Tackling congestion and air pollution
In the last week the issue of air pollution affecting London has received extensive media coverage – and rightly so, with some reports saying that air pollution has recently been worse in London than in Beijing.
Another big issue, which has attracted much coverage, is that of tackling the growing level of congestion on London’s roads. An issue it seems everyone has views on from cyclists through to taxi drivers, not to mention every motorist and van driver.
The two are of course connected, with traffic, especially from diesel vehicles, being a major contributory factor to air pollution.
In recognition that all parts of the capital have been seeing a significant growth in congestion, the London Assembly Transport Committee (which I chair) recently undertook an extensive investigation with evidence submitted from hundreds of organisations and individuals.
Congestion annoys everyone. However it also has a staggering financial cost. The overall annual cost to London from traffic delays on busy roads now stands £5.5 billion. This figure represents a huge 30 per cent increase in just two years (£4.2 billion in 2012/13).
Our investigation revealed that the causes of congestion are far wider and more complex than many people imagine – stretching from pressures caused by a growing population through to the growth in internet deliveries.
Our report ‘London Stalling’ calls on the Mayor to reform the Congestion Charge and ultimately replace it with road pricing. The Committee suggests a way of charging people for road usage that is targeted at areas of congestion and at the times when it is most severe.
In the short-term, the Congestion Charge should be reformed to better reflect the impact of vehicles. The daily flat rate should be replaced with a charging structure that ensures vehicles in the zone at peak times, and those spending longer in the zone, face the highest charges.
The report also recommends:
- reducing restrictions on night-time deliveries
- piloting a ban on personal deliveries to offices starting with TfL and GLA staff
- reconsidering ‘click and collect’ at Tube and rail stations
- devolving Vehicle Excise Duty to the Mayor
- piloting a local Workplace Parking Levy
I am pleased to say that the report has received extensive media coverage and initiated a serious debate about how to end gridlock on our roads, including front page coverage in the Financial Times. Many groups have supported or broadly welcomed the recommendations, stretching from the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Campaign for Better Transport, through to the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Tackling air pollution
Last week Sadiq Khan was absolutely right to issue a high air pollution alert. Every Londoner is entitled to know just how poor air quality is in London.
But the real challenge is to reduce the high levels of air pollution.
While traffic is not the only cause of air pollution, diesel fumes are the most significant contributory factor and that is why London Liberal Democrats have long advocated a number of measures to:
- switch London buses and taxis from running on diesel, with a switch to running entirely on electricity where possible
- ensuring that walking and cycling are made far safer and more attractive forms of transport
- advocating sustainable forms of improved river crossings as opposed to the proposed Silvertown road tunnel, which will generate many long distance car journeys.
- improving public transport and ensure that there are real alternatives to private transport in areas of London with poor public transport links
Some useful information on this issue can be found at the Clean Air for London website.
Helping parents return to work
With last week being a busy week for news one announcement that might have gone unnoticed was the Mayor’s decision to introduce a childcare loan scheme to allow employees of the GLA Group (including the Met, London Fire Brigade and TfL) to receive a loan to cover upfront costs such as the deposit and first month’s nursery fees, that are faced by parents returning to work. The loans will work in a similar way to loans offered to many employees to cover season tickets on public transport.
This proposal is just a further example of the Mayor adopting ideas that I first proposed before last year’s Mayor and London Assembly elections. The idea was set out in a package of policies I proposed to make childcare more accessible in London.
Some interesting Mayoral Answers
I hope some of the following Mayoral Answers to questions I have recently asked are of interest:
The Mayor admits that both the Piccadilly Line and the Central Line failed to provide the scheduled numbers of trains on every week day during the whole of December.
Mayors confirms London police numbers were at 31,067 officers in December, despite the objective being a police force of 32,000 officers
Confirmation that noise levels, including helicopter noise, will be included in the Mayor’s new environment report published this Spring for consultation with the public
The Mayor confirms that the earliest starting date for strengthening work on Hammersmith Bridge is Autumn 2018
Keep in touch
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