Labour have effectively abandoned the Flyunder scheme

Last month I wrote about how the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan delayed answering a question about his stance on the Flyunder proposal. This scheme would mean a tunnel would replace the Hammersmith Flyover and a stretch of the A4 extending to the Hogarth Roundabout. It would mean huge benefits in terms of transport, the environment, new housing and making the borough a more beautiful place to live in.

The Mayor has finally provided the following response:

“TfL completed a feasibility study for the Hammersmith flyunder in 2015. The scheme looks to address issues of congestion, mitigate against noise and air pollution from traffic, provide space for new housing and make the area more appealing for walking and cycling. The study indicated that it would be technically feasible to build a tunnel to replace the flyover and provide opportunities to regenerate Hammersmith town centre.

“The likely construction and operational costs of the scheme were found to be significant and could not be covered through local sources and from proceeds from associated development in the town centre. As this is primarily a regeneration scheme, it is being considered further by the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham who are developing a Supplementary Planning Document for the town centre.

“While I am supportive in principle of schemes such as the proposed Hammersmith flyunder, any such schemes need to being fully funded by development in the local area. TfL will work closely with the Council, but the scheme has to demonstrate that it can deliver the benefits and meet the key challenges before I can fully support the it.”

Given the vast sums that TfL is prepared to spend on assorted unwanted schemes the refusal to offer any money at all is unreasonable. Not to mention splashing out £100 million to bodge up the Hammersmith Flyover. This is a TfL road and for the current Mayor to show a complete lack of interest is a dismal contrast to his predecessor Boris Johnson.

Val Shawcross, Deputy Mayor for Transport, says the Flyunder idea is “bonkers”.

In any case just shrugging and saying it is up to the Council to come up with a proposal is pretty hopeless unless we get a change of administration in May. Labour promised to back the plan but have failed to make any progress with it at all.

H&F Council’s annual stealth taxes on motorists hit £23 million

A big theme from the Labour Party at the last council elections was to cut “all taxes”. They pledged to cut the Council Tax at a faster rate than the Conservatives had achieved. But they also promised to cut “stealth taxes” – most significantly on motorists.

Back in 2013 the then Labour opposition leader Cllr Stephen Cowan declared:

“These fines and fees are the worst type of stealth taxes demonstrating once again that Hammersmith and Fulham is a high tax borough.”

That was in response to the figures from 2012/13 which showed the Council made a “surplus” or profit on its parking operation of £19.395 million. As Council leader Cllr Cowan has made a difference. The latest figures –from the RAC Foundation – show the amount is now £23.077 million.

So local drivers having been promised the stealth taxes would be cut are instead fleeced by an extra £3.7 million a year. Any of them who believed Labour’s promises are entitled to feel angry,

To really help cyclists let’s fix the potholes – not waste money on the “superhighway”

The Times has reported that the refusal of councils to bother filling shallow potholes is a threat to the safety of cyclists.

According to an FOI response earlier this year from Hammersmith and Fulham Council:

“The Council works to an investigatory level of 40mm in the carriageway in line with the Well Maintained Highways – a code of good practice and the Council’s Highway Maintenance Management Plan.”

Yet the report in The Times says:

“Lawyers acting on behalf of accident victims said that many councils only fixed potholes that were deeper than 4cm, despite the risk of accidents in shallower cracks.”

More than 100 cyclists died on Britain’s roads last year. A further 3,397 were seriously injured, a 5 per cent increase from the previous year. Department for Transport figures show that 467 cyclists over five years were involved in accidents in which “poor or defective” roads were a factor.

While Transport for London proposes spending £70 million of our money on a grand scheme for a Cycle Superhighway – which many ordinary cyclists don’t want – the basic priorities are ignored.

The general point seems to be that the depth of an inch or two might not matter too much for motorists but can be a serious risk for cyclists.

