefit justification provided – this is yet another disgraceful example of a defective public consultation from TfL, with no simple question as to whether people support the proposals or not.”

Roger Lawson

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London Travel Trends – Mayor’s Policies Failing Badly

London’s population is still growing rapidly, albeit the rate of growth has slackened slightly of late. That increases the demand for travel in London. A recently published report from Transport for London (TfL) highlights the trends in travel in different modes – see below for a link to the full report. Here’s some of the key points:

The average number of trips per day in 2017/18 was 2.1. That figure has been falling in recent years and is similar to national trends. It probably reflects the difficulties of travel in the UK and in London, the higher cost, the fact that the population is ageing and the increase in remote working and telecommuting.

From 2010 to 2017 the proportion of trips by walking, cycling and public transport in London increased only slightly from 62.6% to 62.7%. The trend to more “sustainable and active” travel modes has actually flattened out in the latest 2 years. In other words, the recent Mayoral policies to get people to change their travel modes to what he wants has been a dismal failure. But the Mayor is not giving up. The Mayor and TfL still believe there is a large scope for mode shift according to the report, but that is surely a figment of their imagination. Based on the data below, the Mayor will no doubt be focussed on getting those who live in outer London to change their ways – you have been warned!

Road traffic in London increased only slightly by 0.1% in 2017. There was no growth in car traffic but LGVs rose by 1.9% probably due to more internet shopping deliveries. The general trend in car traffic levels in London is shown in this chart:

car traffic levels 2017

This probably reflects improved public transport (e.g. more buses that have been heavily subsidised and more underground/rail/tram/DLR services) and the degradation of the road network with fewer and more expensive parking facilities, particularly in central London, in the last 20 years. But note the relatively lower decline in outer London and the fact that since 2013 the decline has ceased in all areas.

The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. tax) in central London is not the cause of the reduction there because inner London has also shown sharp declines to which the Charge does not apply. It might have more to do with increased congestion and hence higher trip times in central and inner London for the reasons given above.

Both bus journeys and underground usage have been falling – bus trips down by 6.5% in 2017 since 2014, and underground trips fell by 1.1% in 2017 although that had grown in previous years. These figures reflect perhaps the high costs of public transport, the overcrowding on the underground and on some bus routes in rush hours and the fact that bus journey times have been slowing due to traffic congestion. It can simply be quicker to walk in central London!

Cycling figures suggest that numbers of trips were unchanged in 2017, but distances travelled were greater suggesting there are more long-distance cycling commuters and more trips in outer London. This might be the result of economic incentives to cycle as public transport fares increased (particularly national rail serving outer London) and more cycle superhighways. Cycle usage as a proportion of overall trips remains low at 2% however despite the massive investment in cycle infrastructure in recent years. Cycling is still relatively unpopular among the elderly, among females and those of a non-white or mixed- race background according to the report.

Walking trip rates have been in decline in London in recent years despite the Mayor’s policies. Young adult walk rates fell by 22% between 2011/12 and 2017/18 for example. The impact of “healthy streets” and “active travel” policies promoted by the Mayor are conspicuously absent from the data in TfL’s report. Free travel passes both for those in education and for the elderly have clearly had a negative impact on walking rates. If the Mayor is serious about encouraging more active travel, that’s surely one hand-out he should cancel.

As an aside, the recent introduction of 16-17 and 26-30 railcards has been promoted as a generous offering to help the young, but is it not just another way to charge less to more impecunious customers and more to the others? Anyone familiar with economics will know that this is a tactic to maximise profits. In the case of railcards, which have time of travel restrictions, it’s also a way to smooth out travel demand and fill those otherwise empty seats at off-peak times.

