Our major complaint about
the transport policies followed in London are the failure to recognise that road
transport is the most used mode for both freight transport and personal
mobility, and yet there is no comprehensive approach to improving the road
network. There is a concentration on public transport investment which motorists
end up paying for. The millions road users pay in taxes do not result in
improved roads. In addition local boroughs have historically frustrated major
improvements to the road network and even local schemes have become vulnerable
to "nimbyism" and exaggerated environmental concerns.
The following article was
published in June 2010 on the current Mayoral Transport Strategy:
Johnson has published the final version of his Transport Strategy document (see
cover left) which will now
be in effect for some years, effectively dictating the agenda for some time to
come. The final version was not much changed from the draft, and it confirmed
the Mayor’s commitment to the removal of the Western Extension of the Congestion
Charge which is expected to be removed before the end of this year.
As regards the consultation responses, there were about 5,700 in total and the
Association of British Drivers submission was mentioned 18 times in the report.
On the Western Extension (which as one person pointed out, had now been
consulted on three times), the responses were 58% supporting removal versus 25%
disagreeing, which is pretty conclusive. But it was clear that there was
consistent lobbying against this and other measures by partisan organisations
representing anti-car or public transport financed groups. For example, the
objectors to removal included these groups: Campaign for Better Transport,
Campaign for Clean Air in London, Campaign to Protect Rural England, Chartered
Institute of Environmental Health, CTC, Energy Saving Trust, Friends of the
Earth, Inclusion London, Living Streets, London Civic Forum, London Cycling
Campaign, London First, London TravelWatch, NHS London, Railfuture, and the TUC.
It is perhaps unfortunate that such groups tend to proliferate and have the time
and funds to make submissions to these kind of consultations, while the general
public and business groups are less well represented. The West London Residents
Association and the ABD did of course actively support the removal though and
had a major impact.
TfL did recommend some changes to the final report in regards to River Crossings
which emphasised the role of “modal shift” and the possibility of tolling of
existing or new river crossings to fund infrastructure improvements and/or to
manage demand. So don’t be surprised if you see any new crossings in the east of
London are subject to tolls.
Despite the “loaded question” on demand management by road pricing in the
consultation (which was emphasised in the ABD’s response - see this page of our
web site: Consultations ), there was only a
small minority in favour. It is clear that an unbiased question is very
unlikely to produce an overall response in favour, even taking into account that
many London residents who will have responded to this consultation are not car
owners or drivers.
One point worth noting however is that the Mayor is committed to using parking
charges to encourage the purchase and use of vehicles with low emissions. So the
policy of Emission Related Permit Parking charges, and indeed general parking
charges, which proved so unpopular in Richmond might become more widespread.
following article was published in December 2009:
heralded in our last edition, Boris Johnson has now published his London
Transport Strategy document. The following attempts to explain the key aspects
of what is a complex and muddled plan which appears to try to be all things to
all people, i.e. anyone of any political persuasion may find some good things in
it, and the bad things tend to be glossed over.
Infrastructure and New Road Building
There is clearly major expenditure planned on public transport projects such as
Crossrail, extensions to the DLR and underground improvements. There is a
commitment to new East London river crossings (but don’t hold your breath
waiting for them). Thankfully the Mayor’s predecessor’s plans for trams seem to
be dead and buried.
There is a clear statement of support for new road building where it can be
justified on economic grounds and does not have adverse environmental impact –
this is a step forward from the past regime where all new road building was
pretty well ruled out. For example, for Bromley residents there is a suggestion
that the A21 will be widened so as to improve the link from the M25 to the town
centre. So it shows that the Mayor seems to at least have some commitment to
more local democratic input into transport budgets.
When first published, some commentators such as the London Evening Standard
suggested that the plan was a charter for road charging schemes. But it is not
as clear cut as that. The Mayor’s Transport Advisor, Kulveer Ranger immediately
responded saying there was “absolutely no scheme” to introduce London-wide
congestion charging. But he did say that road user charging would be considered
if other measures failed to have the expected effect and note that his wording
does not rule out local schemes.