I have raised my concerns with the Council about this. The General Maintenance Team Manager has responded:

“The Council currently operates under the existing ‘Well Maintained Highways – a code of good practice’ which was drafted by the Roads Liaison Group and was recommended by the Department for Transport. This document was replaced in October 2016 with a new document – ‘Code of Practice for Well-Managed Highways Infrastructure’. Each Council has until October 2018 to make the necessary changes to existing polices to align with the new code.

“The Council is currently undergoing a series of workshops to review existing topics such as intervention / investigatory levels as the new Code of Practice document encourages Councils to assess risk in a wider context than the previous document did. Once these workshops have been completed, a new Highway Maintenance Management Plan will be drafted in line with the new CoP – this document will cover topics such as intervention levels, frequency of inspections and repair timescales.

“In the meantime, should you have any particular areas of concern where you feel that a defect poses a risk to a cyclist, please let me know and I will arrange for a Highway Inspector to carry out a thorough investigation.”

The website Fill That Hole says cyclists have reported 363 hazards to the Council via that website but that only 45 have been fixed. That performance puts the Council well down the league table.

I have asked for an explanation.

 

 

Mayor dithering over Flyunder scheme

While the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan is keen to spend £70 million of our money on a flawed Cycle Superhighway scheme there is a complete lack of progress on Flyunder proposal. Yet that would offer genuine improvements to cyclists – as well as the rest of us.

As the Hammersmith BID has said:

“The Hammersmith flyover bisects the town centre, cutting off access to the river and inhibiting pedestrian and cycle movement. A tunnel would provide an opportunity to reconnect the centre of Hammersmith with the riverside, creating an opportunity to invest in new public space and making the area more attractive for tourists, people who work in the area and local residents.”

Two months ago Caroline Pidgeon, a member of the London Assembly, put in a couple of pretty straightforward questions about it. She hasn’t even had an answer:

Hammersmith flyunder (1)

Caroline Pidgeon (14-Sept-2017)

Do you support the Hammersmith flyunder project?

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Hammersmith flyunder (2)

Caroline Pidgeon (14-Sept-2017)

What action have you taken to implement the proposed Hammersmith flyunder?

Officers are drafting a response which will be sent shortly.

Revealed: H&F Council’s financial motive for backing flawed “Cycle Superhighway” scheme

Last month I stated that I had asked Hammersmith and Fulham Council about its financial interest in supporting Transport for London’s “Cycle Superhighway” scheme – which most residents who have contacted me agree would not merely be poor value for money but actually detrimental to the borough.

The Council Cycling Officer has now responded to my query as follows:

“Hello Cllr Phibbs,

I hope you are well.

I’ve been asked to respond to your requests for more information regarding the use of the Council’s logo, and what funding the council has received from TfL, and any future funding.

The use of the Council’s logo on the consultation documents follows the same principle that we adopted for the Better Junctions consultation last year, and reflects the partnership that we have with TfL in developing the proposed CS9 Route. Like our colleagues in Hounslow, we have been working with TfL for over a year to bring this initial proposal to public consultation.

The partnership enables us, as officers representing the Council, to advise and develop the proposed route using our local knowledge and technical knowledge to inform the proposal.

Our aim is simple, we want the best for our residents and we also want to secure investment in the Borough. (The Mayor of London has committed £70m for the development and implementation of a CS9 route from Olympia to Hounslow. Based on this total figure delivery of the Hammersmith sections are estimated at approximately £15-£20m.)

TfL are an important source of investment for this type of infrastructure project for cycling, but cannot build anything on Borough roads without our permission. In the case of CS9, subject to the outcome of the consultation, and the decision of the cabinet, my team will carry out the detail design of the route and will use our own contractors to hopefully eventually build the scheme.

The Council is committed to working together with TfL to secure the implementation and operation of Route 9 to meet one of the aims of the 2015 Cycling Strategy to make cycling less intimidating in the borough, and ultimately to increase the share of all journeys in H&F which are made by bicycle from five per cent to eight per cent.

