Response to Mayor’s Transport Strategy

We have published a formal response to the public consultation on the Mayor’s Transport Strategy (MTS).

The Mayor’s proposals are completely distorted because he does not seem to understand what roads are for. This is our answer to the first question posed in the consultation: “It states on page 11 that “London’s streets should be for active travel and social interaction….”. This is nonsense. Streets are built and maintained at great public expense to provide an efficient and cost effective transport system for people and goods. If people need exercise, or social interaction, there are many other ways they can obtain that without taking up scarce road space. The priority should be on providing a transport network in London that meets the business needs and preferences of the public. It should not be distorted to meet other objectives.”

The full document is present here: Response. It’s well worth reading.

The MTS has a very heavy emphasis on environmental issues and one useful contribution on the debate about air pollution in London and how to tackle it has recently been published by the GLA Conservatives. It is present here: Clearing-the-Air . It shows there are good alternatives to the Mayor’s proposals which would not put such a heavy financial burden on London’s residents and businesses.

You can already see the impact of some of the Mayor’s policies in the news from TfL that license fees for Uber to operate in London will rise from £3,000 to £3 million for a 5-year license!

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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What Has the Mayor Got To Hide?

We have issued the following press release:

In June, London Mayor Sadiq Khan opened a crucial consultation that will decide the future of transport in London. We spoken to several members of the public and found that hardly anyone was aware of it. Some felt that it had been seriously under-publicised.

There have been occasional tube station posters, but they are very bland, mentioning housing and employment but not the quite drastic policies planned for drivers. For instance, the Mayor’s Transport Strategy threatens the extension of the Congestion Charge across Greater London and new taxes to force drivers out of their cars.

Congestion charging spokesman Brian Mooney asks: “What has the Mayor got to hide?

He amazingly claims that drivers pay too little to use the roads and they are subsidised by public transport users. Our research provides evidence to the contrary – that drivers pay four to five times over to use the roads and our taxes in fact subsidise public transport. The Mayor’s office was challenged to provide some evidence via a Freedom of Information Request, but could produce none.” [1] [2] [3] [4]

If he thinks that the overtaxed driving public will support him forcing us to pay even more – or worse still depriving us of using the roads we’ve paid for – then he should at least be upfront with us over his plans.

It would be quite unacceptable if he takes silence as approval for his uncosted proposals  – or even a blank cheque. Particularly as he was elected on a promise not to extend the Congestion Charge. [5]

I challenge the Mayor to appear on a mainstream phone-in with me to face the public over this important issue. This should be within the next three weeks to meet the consultation deadline.” [6] [ENDS]

Notes for Editors

[1] The claim is on p265 of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy consultation draft. “…the fundamentally inadequate and unfair way in which road use is paid for in London, with motorists paying too little, and in effect being subsidised by public transport fare payers.” https://www.london.gov.uk/what-we-do/transport/our-vision-transport/ draft-mayors-transport-strategy-2017   Evidence to the contrary illustrating the net tax paid by drivers is on http://www.fairdealforthemotorist.org.uk/2017mts4.htm#_FOOTNOTE

[2] FOI request: MGLA280717-2452, correspondence available on request.  Failure to respond properly breaches both GLA and wider Local Government standards. “The Mayor is determined that the GLA leads the way in openness and transparency.” https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/governance-and-spending/sharing-our-information/openness-and-transparency https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/522205/Local_government_transparency_code_FAQ.pdf

[3]  Roger Lawson has experienced similar evasion from Mayor Khan’s aides at Transport for London. Roger asked for basic financial information on the costs and benefits of the ULEZ proposals, but no budgets or estimates of the costs have been provided (FOI Request Ref: FOI-0071-1718) – it is currently subject to a complaint to the Information Commissioner but the delays alone have frustrated democracy.

