We need electric buses in Hammersmith to improve air quality

I am pleased to see that more electric buses are being introduced given the serious issue of air pollution and the ill health that it causes. But so far none are planned for the bus routes for that run through Ravenscourt Park Ward – the 27, 220, 267 and 391.

Tony Devenish, the London Assembly member for London West Central, has raised this concern with Transport for London and got the following response:

“The London Borough of Hammersmith and Fulham will benefit from this initiative, with electric buses entering service on routes 70 and C1 in the first half of next year. We are also pioneering the use of double-deck electric buses on route 98 to push the market forward.

“The pace at which we convert the fleet is currently restrained by the early commercial development of the electric bus industry. Electric buses cannot travel as far on a single charge as conventional diesel buses, requiring either widespread supporting charging infrastructure or a significantly greater number of buses to allow some to charge while others operate in service. This makes electric bus technology very costly.

“When the contracts for routes 27, 220, 267 and 391 come up for renewal we will investigate the options available for replacing the vehicles with electric or hybrid technology. In the meantime, we are retrofitting and replacing conventional vehicles across the entire fleet to make them much cleaner, with the aim of raising all buses to the cleanest Euro VI engine emission standard or better by 2020.”

So it comes down to funding. But why doesn’t the Council assist with offering some Section 106 funds from property developers? After all one of the objections to the building of new homes comes from concerns about air quality – both the dust during the building works and the extra traffic once it has been completed. We keep hearing claims from the Council about vast Section 106 sums being negotiated. But where is the money?

There is a precedent. When under Conservative control the Council used Section 106 funds to help pay to set up Boris Bikes. Again that was about mitigating congestion and pollution. Why not extend the cycle hire scheme using a (modest) sum to set up new docking stations? For instance at Starch Green or near the junction of Brackenbury Road and Goldhawk Road. The Council refuses.

When it comes to clean air the Council is willing to issue press releases, pass motions and set up commissions. All we stress what a priority it is. On practical measures there is always rather more resistance….

Let’s warn van drivers not to get stuck in Bradmore Park Road

Satnavs are wonderful inventions but they are not perfect. One problem is when they tell drivers of larger vehicles to turn into narrow streets when then get stuck.

Recently a resident in Bradmore Park Road  contacted me to point out that her section of the road is “extremely narrow – enough for cars to pass but not enough for furniture vans, dust carts and skips to come down the road which means that they frequently get stuck. During the week this is a frequent phenomenon and all the parked cars have their wing mirrors regularly struck or torn off.”

Once they reverse back down Glenthorne Road to turn into Lamington Street instead it is dangerous as Glenthorne Road is one way.

I have asked the Council to put up a  public notice on the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road saying something like ‘Not suitable for wide vehicles’, for example.

The response is as follows:

“The Council share your concerns around the use of residential roads by larger vehicles and you may have noted recent changes to HGV signage on Hammersmith Grove, which is intended to reduce the volume of ‘rat-running’ HGV’s using this street.

Roll out of similar signage is planned for a number of residential side streets in the surrounding area over the coming months (subject to consultation) and this includes the junction of Bradmore Park Road and Glenthorne Road. The signage indicates a ban on all vehicles over 7.5T, unless access for deliveries or removals is required. We will certainly take into account your observations around positioning of the signs.

With regards to sat-navs it is quite difficult for us to feed information to be picked up by drivers due to the vast amount of databases which are used across various systems. Although we do feed changes such as the above to a central database and as part of this project we are in contact with the freight haulage association, who provide such information to lorry drivers.”

New cycle hire scheme blocking pavements

Picture by Nigel Walley

I am all for encouraging cycling – especially given the problem with air pollution in the borough.

Also I yield to nobody in my admiration for innovation and entrepreneurial zeal to promote choice and competition. However there is a difficulty with oBike cycle hire scheme which is that their bikes are being strewn all over the pavement.

I have written to the Council’s Director for Transport and Highways who replies:

“This is a commercial enterprise that has rolled out these bicycles across London without proper consultation with local authorities. There is no regulation that requires cyclists to only leave their bikes at designated locations (such as attached to cycle racks) so by implication the bikes can be left virtually anywhere on the highway. The only caveat is that the Highways Act prohibits placing any object on the highway where it causes an obstruction to other road users, and we have the powers to issue a fixed penalty notice or to impound the bike. There is also the factor that they are operating a business on the highway without permission.

“We have been in contact with oBike and notified them that we will take enforcement action if the bikes are not removed. They have agreed to remove the bikes they have deposited in the borough and to meet us to agree the ground rules. I believe the bikes are now being removed. I suspect they are having similar conversations with the other boroughs.”

Joe Carlebach: Diesel Tax will hit those who can’t afford to buy a new car – and so won’t tackle air pollution

joecarCllr Joe Carlebach is a councillor for Avonmore and Brook Green Ward.

I have no doubt of the very real problems caused by pollution from many forms of transport that we all take for granted. This specifically includes the huge problem of of aviation emissions and diesel particulates.What I have a problem with is the way our  Labour Council is trying to address this issue.