Another failing Mayoral policy has been that on improving road safety. In 2017 the number of fatalities actually increased to 131 – up 15 on 2016. There were marked increases in pedestrian and cyclist casualties. Overall KSIs also rose in 2017 (by 2%) although that figure might be distorted by changes in casualty reporting. The roll-out of wide area 20 mph zones financed with many millions of pounds of funding from TfL and which was supposed to have a major impact on pedestrian casualties has clearly been very ineffective.

In relation to improved public transport capacity to serve the growing population, that simply did not happen in 2017 – “place kilometres” remained unchanged. That’s surely another Mayoral policy failure and resulted in higher public transport overcrowding. But service reliability on buses and London underground plus DLR/trams did improve. Surface rail was patchy though.

The full London Travel Report Number 11 can be read here: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/travel-in-london-report-11.pdf . It looks like it’s been written by public relations consultants as it presents a positive spin on the data when any detailed reading tells you a very different story.

But in summary it shows how the policies pursued by Transport for London, and by both the current and previous Mayors, have been a dismal failure. Lots of expenditure on the promotion of cycling and walking have not influenced travel behaviour much while expenditure on road safety has been misdirected with negative consequences. Improvements in public transport infrastructure have failed to cope with the increase in population which has been promoted rather than discouraged.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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MTS Campaign Meeting Report

On Saturday the 28th April we held a meeting for supporters of our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS) in central London. I chose to drive to the venue as I was carrying quite a weight of equipment and papers, but it turned into a typical nightmare trip on London’s roads. It ended up taking 2 hours to drive the 15 miles there. We were doing well until we hit a closure of Upper Thames Street and The Embankment with all traffic being diverted across Southwark Bridge south of the river – the exact opposite direction to where we wanted to go. So I turned round and aimed to take a route around to the North via City Road and the Angel, Islington. But that route was also closed by apparent crane work. There was no advance notice or signs of these closures on two of the key routes in London. Even on a Saturday they are now very busy. What a dreadful way to run a transport network of a major world city!

I did eventually manage to get there in time to give my presentation, but one or two people didn’t make it perhaps because of the traffic congestion. Here’s a brief summary of what was said at the meeting.

After a brief explanation of the objectives and background of our organisation I explained the key themes of the Mayor’s Strategy. These are to turn streets into places for “active travel and social interaction”, and to reduce “car dependency”. The latter is of course an emotive phrase when nobody talks about “cycle dependency” or “public transport dependency”. Why should it be used to describe people’s rational choice of transport mode? Such phrases are just part of the “spin” put on these policies and the graphic I showed taken from the Mayor’s document demonstrates how unrealistic are the depictions of London in the future. Such graphics often ignore the needs for local transport deliveries of goods and services in London. In addition the Mayor has ignored the needs of the growing proportion of elderly and disabled people in London, many of whom have responded to our campaign as they are dependent on private cars or PHVs.

I talked about the Mayor’s problems which the Strategy aims to counter. This includes a rapidly growing population in London which is putting a stress on public transport capacity and road congestion, and also leading to higher air pollution (and not just from traffic). These of course result from past policies adopted by London Mayors. But one of his key problems is shortage of money with a massive budget deficit looming. This results from public transport fare freezes which he promised to get elected, increasing subsidies and general financial mismanagement.

I explained that the answer from the Mayor are policies that will extract more money from Londoners (and those who visit London from outside) and restrict private travel in the name of making the population healthier. There are a number of ways the Mayor can implement these policies, via the encouragement of the London boroughs if not directly.

What alternatives could the Mayor have proposed? Obviously one of the key factors has been the growing population of London and he could have reduced that by encouraging redistribution of business activity and population as was done in the 1960s via New Towns, or by not promoting it as “more open” to immigration as he has done recently. The implementation of cycle superhighways in the manner done, road space removal (road closures, removal of gyratories, etc) and other detail policies emanating from TfL have also contributed. I suggested that it was possible to improve the road network for cyclists and for road safety without such damaging impacts on the road network.

