Saturday, 20 September 2008

Boris and transport: latest balance sheet

The latest newsletter of the London local group of the Campaign for Better Transport (CBT) is out. You can download it here (PDF file). 

It reports good news and bad news on the progress or otherwise of the new Mayor - but sadly more of the bad than the good. (Why am I not surprised at that?)


- Isobel Dedring is the Mayor's new Environment Adviser. As former head of TfL's policy unit she entrenched the policy that car traffic must be restrained. This seems to presage a clash with the new Transport Adviser, Kulveer Ranger, who, as I noted a week ago, has delivered himself of the absurd view that all transport modes are equally valid.

- The Mayor says he wants to develop a scheme to protect local shops in the suburbs. If he means it, this will involve being much less accommodating to the big supermarkets (and their associated carparks) than any local politician hitherto.

- So far, the cycling and public transport investment programmes have been maintained in the budget.


- Fares are going up by 6%.

- Ken Livingstone's "100 Spaces Programme" has been dropped. This "would have reversed decades of traffic domination in many strategic locations".

- CBT fears that Boris not only is set to abolish the Western Extension to the Congestion Charge, but might be "softening us up" to scrap the charge altogether. (I slightly doubt whether he could get away with that, myself.)

- The planned pedestrianisation of Parliament Square has been scrapped. So this highly symbolic space in front of Britain's most iconic landmark, supposedly the cockpit of the nation, will remain a mad, roaring jumble of people-hostile traffic.

- As threatened in his election campaign, the £25 congestion charge for gas-guzzlers will not go ahead.

- The Mayor appears to be backtracking on his earlier opposition to the Thames Gateway Bridge (one of TfL's few major errors in Ken's term of office), an environmentally unsound proposal which, if built, would generate much extra private car traffic.

- He has also backtracked on his opposition to expanding London City Airport. As CBT notes, it looks as if he has been "got at" by big business. (What did we expect? He is a Tory after all.)

- It is expected that traffic lights will be rephased in favour of cars and at the expense of pedestrians, starting almost immediately.

- No sign at all, apparently, of any long-term thinking at TfL on the financial and environmental unsustainability of running a fleet of 8,000 diesel buses. Boris seems to have junked Ken's small experiment with hybrids, no doubt because at present they are fiendishly expensive - but this could turn out to be a false economy in the long run.
(UPDATE: It turns out I was wrong about the hybrids. The hybrids trial is being expanded.)

- The Mayor seems to be blowing ominously cool towards the already much-delayed cross-river tram project. Residents, borough councils and businesses potentially affected are overwhelmingly in favour of it. It would be a catalyst for regeneration in deprived areas like Peckham. Its benefit-to-cost ratio is good. But Boris is apparently listening instead to the idiot Tory MLA Brian Coleman, whose distinctive platform is an irrational vendetta against all tram schemes, in the face of evidence (Manchester, Croydon, Sheffield, Nantes, Grenoble, Montpellier, Nice, Bordeaux, Zurich, Melbourne) that well-planned tram schemes bring huge transport, environmental and social benefits.

- Eight major new developments under way in London, such as the huge new shopping centre shortly to open at Shepherd's Bush, have an average of 8,000 parking spaces each as currently planned. This, of course, isn't Boris Johnson's fault, but as CBT notes, if he is serious about tackling congestion "he will need to ensure that parking provision is substantially reduced during the planning process". It is not sufficiently appreciated how much new parking provision acts as a magnet to traffic growth from many miles around. That, naturally, is what the developers want. In the long run, such developments accentuate the vicious circle of an increasingly car-dependent society, a process which happily has, up to now, gone less far in London than most other places, especially in inner and central London. In part this is precisely because of the relative lack and/or expensiveness of parking. This is not just an "outer suburbs" problem. The proposed new Stratford City in inner London, adjacent to the Olympic Site, is planned to have over 11,000 parking spaces. This nonsense must be stopped.


Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go! said...

Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go!:

peezedtee said...

Your comparison is very unfair to toads, which are mostly peaceful and harmless creatures, unless you are a small insect. What have toads ever done to deserve this?

Brian Coleman (aka Mr Toad) has GOT to go! said...

"He got so puffed up with conceit that he made up a song as he walked in praise of himself, and sang it at the top of his voice, though there was no one to hear it but him. It was perhaps the most conceited song that any animal ever composed.

`The world has held great Heroes,
As history-books have showed;
But never a name to go down to fame
Compared with that of Toad!

`The clever men at Oxford
Know all that there is to be knowed.
But they none of them know one half as much
As intelligent Mr. Toad!

`The animals sat in the Ark and cried,
Their tears in torrents flowed.
Who was it said, "There's land ahead?"
Encouraging Mr. Toad!

`The army all saluted
As they marched along the road.
Was it the King? Or Kitchener?
No. It was Mr. Toad.

`The Queen and her Ladies-in-waiting
Sat at the window and sewed.
She cried, "Look! who's that HANDSOME man?"
They answered, "Mr. Toad."'

There was a great deal more of the same sort, but too dreadfully conceited to be written down. These are some of the milder verses.

He sang as he walked, and he walked as he sang, and got more inflated every minute. But his pride was shortly to have a severe fall."