The Council is also committed to cooperating  with TfL with regards to agreeing the alignment and other details concerning Route 9 in the Borough Area including any special interventions or road treatments appropriate.

In return for this knowledge and work, TfL have agreed to reimburse the Council in respect of all costs and expenses reasonably incurred by the Council in connection with Route 9 Activities.

Currently TfL have funded officer time on the project from 2016 to date to a value of £119,577.

If the consultation is positive and a decision is made by our cabinet to proceed to the next stage, which is detailed design, officer time will be paid for by TfL to develop the detailed designs, work with local residents and businesses to ensure that the best scheme is implemented in Hammersmith, and then create a construction package that leads to implementation. No prediction of this value has taken place yet and will not take place until the consultation outcome is known and the cabinet decision made.

If the consultation is not favourable there is no future investment connected with cycling along this route.

If you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.”

So that’s £119,577 to be getting on with – and a big chunk out of the “approximately £15-£20m” if the scheme is allowed to proceed.

By the way when it comes to the aim “to make cycling less intimidating in the borough” I have been interested by the number of the more gentle cyclists who have declared themselves filled with dread at the prospect of the “Cycle Superhighway”.

Greg Smith: Uber? Let people decide

Cllr Greg Smith gave the following speech at the recent Council meeting.

Mr Mayor, I did not get into politics to ban things. To interfere with people’s lives or businesses or they way they go about putting a roof over their families head and food on the table.

I have always believed the free market not only ensures the widest choice for consumers and competition keeping prices fair; but is the incubator of innovation and progress in the face of the lazy, vested interests, who have no interest in consumers, individuals or families: only ever their self interest in the status quo.

Market disruptors, like Uber, keep the wheels of economic progress moving.

3.5 million registered users.  40,000 people who earn their living.

855,000 signatures on change.org petition.

What has Labour got against all of these consumers, workers and visitors in London?

Safety?

It is a nonsense to say this is about safety.  In the year to the end of March 2017, there were 1,996 recorded sexual offences across London’s public transport network – but no one is advocating banning the tube or bus network.

There are those – in all walks of life – for whom evil runs in their veins and they set out to commit horrendous and awful crimes.  In the taxi trade, that is predominantly by those who equally illegally operate completely without a license, but is also spread across all other types of taxi and cab.  Of course, across all business more cab be done to stamp out potential criminals before they commit their crimes, but let us not pretend this is an Uber problem, nor taint the vast majority of their 40,000 drivers with the sort of slurs their critics have thrown against them.

Indeed, as far as Uber is concerned, I put it to this Chamber that a can booked via an app using GPS, where the consumer gets the drivers name, vehicle registration and licence number in advance and then whose journey is tracked by GPS all the way to their destination is fundamentally SAFE.

Much better than the old days – before Uber – where it was not uncommon to stand for ages late at night on the off chance a Black Cab would come past with their light on, only to be told “nah, not goin’ West mate”.

And don’t take my word for it, quoted in the Guardian – of all places – Sarah Green, co-director of the End Violence Against Women coalition, said that it is “absolutely real” that many women will be concerned about the potential demise of Uber. “It makes sense that something as easy to use – and offering a door-to-door service – will give a lot of women a feeling that it improves their ability to get about.”

No – this is nothing to do with safety.  But yet another example of Labour and the left showing their contempt for consumers and warped ideological opposition to competition in the face of vested interests.

Competition works: indeed Uber and similar companies have even dragged the vested interests up with them – forcing more black cabs than ever to accept cards as payment to keep some trade.

If they are as moderate as they claim to be: stand up to your mayor and your leader. Be on the side of 3.5 million consumers and 40,000 workers. Embrace competition. Let people decide.

Hammersmith Society warns against flawed “Cycle Superhighway” plan

Recently I wrote about the flawed “Cycle Superhighway” plan from Transport for London.

Now Tom Ryland, the Chairman of the Hammersmith Society, has written to his members expressing concern and urging them to respond to their consultation.

