Sadiq Khan is publishing a book he has written. It’s called “Breathe: Tackling the Climate Emergency” and links air pollution to climate change. Khan was diagnosed with asthma a few years ago at the age of 51 – in other words he suffers from “adult-onset asthma” which is moderately rare and can be caused by a number of different things – but not usually background air pollution. Since then he has been promoting restrictions on vehicles to improve air quality and to raise taxes to support TfL such as the ULEZ scheme. But there is no evidence that the ULEZ scheme has reduced the incidence of asthma which is rising from other causes.
Without reading it (it’s not yet available) the book seems to be a manifesto for climate activists. One wonders how the Mayor found time to write this book as he has so many other problems to deal with. Perhaps it was ghost written.
One can sympathise with anyone who has asthma, but this book already looks like a political manifesto to justify the Mayor’s actions rather than a scientific analysis of air pollution or climate change issues.
Another item of recent news is the threat of legal action over plans to remove road closures in Tower Hamlets after the election of Mayor Lutfur Rahman who had it as a manifesto promise. A group called “Save our Safer Streets in Tower Hamlets” is raising money for a legal challenge via a judicial review and has raised over £13,000 so far.
A particular focus is on the closure of Old Bethnal Green Road under the “Liveable Streets” programme (see photo above). This was a “B” road and carried as many as 8,000 vehicles per day it is claimed – that surely demonstrates how important it was as part of the local road distribution network!
Comment: The grounds for a judicial review seem poor and the groups budget for it totally inadequate even if it is permitted. Councillors have wide discretion on decision making so long as it is not perverse. The basis of the challenge is poor public consultation but even if the case was permitted and won it might just result in more money being wasted on more consultation. This attempt to overturn the will of voters should not be allowed.
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Transport Minister Grant Shapps and Mayor Sadiq Khan have agreed another £1.6 million of funding for Transport for London (TfL) as part of a “long-term settlement”. That now makes a total of £6 billion of Government funding which of course comes from taxpayers not just in London but from the whole country. That’s about £100 for every man, woman and child in the UK.
The funding will support new Piccadilly line trains, as well as modernisations and upgrades across the District, Metropolitan, Hammersmith and City and Circle lines. It will also support the long-awaited repair of Hammersmith Bridge, the extension of the Northern Line, improvements to Elephant and Castle station and £80 million every year for active travel schemes (mainly cycling schemes).
The Mayor has agreed as part of the settlement to reform pensions and work on the introduction of driverless trains on the underground. But he is not happy with the outcome. He said in a press release: “The Government is still leaving TfL with a significant funding gap, meaning we will likely have to increase fares in the future and still proceed with some cuts to bus services. There are also onerous strings attached, such as the Government’s condition requiring TfL to come up with options for reform of TfL’s pension scheme at pace, which could well lead to more industrial action and more disruption for commuters”.
Comment: By funding gap he means TfL will continue to lose money. Users of TfL services, particularly bus passengers, will continue to be massively subsidised instead of paying the true cost of their journeys. Why should that be so?
Grant Shapps has yet again avoided the proper decision which should have been to take control of TfL away from the Mayor. Will the Mayor stand up to unions when strikes are threatened over changes to working practices and pension schemes? I doubt it.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has issued a press release and a report claiming that the air in London is a lot cleaner after the last expansion of the ULEZ. For example, it is suggested that NO2 concentrations alongside roads in inner London are estimated to be 20 per cent lower than they would have been without the ULEZ and its expansion.
This is no doubt an attempt to justify a further expansion to the whole of London which is still open to public consultation. However if you read the detailed report it is not at all clear why air quality in some locations has improved, however much it is to be welcomed.
Other factors that may have affected the figures have been ignored. For example the report says this: “The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic (“the pandemic”) and individual, regional and national responses to address it, mean that 2020 and 2021 have been different from previous years. This is particularly so for travel and transport as people reacted to lockdown measures and wider concerns about the pandemic by changing their work and travel habits. The pandemic impacted traffic volumes in London in 2020 and 2021, with central London being especially affected. This will in turn have impacted pollution levels across the city. In July 2021 most lockdown restrictions were formally lifted, and much of the economy has now returned to near normal levels of activity. However, central London traffic levels are still not back to pre-pandemic levels”.
It is also worth noting that as vehicles get replaced or upgraded, newer ones tend to be a lot cleaner. There is a natural turnover of vehicles and newer ones are cleaner plus people have been avoiding buying diesel vehicles whose numbers registered in London have fallen. Many people and businesses are also now buying electric vehicles and not just to avoid paying a ULEZ charge.