There was a brief explanation of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and the misleading claims made about deaths from air pollution in London (as one member of the audience put it: “40,000 deaths a year in London”, which shows how spurious statistics are being propagated). There is no major health crisis, Londoners are living longer and air quality is improving! We then had a session from Howard Cox of FairFuelUK. He explained what his organisation has been doing to obtain 1.7 million supporters for a campaign that is well worth supporting. He has been good at obtaining both media and political support as a result. He questioned why the Government have not looked at alternative ways of improving air quality and looked at other sources of emissions rather than just focussing on vehicle owners. FairFuelUK are working with others to produce better scientific evidence on the real health impact of emissions and the cost of ignoring alternative solutions to reducing emissions.

I explained what the campaign against the MTS had been doing and what we will do going forward. The audience was encouraged to support us in several ways to enable us to generate more supporters and more funds to fight the campaign.

Lastly there was a session on how to defeat the MTS. This can be done in local boroughs (for example I explained earlier how we had defeated a proposed congestion charge in Greenwich promoted by Ken Livingstone over ten years ago), or perhaps by ensuring Sadiq Khan does not get re-elected as Mayor in two years’ time. As he is doing a good job of becoming unpopular for other reasons, just like Ken Livingstone at the end of his reign, perhaps the slogan should be similar to the popular one in that era – namely “anyone but Khan” for Mayor at the next election.

It was noted that we can give assistance with local campaigns in several ways – you just need to ask for it.

We covered how supporters can help the campaign. Recruiting more supporters is one key aspect over the next few months, ensure that people find out what is being done in their local boroughs (a member of the audience suggested that people ask if there are any proposals for a local congestion charge) and provide funds to fight the campaign. It is important to ensure that more London residents, and those in surrounding areas, know what is being proposed because there is general ignorance on the subject – few people have actually read the Mayor’s Transport Strategy document but it will dictate many aspects of travel and parking in London over the next few years.

There was plenty of time for questions from the audience. Two particular subjects that arose was the status on Cycle Superhighway 11 (CS11) and Bank Junction closure in the City. On the former, which was proposed to result in the closure of Regent’s Park to vehicles, it seems that it may be being held up by objections from affected borough councils after all. CS11 is a good example of how local opposition can delay or thwart unreasonable proposals. On Bank this is an experimental scheme but will be subject to a review in a few months’ time and I explained what representations we had made on this topic.

The key as always if you want to have an impact on politicians is not just to moan in private or on social media, but to directly contact the political decision makers – the Mayor London, London Assembly Members, your local M.P, local Councillors, et al. It is also necessarily to respond to relevant public consultations and get the vote out when necessary.

In my experience politicians do listen, particularly when it seems they might be at risk of losing an election by pursuing unpopular policies! Please bear that in mind. That was perhaps one of the most important points communicated at this event.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Press Release: Mayor Sadiq Khan Ignores Objections to his Transport Strategy

We have issued the following press release:

The response of the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, to the public consultation on his Transport Strategy has been announced today. We have been actively campaigning against certain aspects of his proposals.

We suggested that his proposals were a direct attack on the use of cars or indeed private transport in general and that not only were his proposals unrealistic but would not work. Our campaign attracted more responses to his proposals than any other campaign group.

Has he made any significant changes to his proposals? In reality NO. The response document (see below) is full of comments that say “no change” is proposed.

A Brief Analysis of Responses to the Public Consultation

The Mayor claims “broad support” for his Healthy Streets approach and the 80% mode share target for cycling, walking and public transport use. But then goes on to say “there were sometimes divergent views across issues”. Indeed, if you look at the details of the comments TfL received there was substantial opposition to many points, including much opposition to road user charging or congestion charging schemes.

There were clearly lots of opposing comments from outer London residents and although the Mayor has committed to respond to them by improving the bus network and surface rail in outer London, this is hardly likely to placate many objectors. Our experience is that many of those objecting are disabled or very elderly who often rely on private vehicles and who would have difficulty with public transport (most of them consider the suggestion that they should cycle as laughable). You can see some comments from our campaign supporters on our web site.