There are two problems that the Mayor faces. Firstly the environmental problem
that London is in breach of EU air quality standards and faces large fines if it
does not improve. Secondly road congestion is forecast to get worse due to
increased population (although your editor thinks this is a mirage as traffic
congestion tends to be self regulating). The Mayor is proposing a number of
measures such as electric vehicles to reduce air pollution, promoting cycling to
get people out of vehicles, and traffic management measures to reduce
congestion, but they may not have as much impact as hoped – indeed it is
difficult to see how air pollution will fall as fast as required unless there
are much tougher policies on taxis, buses, HGVs and LGVs.
The Mayor seems to be living more on hope than depending on a practical plan.
But if you oppose all forms of road pricing and congestion charging, then make
sure you respond to the specific question on the response form (where it is now
called euphemistically “demand management”) – see later for how to respond.
The Mayor supports emission based parking policies as epitomised by the Permit
parking scheme in Richmond which generated such fierce opposition. Parking
provision for new office developments in outer London are relaxed slightly but
residential development provision is still totally inadequate (for example, 1 to
1.5 spaces for a 3 bedroom property).
The Mayor has reiterated his opposition to expansion of Heathrow Airport. He
continues to promote the idea of a new airport in the Thames Estuary.
One of the big ideas promoted in the document is the encouragement of cycling
with a range of measures including “cycle superhighways” (more on these in a
later article). In total he plans to increase cycle use four-fold which would be
a major achievement.
Apart from the poor quality air problem (which surely most Londoner’s would like
to see improved), the Mayor also has the problem of meeting the “Climate Change”
policies imposed by the Government. This involves very substantial reductions in
CO2 emissions. Even with all the measures proposed, such as substantial numbers
of electric vehicles, generally improved vehicle efficiency and more cycling, it
seems very unlikely that the Mayor can meet his target for reducing transport
CO2 emissions. (Editor: as a “climate change” sceptic, wasting enormous
resources on trying to meet pointless CO2 targets would not have my support
One of the most astonishing things about this plan is that there are no costs
attached to any of these proposals. Transport for London (TfL) is a major
business when looked at in commercial terms, with a massive budget. They also
massively subsidise London Buses and control London Underground (the problems of
the PFI maintenance contracts where one company went bust and had to be taken
over by TfL, and the other has been subject to a massive contract dispute which
is going to cost TfL much more than expected, is a story by itself). What
business organisation would ever put forward a plan with no budgets attached to
it? Neither is there any information on what costs these proposals might impose
on individuals or businesses who reside in London.
Bus Services and Fare Rises
Mr Johnson has a massive hole in his budget due to the planned infrastructure
commitments, his election promises to expand the “Freedom Pass” for residents
(whose costs have been escalating anyway as the population ages), the financial
recklessness of his predecessor, and his commitment to other plans. How is he
going to pay for it? One way apparently is to reduce the bus subsidy by reducing
bus services – in total by 16 million miles of bus journeys per year.
In addition bus fares will rise by 12.7%. As Boris Johnson himself said “We
have to be realistic and for the taxpayers’ subsidy of the capital’s bus
services to leap from £24m in 2000 to £602m this year is simply not sustainable
in these tough economic times.”. Well said Mr Johnson is all your editor
wishes to comment on this, but it is not totally clear how much will be saved by
these changes. Tube fares will also rise.
Western Extension of the Congestion Charge
The Mayor continues to support removal of the Western Extension of the London
Congestion Charge. Perhaps you thought you had already responded to a
consultation on this subject (which showed strong public support for doing so)?
No doubt you did, but there is yet another consultation on this issue in the
response to the Mayor Transport Strategy. You should make sure you respond to
the relevant question appropriately to ensure that this is not in doubt.
Roads Task Force
document was submitted in August 2012 in response to the Mayor's Roads Task
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