Another big change is that more London buses are now ULEZ compliant and HGVs have also been replaced with cleaner vehicles. These have had big impacts on air pollution in London along main roads.
But all these changes have not justified the ULEZ expansion and the costs imposed on car and van drivers. Neither do they justify further expansion of the ULEZ which will cost TfL many millions of pounds to implement and cost some drivers a great deal also. If you have not already responded to the public consultation, please do so from the link below:
TfL cannot afford to spend the money on expanding the ULEZ as they are already desperately short of money so why do they want to do it? Probably because it will give them the capability to introduce a London-wide road charging system using the cameras that will be installed.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has announced that he plans to expand the ULEZ scheme to the whole of London next year (see press release below).
The latest proposal from the Mayor is yet another example of how his policies are all driven by money. The ULEZ was and is an enormously expensive scheme that is having minimal impact on air pollution levels (these are more influenced by Government taxation policies and the fact that older polluting vehicles do get scrapped sooner or later).
There is no evidence that air pollution significantly affects the life expectancy of Londoners – those who live in the most polluted boroughs often live longer.
His claims about a climate change emergency is just scaremongering and certainly his policies will have no impact whatsoever on global climate change which if it is affected by anything is by CO2 emissions in China and the USA, not by emissions in London.
The expanded ULEZ will add substantial costs to many Londoners and even encourage them to move elsewhere. London is becoming a city only a place to live in for the young and fit and who are willing to put up with using public transport.
Two days ago (on 17/01/2022) I pointed out on this blog that the Mayor’s Budget document spelled out that road pricing in London was definitely anticipated. His budgets for future years depend on it.
It became clearer what he is planning yesterday when both the BBC and London Evening Standard provided more details of the Mayor’s plan – see links below.
His proposals include a small daily charge on everyone who drives in London – perhaps £2. He claims this is required based on a report commissioned by City Hall that found that a 27% reduction in London’s car traffic was required by 2030 to meet net-zero ambitions. He has the powers to introduce this but he is also considering a London entry charge for anyone who drives in from outside. A boundary charge (of perhaps £3.5 per day) would require Government consent when they don’t currently favour it.
Longer term, by the end of the decade, he would like to introduce a pay- per-mile system although the technology to do that is not yet available.
In the meantime it looks very likely that he will extend the ULEZ to the whole of London.
The Mayor has said “I have got to make sure there is a disincentive to drive your car, particularly if it is petrol or diesel, when there are alternatives, like public transport”. Yes he would like to force everyone to use public transport which of course he has a financial incentive to advocate. It’s yet another reason to take TfL out of the control of the Mayor.
The justification for these measures is to tackle air pollution and defeat climate change. It certainly won’t do the latter and there is a very good debunking of the claims of death from air pollution on the web site Not a Lot of People Know That – see link below.
Improving air quality is certainly something the Freedom for Drivers Foundation supports but there needs to be a clear cost/benefit and the measures our national Government has been taking have been by far the most effective to reduce air pollution. London’s measures introduced by Sadiq Khan have been enormously financially damaging with very little benefit. He postures about saving the world while spending your money ineffectively.
Sadiq Khan has published his proposed Mayor’s Budget for 2022-23 which covers support for Transport for London and other services in the capital.
His foreword says this: “At the time of writing, London is in the grip of a serious crisis. Our city has more COVID-19 infections than any other UK region, we are seeing an explosive and alarming rise in the number of Omicron cases, and our NHS and other public services are being placed under immense strain because of staff absences caused by sickness and the need for key workers to self-isolate. The government is also still refusing to properly fund London’s public services, particularly Transport for London, the Met police and the London Fire Brigade. It’s against this extremely challenging backdrop that I’m having to take a series of tough decisions to ensure that the progress we have made towards building a fairer, greener, safer and more prosperous London is built upon, rather than put at risk. The pandemic is the only reason TfL is facing a financial crisis”.
The last sentence is a lie and he yet again blames the Government for his own financial mismanagement over the past several years that meant that TfL had no financial resilience to meet the unexpected impact of the Covid epidemic.
The Mayor goes on to say “However, as a condition for the emergency short-term funding, the government is forcing us to raise additional revenue in London through measures, like council tax, that will unfairly punish Londoners for the government making our transport network so dependent on fares income”.
Why should not Londoners pay for the transport network they use? Either in fares or council tax (preferably the former)? Basically he is begging the Government to fund TfL rather than getting Londoners to pay while TfL continues to run uneconomic services instead of adapting its business to meet the new market conditions.