[4] There is other evidence that the Mayor’s MTS consultation does not meet legal expectations. Cabinet Office consultation guidelines include: “Consultations should provide sufficient information to ensure the process is fair.” https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/consultation-principles-guidance  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data /file/255180/Consultation-Principles-Oct-2013.pdf  The Supreme Court ruled in 2014 “The demands of fairness are likely to be higher when the consultation relates to a decision which is likely to deprive someone of an existing benefit.” (UKSC56, Haringey v Moseley) https://www.supremecourt.uk/cases/search-results.html?q=Moseley%20v%20Haringey  In a more recent case, Justice Patterson reiterated the principles upheld by the Supreme Court case that a consultation will be fair if it: 1. communicates the public authority’s proposal to those with a potential interest; 2. explains why that proposal is being considered; 3. provides the consultees with sufficient information to make informed responses to the proposals. (R (Angharad Morris and Donna Thomas) v Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council [2015] EWHC 1403 (Admin)) http://www.burges-salmon.com/practices/disputes_and_litigation/publications/public_consultation_does_not _necessarily_need_to_set_out_alternative_options_moseley_revisited.pdf

[5] The 300 page MTS document fails to give proper ballpark figures for what will certainly be the large sums of money Mayor Khan plans to take from those who can currently afford to drive in London or the substantial cost of implementing his schemes. Sadiq Khan’s 2016 manifesto promised (p36) “to maintain the Congestion Charge at its current level”. http://www.sadiq.london/a_manifesto_for_all_londoners  The MTS threatens a range of punishing measures including: – Extending the Congestion Charge (road pricing) London-wide, with drivers being charged to use local roads – New and higher motoring taxes to stop drivers using our cars – A ‘workplace parking levy’ – a tax on going to work – Reduction in the availability of parking – Measures to remove road space from drivers who’ve paid for it – Gratuitous ‘car-free days’, road closures and speed restrictions www.cantpaywontpay.london

[6] This offer is specifically aimed at the Mayor, not an underling or lobbyist substitute, as he made his promise in a personal manifesto. The timescale would be between now and 20 September to allow listeners adequate time to respond to the consultation which concludes on 2 October. .

Forcing Implementation of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy

An article in the latest edition of Local Transport Today (LTT) made interesting reading. It reported on how London boroughs will be in the “frontline to deliver Khan’s traffic reduction goal”.

As readers may be aware, local boroughs in London have control over local roads, but they have to produce a “Local Implementation Plan” (LIP) to show how they are going to follow the Mayor’s Transport Plan (see http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm if you are not yet clear how damaging it could be). Each borough has to submit their LIPs by October 2018 at the latest and they have to be approved by Transport for London (TfL).

The boroughs have been issued with guidance on how to write their LIP, and Valerie Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport has said in the foreword that “Traffic reduction should be a central theme of borough LIPs, with the aim of creating pleasant places for residents of every part of the city. This means providing alternatives to car use, discouraging unnecessary trips, looking at how street space is used most efficiently, supporting car-free lifestyles, and taking action to reduce and re-time freight trips.”

Now we all know what “discouraging unnecessary trips” implies. It means that journeys that you consider worth taking may not be by some bureaucrat in TfL. In other words, your freedom to choose when and how you travel are going to be constrained if the Mayor has his way. And comments such as “looking at how street space is used” surely suggests it could be reallocated as we have seen so much of in the last few years in central London – road space reallocated to cyclists and pedestrians from vehicles.

Most funding for new transport schemes in local boroughs are funded by TfL because they have the tax resources and central Government funding while local boroughs have very small transport budgets from their own cash resources. Such funding from TfL has historically been focussed on certain “streams” that they consider priorities, although there was some local discretionary funding.

This is what it says for example in the Interim Guidance from TfL: “In line with the Healthy Streets Approach, a new Liveable Neighbourhoods programme will replace the LIP Major Schemes programme to deliver transformational improvements in walking and cycling provision, road safety and road danger reduction and mode shift from private car use”.  

There will also be more money for bus priority measures (i.e. bus lanes), cycling and air quality programmes. In addition, the LIP guidance suggests that TfL will be working more closely than in the past in preparation of the LIPs. Does that mean they are going to provide more support, or simply want to ensure they toe the line? If you are in any doubt, it also suggests that TfL will be providing more services to deliver major projects within boroughs – and that includes design and traffic modelling or even “construction oversight”.