He says:

I personally have talked to a number of local residents and cyclists who without exception are unhappy with the scheme as it stands.

In addition to the points of objection set out below, the following issues should also be noted :

1. The consultation exercise is flawed in that only residents near the route have been notified, but these proposals will affect all users of Hammersmith and Chiswick. (For example, no TfL letters have been sent to residents living north of Goldhawk Road). 

2. On other existing Cycle Superhighways, TfL concede that levels of pollution have increased because of the slowing of the traffic.

3. There will be a loss of at least 6 mature trees (3 in Hammersmith : 3 in Chiswick). Other trees are also likely to be endangered where the new cycle route will be laid over tree roots.

4. In Chiswick, where some pavements will be narrowed, there will be insufficient space for the existing café tables.

5. The arguments against using the largely unused wide verges adjacent the A4 seem to revolve around pollution (Is it really that much worse than adjacent the other busy roads?) and that there are too many ‘turnings’ (But on the Hammersmith section, there are only Weltje and Rivercourt Roads and the petrol filling stations).

6. TfL say that their plans take into account their previous consultation in 2016 on the cycle routes on the broadway – but this was flawed because it only addressed the northern half of the Broadway and ignores the A4 and Fulham Palace Road.

So here are main objections/concerns : 

– It does not seem that there is proven need for such a drastic scheme along this route. (TfL argue that it will attract cyclists).

– Cycle Superhighways encourage high speed relatively long distance commuter cycling and would be of no benefit to a town centre such as King Street that is already struggling.

– High speed cycling can be very intimidating to pedestrians and slower cyclists (Many cyclists I have spoken to tell me they will not use the Cycle Superhighways because they are intimidated by the other cyclists).

– The main ‘high street’ section of King Street including its already very narrow. The scheme will involve further restrictions on footway widths for pedestrians and road widths (single lane) for buses and traffic generally. There will be no allowance for passing, stopping off, breakdowns and emergencies, deliveries and servicing to shops and banks or parking in King Street. This will almost certainly lead to regular traffic snarl ups in King Street and delay bus times.

– The slowed or stationary traffic will lead to an increase in pollution levels.

– Some existing bus lanes will be removed and bus stops relocated sometimes onto ‘traffic islands’, which will be intimidating for users, particularly the frail or elderly and users with pushchairs.

– The closing off and restricted use of some turnings off King Street (Eg. British Grove) will be disruptive to local residents and businesses and often quite impractical.

– The existing cycle contraflow in King Street does cause problems to cycle users and pedestrians but as an alternative to the two-way Cycle Superhighway, it could be retained (as a ‘Quietway’) and extended for the rest of King Street and onto the Broadway.

– The use of other roads (Eg Glenthorne Road/Blacks Road) and the A4 verges must be considered.

– The Cycle Superhighway should not be bulldozed through as an end in itself but should be considered in conjunction with long term re-organisation of the Broadway and King Street which although part of the draft Local Plan seem to have been kicked into the long grass.

Transport for London TfL who are promoting and consulting on the scheme will potentially drive it through unless there is a groundswell of opinion against the scheme.

This scheme must be rethought : Please make your views known to TfL and Hammersmith and Fulham Council before the deadline of 31 October 2017. (And of course let us know).

Full details of the scheme including several computer generated images, and how to comment can be found at:
consultations@tfl.gov.uk/cs9 or you can write to them at FREEPOST TFL CONSULTATIONS.”

All good points. But Tom didn’t mention the money. This disastrous scheme would cost £70 million. Just imagine the alternative ways that cycling could be advanced with that funding without causing all this disruption to others?

For instance in 2013, under the previous Conservative administration, Boris Bikes were introduced to Hammersmith and Fulham. There was a significant cost in setting it up – there were a lot of “docking stations” and the technology is rather sophisticated. That cost or £2 million was covered through Section 106 payments from property developers. What about spending another million or two to increase its availability into the north of the borough? The Council refuses even my modest request for docking stations at Starch Green and the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road.