Sadiq Khan’s foreword is a classic example of him blaming the Government for his problems. We need less politicking and more constructive and practical steps to get TfL back on an even keel.
I’ll pick out just a few interesting points from the budget document:
The budgets anticipate a reduction in bus services of 18% by 2024-25.
Road pricing is definitely anticipated. It says on page 56: “In addition, further to the requirements of the 1 June 2021 funding agreement, the budget assumes a widening of road user charging schemes in later years to deliver the Mayor’s transport policies, subject to a full impact assessment, consultation as appropriate, and decision-making processes. The implementation costs have not at this stage been included as discussions are still ongoing”.
The Mayor talks about cost reductions in TfL but in reality the total operating expenditure rises from the expected £6.8 billion in 2021-22 to £7.5 billion next year.
The deficit between operating income and expenditure in TfL remains high at £1.35 billion in 2022-23 and is still £638 million in the following year. That ignores the capital expenditure and other items making the total “financing requirement” of £2.1 billion for next year. See page 95 of the budget document for the breakdown. Clearly the Mayor is expecting the Government to come up with the cash to finance these deficits which is surely unreasonable.
Expected income next year from the Congestion Charge, LEZ and ULEZ schemes is £754 million which just shows how much money is being taken out of the London economy and from the pockets of Londoners to support the Mayor’s grandiose plans. This is a charge on Londoners for which there is no countervailing financial benefit.
The proposed adjusted basic amount of council tax is £396 for a Band D property (an increase of £32 over 2021-22). Yet again the Mayor is increasing his council tax precept at more than inflation when the general population is facing major cost of living increases from food and energy bills. Normally such a large increase would require a public referendum (see pages 109/110) but the Mayor is apparently asking the Government to waive that requirement.
Summary and comment: This is a typical socialist “spend, spend, spend” budget where instead of cutting the cloth to what he can afford the Mayor wants to continue spending regardless of economic and market conditions. The budget should be reconsidered and brought more into line with reality.
Please make sure you submit your own comments on the budget by sending an email to GLAbudget@london.gov.uk (but it needs to get there by the 18th January so it’s URGENT).
First Mayor Sadiq Khan pleads with the Government for more money to fund Transport for London in their financial crisis. But with the Government reluctant to concede without a clear picture on future budgets, now he has turned to threatening the public.
He has announced that he plans to increase his share of council tax by £20 per year to support TfL and phase out the over 60+ Oyster card. This will presumably not affect the over 65 Freedom Pass. Fares on the network are planned to increase by inflation plus one per cent next year which will be an over 5% increase.
In addition he plans to scrap Travelcards making the network paperless – contactless bank, credit cards or Oyster cards can be used instead if you have one. Also tube journeys on the Piccadilly line to Heathrow will be charged at a premium rate.
Comment: As usual the Mayor blames the Government for forcing him to make these changes which is primarily the result of his own financial mismanagement.
But these changes are not unreasonable. If Londoners wish to have their public transport subsidised then it is not unfair to put it on Council Tax rather than introduce new taxes such as the ULEZ. The latter imposes charges on people who may not use public transport. Increasing charges to everyone in London as most will use public transport to some extent is fairer and scrapping the 60+ Oyster Card is not unreasonable. The 60+ card was never justified but was just a bribe to win electoral favour when most people could afford to pay the normal fares.
Increasing fares by inflation and more also makes sense as clearly at present fares paid do not cover the cost of running the TfL network.
But we still do not have a clear picture of how the Mayor is going to make TfL financially sustainable.
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Following on from my previous blog post about the financial crisis faced by Transport for London (TfL) and the Mayor (see link below) I have given some thought to how the problems might be resolved.
The solution from Sadiq Khan and London’s Transport Commissioner is to ask the Government for more money. Not just some millions of pounds in immediate bail-outs but billions in the next few years. There is no doubting the dire financial situation that TfL has got itself into partly because of the Covid epidemic which has reduced income substantially. But it was slow in responding to that and had not been managing its financial resources properly for years.
The big problem is that TfL has been run to pander to its political master whose key focus is to please the population of London so they can get re-elected when the time comes. But TfL is not just a useful transport service to serve the growing population of London but is in essence a business. It should be run like a business and if it is not it will continue to rack up losses and need repeated bail-outs.