It would appear that there will be even more interference in local boroughs in local traffic and road safety schemes by TfL than ever before. This is despite the fact that TfL do not have the local knowledge that is required to develop good schemes – even local boroughs often do not know as much as local residents about road network issues.

Will there be resistance from local boroughs to these plans? Perhaps. But it shows why it is so important to get the proposals in the Mayor’s Transport Strategy kicked into the long grass. TfL continue to wish to impose a centralised, dictatorial manifesto on local boroughs and take even more control over their activities and funding. This writer thinks it should be opposed.

Roger Lawson

Travel in London – It’s Certainly Changing

A report that should be essential reading for everyone who has to travel around the London metropolis has recently been published by Transport for London (TfL). It’s called “Travel in London – Report 8). It shows how transport in London has been changing, partly as a result of the growth in population, partly from attempts to encourage cycling and “modal shift” in general and the impact of a buoyant economy. Here’s a brief summary of the contents, with some comments.

The population of London grew to a record 8.6 million people in 2015, the highest point since 1939. In 2014 total trips rose to 26.6 million in the average day – that’s 8% more than in 2008, and 2% more than the previous year. In other words, travel has been showing strong growth in London.

There is however a trend for falling private car use, but rising use of public transport and more cycling and walking. As it says “a feat unprecedented in any major city“, driven by “consistent policies”. The population of London is expected to continue to grow rapidly, but will feature more older people.

About half of all bus journeys in England are now made in London – an unbelievable figure which demonstrates just how much they are subsidised. But bus patronage has levelled off in recent years because of “a similar trend in service supply”, i.e. fewer buses are being run as subsidies have been slightly reduced so the consumption falls to put it in plain English.

London Underground, DLR and Overground rail services likewise show strong growth with more capacity on these lines supporting the growth.

Road traffic has fallen for much of the last decade, but has increased in the last two years. For example traffic volumes were up by 3.4% in central London in the most recent year, and 1.9% in outer London. This is thought to reflect population growth and economic trends, but the increase in traffic has brought pressure to bear as congestion rises from reduced road space and other causes. As the document says: “….effective network capacity for general traffic continued to be reallocated to other MTS (Mayors Transport Strategy) priorities“.  I think they mean changes to accommodate more cyclists, more bus lanes, removal of gyratories in the name of road safety and similar such measures. There was a sharp 13% increase in average traffic delay in 2014 according to the report, which won’t surprise anyone who has to drive in London – and that does not even reflect the changes made since the start of 2015.

The number of licensed taxis has remained stable, but the number of private hire vehicles (minicabs) has risen sharply – up by 19% in the latest year alone. That has had a significant impact on traffic congestion of course.

Cycling levels rose by 10.3% between 2013 and 2014, and walking has risen but only by the same trend as population growth. There could be more people commuting into central London by bike than by car soon, but that change is much less noticeable in the outer London boroughs.

There are positive trends in CO2, PM10 and NOX emissions (a lot of which come from transport vehicles) reflecting initiatives to improve local air quality.

Comment: this report shows the impact that Boris Johnson’s policies have been having on transport in London. Basically more people cycling, with cars discouraged by reductions in road capacity. Cycling has also been encouraged by sharp increases in public transport fares which have been rising faster than inflation making it one of the most expensive cities in the world for public transport – unless of course you are one of those who hold a Freedom pass where your travel is subsidised by the rest of the population for reasons which this writer finds difficult to understand. Originally introduced by the Greater London Council in 1973, it has remained a financial millstone around the necks of London boroughs even though the GLA was subsequently abolished by Margaret Thatcher.

Encouraging more cycling has had some unintended consequences because it is one of the less safe modes of transport, particularly when you get a lot of new, inexperienced cyclists on the roads or those who like to “pedal furiously” as is now a frequent sight on the roads of London. The end result is demands for more measures to improve the safety of cyclists, which can be very expensive.

Are all these changes of benefit? You might not think so if you are one of those increasing numbers of older people who are not able or willing to cycle. It seems unfortunate that Londoners have never really been asked what they would like as public consultations on these matters have been low key and certainly the cost/benefit of all these changes have never been spelled out. But it seems unlikely that this will be a debating topic for the competing Mayoral candidates.

Roger Lawson