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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:

Boris 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.

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The following article was published in December 2009:

As 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.

Road Pricing

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. 

Parking 

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). 

Heathrow 

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. 

Cycling 

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. 

Environmental 

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 anyway).

Budgets

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 Consultation

The following document was submitted in August 2012 in response to the Mayor's Roads Task Force Consultation:  Roads_Task_Force

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