The rot set in when the Mayor of London was given responsibility for TfL (and he chairs the Board of TfL), particularly when TfL took over responsibility for all underground, bus and main roads in the capital. From Ken Livingstone onwards, decisions have been made to please the electorate rather than ensure that TfL ran on a commercial basis. Ken expanded the bus network enormously which resulted in subsidies of over £1billion per year. Buses ran more frequently on routes that were often under-used but only now is the network being reduced.
Concessionary fares such as the Freedom Pass were expanded – again a very popular policy but one which imposed costs on the transport operators even if local councils covered some of the costs.
Ken installed a Congestion Charge system (in essence a tax) while promising it would solve traffic congestion which it never did and now we have the ULEZ tax which it was claimed would solve London’s air pollution problems, but which it has not – see Reference 2.
Sadiq Khan froze public transport fares for 5 years until March 2021. This no doubt helped him to get elected. But this was a political decision not a sensible financial one. He gambled on revenues from Crossrail filling the budget gap that was created but that project was over budget and severely delayed. When the Covid epidemic hit there was no margin of safety left to absorb the reduction in income that comes from bus and tube fares.
Instead of cutting services to meet the reduced demand level and hence save costs, services were maintained at a high level for political reasons and to avoid conflicts with trade unions. That’s not how any commercial business would have tackled the problem.
TfL is a commercial business where less than half its income comes from fares paid by willing customers. Much of it comes from grants and other subsidies, often indirectly from taxpayers. That is the core of the problem which no politician, whatever the hue of the Major of London, is going to tackle.
The solution to many of these problems is to remove TfL from elected political control and give it a clear mandate to be run solely on a commercial basis. A commission, independent from the Mayor of London, should be established with very specific terms of reference which should be binding on a new London Transport Commissioner. Such a commission should report to a Government minister but be independent in terms of policy making and executive decisions, i.e. the Government and any Mayor of London should only have a consultative role.
The remaining issue is whether roads and public transport should be combined under the same Transport Commissioner with roads being financed and maintained to some extent from public transport fares. Although the Mayor currently obtains some income from the Congestion and ULEZ charges, he argues that he should receive a share of national taxes used to finance road development and maintenance. That would only make sense if it was removed from political control in London.
But there is a built-in basis for irrational decisions if the London Transport Commissioner is responsible for multiple transport modes – underground, surface rail, London buses, taxis/PHVs and private vehicles (cars, LGVs and HGVs). Each of these should be made standalone businesses so that no one role subsidises the other. They should be made independent profit and cost centres. London Underground should not subsidise London Buses and vice versa. Road vehicles including buses should be covering the maintenance costs of the road network (including that for bridges, flyovers and tunnels) in London. If there is any surplus in any one sector it should be used to expand the relevant network and improve services, not be used to subsidise other loss-making activities.
The claim for a single transport body such as TfL was that it would enable the construction of an integrated transport system but apart from a common fare payment system there is little real integration.
The above is a manifesto to reform London transport so that it meets the needs of consumers of its services on a viable economic basis in the future. No other solution can do that.
There are of course other possible escapes from TfL’s financial problems. It has assets it could sell off. Perhaps someone would like to buy the London Underground? But that will never happen while it is subject to political interference. Or it could borrow more money but that would not solve the basic financial problem. When expenditure exceeds income in your household budget, the last thing you should do is to increase your mortgage or raise the limit on your credit cards.
As it stands, the Mayor’s only solution seems to be to ask his fairy godmother (the Government) to come up with oodles of more cash. The Government should ignore the Mayor’s wailing and threats and get down to imposing substantial reform along the lines I suggest.
Both Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, and Andy Byford, London Transport Commissioner, have warned that unless they get more money from the Government then there are going to be savage cuts in public transport and on major infrastructure projects. The latter might include the required repairs to the Rotherhithe Tunnel, the A40 Westway and A12 Gallows Corner flyover leading to their closure.
Some 100 bus routes face the axe and frequencies may be cut on 200 other routes. Other proposals are no more electric buses, no more step-free stations, no more “Healthy Streets” cycling and walking schemes and no more 20mph zones or safer junctions.
Now some readers might welcome some of those things and clearly the Mayor is trying to scare the Government into providing more funding within weeks. But some of those suggestions like closure of the Rotherhithe Tunnel and the Westway would be disastrous for the functioning of the road network in both east and west London.
How did TfL get themselves into such a mess? It all stems from the policies adopted by Ken Livingstone which was for massive subsidies to buses and commitments for large expenditure on Crossrail and other underground projects. The bus network has certainly been greatly expanded but at a cost that was never justified and Crossrail has been a financial disaster. Over budget, over schedule, and never justified on a cost/benefit basis. The Mayor was relying on income from it to cover TfL’s future budgets which it never has.