This is also evident from the Consultation Response Document where it says “there was a notable level of disagreement with the aim that by 2041 Londoners should be doing 20 minutes of active travel each day” (page 30 of the Consultation Report).

Opposition to road charging was evidenced by 566 “comments of concern” versus 250 supportive comments (see page 103). That’s good evidence of the level of opposition. That’s despite the repeated claims by the Mayor that the Congestion Charge system reduced congestion (see page 106), which is simply not true. But it is “no change” for his strategy to support charging schemes. His only concession is that it will be up to local boroughs to consider how or whether to implement them (see page 109).

Even the Mayor’s environmental policies received a lot of negative comments (see page 110) and there were also many against “densification” of London which is a major concern in outer London boroughs (see page 162). The Mayor again proposes “no change” to his strategy on those.

In summary a disappointing outcome, with consultation responses minimised by the short timescale allowed. The outcome is much as one might expect when you have a Mayor who has dictatorial powers and who does not seem to understand the diverse population of London and those who live in outer London.

More Information

Our campaign against the Mayor’s Transport is described here: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The Announcement from TfL and the Consultation Report document can be obtained from here: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/policy/mayors-transport-strategy/?cid=mayors-transport-strategy

For more information, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.

Traffic Speeds in London – They Are Getting Worse

I was having a clear out today of my office, and I happened to notice a copy of Ken Livingstone’s Mayor’s Transport Strategy dating from July 2001. It made for both amusing reading and anger at the lack of progress made since.

This is the first sentence in his Foreword to that document: “The single biggest problem for London is the gridlock of our transport system. At the start of the 21st Century, traffic speeds in central London have fallen to less than ten miles an hour with knock-on effects on the speed and reliability of the bus system. Congestion is growing in outer London town centres. Rail services are in unprecedented crisis. The Underground is more over-crowded and unreliable…..”. He said the transport crisis threatened London’s economic prosperity and suggested London needed a “world class transport system”.

Have we got one now? Not exactly and traffic speeds have actually fallen below what they were in 2001. In central London traffic speeds were reported as being less than 9 mph in central London last year by various sources, and as low as 7.3 mph in one quarter in 2017.

The Underground is more crowded than ever with some stations having to be closed at peak times. Surface rail has improved in some regards on some lines, but certainly not if you are a Southern Rail user.

What did Mr Livingstone plan to do to improve the dire state of affairs he commented upon? Apart from the fine words about improving the capacity of the public transport network as in Sadiq Khans recently published Transport Strategy, he proposed to implement a Congestion Charge “to deter unnecessary vehicle journeys in central London”. That obviously did not work. You can find a lot more analysis of why on this web page: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion

Excuses from the Mayor and Transport for London as to why it did not work are numerous but are false. It failed simply because London has such high unsatisfied demand for road space and lots of people willing to pay for it, that they simply soaked up the space. The Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax) has more than doubled since Ken Livingstone introduced it, and still it did not work. In addition, more road space has been taken up by buses which are massively subsidised and their numbers expanded under Livingstone (they are still high) and by the modern fashion for PHVs (Uber etc). The growth in the population of London, and of businesses in central London, have created major headwinds in addition while cycle lanes have taken up valuable road space but are often relatively little used.

Mr Livingstone, and his successors Boris Johnson and Sadiq Khan have persisted with irrational and unproductive gestures without getting to the nub of the issue and producing policies that might actually work. Boris Johnson seemed to try to solve the problem by encouraging cycling, and Sadiq Khan’s added walking as a solution to both our transport and health problems. He also suggests road pricing or more congestion charging might help when we know from experience that those policies will not improve matters.

I suggest readers tell Sadiq Khan that a totally fresh approach is needed. Not more of the same regurgitated policies that emanate from Transport for London.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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