Boris Johnson never tackled the problems created by Livingstone when he was Mayor while Sadiq Khan has actually made matters worse by spending enormous amounts of money on cycle lanes, LTNs, and other schemes that have damaged the road network. He has also encouraged the growth in the population of London while the infrastructure never kept up with it despite massive central Government funding.
A report in the Express shows that £515 more per person was spent on transport schemes in London than on the North of England. A new report from the IPPR North think tank has published an independent analysis of transport spending over the past decade. Between 2009/10-2019/20, the North received just £349 per person in transport spending. In comparison, the UK as a whole received £430 per person, while London received a staggering £864 per person. Where did it all go one might ask? On pointless and generally uneconomic schemes not justified by any cost/benefit analysis is the answer.
The daft transport schemes such as the Congestion Charge and the ULEZ have actually encouraged people to move out of London and the cuts to public transport that are proposed will expedite that trend. With falling income from bus and tube fares already caused by the pandemic, the outlook is certainly bleak. But failing to maintain the infrastructure such as bridges, tunnels and flyovers while the Major prefers to spend money on other things is surely a sign of gross incompetence.
London needs a new transport plan where expenditure is matched to income and needless subsidies removed. In other words, people should pay the cost of the trips they take on public transport and free riders should be stopped. But will a socialist Mayor ever take such steps? I doubt it. So London is likely to go into further decline and more people will move out.
But London is at the heart of the UK economy so there is some justification for central Government stepping in once again to reform London’s governance. We need less populism (which generally means hand-outs to win votes) and more financial acumen in the leadership. Certainly the current arrangement where you have a virtual dictator in the role of Mayor and a toothless London Assembly is not working.
The key to improving the London transport network is not to have it all (both public and private transport) under the control of one body (TfL) which leads to lack of competition and perverse incentives. For example, encouraging cycling to relieve pressure on public transport while causing more road traffic congestion and introducing schemes such as the ULEZ to help subsidise public transport while increasing the cost of private transport.
Perhaps we need a new Dr Beeching to put the London transport network back into a cost-effective structure as he did for British Rail. But at least the Government seems to have taken some rational decisions by cancelling the eastern link of HS2 to Leeds. Just like Crossrail in London, HS2 was never justified in terms of benefits achievable and the money would have been better spent on smaller projects. But politicians love grandiose schemes. Reality seems to be finally sinking in on the national scene even if not yet in London.
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A study on Low Traffic Neighbourhoods (LTNs) by Anna Goodman et al, which has been widely reported by the Guardian and the Mayor of London, suggests that road casualties have fallen dramatically in London after LTNs were introduced. The fall is as much as 50% overall with large falls in pedestrian casualties.
One might say that if roads are closed and traffic reduced (the main objective of LTNs by their advocates although the Covid epidemic was used as the excuse to do so) then accidents are bound to fall. On the logic that the end justifies the means then to reduce the high road casualty toll, all roads should be closed. But that would not be very practical.
But if you look at the study, you will realise that it is hardly a scientifically accurate study of the impact of LTNs.
The key measure to look at when considering road accidents is the Killed and Seriously Injured (KSIs) where the data in this study seems to be very small, as minor injuries can suffer from under reporting. That is particularly so in the pandemic as people would be reluctant to visit police stations to report accidents.
In addition it seems a lot of the reduction is to pedestrians who were probably much reduced, particularly on busy shopping streets where most casualties take place, because of the pandemic. Few people were going shopping other than via the internet during the pandemic (many shops were closed), and the elderly and young, who are most prone to road accidents were particularly avoiding going out (schools were closed for example). The data has not been adjusted to take account of these factors.
The other issue is that road safety professionals consider that a three-year before and three-year after comparison is best used when considering the impact of road changes. This is because if road layouts are changed there tends to be a significant but only short-term impact on road user behaviour.
This is very selective data over a short period of time and not likely to reflect longer term trends. It is a great pity that Sadiq Khan has promoted this report without thinking. There are many good reasons why LTNs are opposed by the majority of people and LTNs are not a good way to reduce road accidents. All such simplistic solutions will fail because the reasons for accidents are complex and scientific studies need to have proper “controls” in place before conclusions are drawn. In this study, why were pedestrian casualties much reduced while other types were not and what features of the LTNs may have reduced accidents? There are several ways to implement LTNs but the report tells us nothing about those issues.
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