The way this tax has been constructed will have  a disproportionate impact on those members of our community who can least afford it and that is frankly unfair and unjust.For example I have seen examples of residents on the Council’s Housing waiting list, living on the breadline in overcrowded rented accommodation. They work in the transport industry as taxi drives, many on zero hours contracts.They have to pay for their own vehicles and their own fuel. Some have been forced in recent times to use food banks. These people can simply not afford this tax.

I have had representation from other families, those with disabled children. They must have a car to be able to transport their children around. Many have diesel cars partly because they had been told this was the ‘greenest’ form of transport by the Government in the recent past, and for reasons of economy. They are not entitled to blue badges because their children are mobile but these families are desperately trying to manage  their children’s significant disabilities. These are not wealthy people and again they can ill afford the cruelly escalating tax the Council has seen fit to imposed on them.

We can not ignore the suffering of those with chronic illness as a result of pollution, this is as I understand it, which is apparently the rational for this tax. I am therefore at a loss to understand why the Council has not done more to offer any form of support these residents.

I am told they have not made any effort to work with any of the major health Trusts in our area, improving access and care at respiratory clinics, or paediatric respiratory initiatives in schools or within primary care.This is indeed a missed opportunity.

Neither has the Council done anything to manage or reduce traffic congestion which is now out of control across London and especially in our Borough. Nor have they done anything to incentivise drivers not to leave their engines running whilst stationary, all major contributors to poor air quality.

I very much regret that the Council has chosen to simply tax unfortunate residents ratcheting up the cost until their pain is too much to bare. The Council has also created stress and uncertainty within our community by not making it clear if this new tax is to be levied on diesel vehicles on Estates or parked in Garages on our Estates.In short this is a poorly thought out tax which  has the feeling of political correctness rather than a genuine effort to reduce pollution.

The Council is living in a dream world of they think the many residents who will be hardest hit by this tax can just go out and by another car, never mind an electric one. They simply do not have the money. They can barely get by as it is.There is a perverse logic at work here that impacts least the very wealthy at the cost of those who are significantly financially challenged and are the least able to pay any more in tax. It simply can not be right to clobber the drivers of a small old diesel cars with these spiralling charges knowing that they are unaffordable whilst leaving the drivers of very large new and expensive luxury cars unscathed.

I strongly urge the Council to rethink this unfair tax, to think carefully about its unacceptable impact on those residents who can least afford it and go back to the drawing board. They should do this now before you cause any more distress.

Steve Hamilton: How to tackle air pollution without punishing the poor

stevehamCllr Steve Hamilton is a councillor for Sands End Ward and the Conservative spokesman on transport.

An honest increase in revenue could be taken from increased Council Tax, but the Administration made an election pledge to freeze Council Tax – sorry, they actually made a pledge to cut Council Tax, but did anyone really expect them to keep their pledge?

Instead they have decided to introduce an stealth tax on a third of car owners in the borough – introduced under the cover of clearer air, but intended as a simple revenue increase – they have staggered the tax over a number of years, to reduce the headline figure to ‘just £20’ as they describe it.

This stealth tax is despite one of the recommendations of this Council’s Parking Task Group, which concluded “The Task Group supports the principle of encouraging residents to drive more environmentally friendly-vehicles through reduced parking fees for green vehicles, but not penalising drivers of older, less environmentally-friendly vehicles.”

The fact that this is a tax designed to increase revenue is clear from the cabinet papers – a green measure would talk about the reduced number of vehicles subject to the tax – instead, and I quote from the report “…this would increase the income from Parking Permits…” and “This will be taken account of in the council’s future financial planning.”

So it is a tax, pure and simple, but is there a point in charging more for a permit for a diesel car than a petrol car?

Diesel cars have been encouraged by government – it was the previous Labour government that decided that CO2 was bad, and anything that could be done to reduce CO2 therefore had to be good – including replacing CO2 with NOx – hence they encouraged people to buy diesel instead of petrol, and now people who listened to the Labour government are now to be punished for it by this Labour council.

We already tax people on their use of fuel, in the US you pay roughly 68 cents for a litre, currently about 55p – compared to £1.20 per litre here. This tax is directly proportionate to the amount of pollution a vehicle causes – more fuel in = more cost.

This is in direct contrast to this Labour stealth tax – which is the same if you leave your car at home all day, or if you drive up and down the streets of the borough.

In fact, it is even worse – the vast majority of journeys made in the borough are by people who do not live in the borough – so the Administration is taxing our residents, while leaving the majority of offenders alone.

Are the borough’s diesel drivers a major source of pollution?

As this is the Administration’s flagship policy for clearer air, you might expect local diesel drivers to be in the top 3 producers of NOx – but they are not – in the top 10 then? No, they are joint 13th – tied with taxis – for now at least, as when the TX5 is introduced later this year, a model launched by Boris Johnson as Mayor, we will see zero emission taxis.

So what are the top producers of NOx, and what is the council doing about them? Very little…

Construction is the biggest producer of NO2 – generally diesel from construction vehicles and from diesel generators – actually as the council is approving fewer homes, you might argue they are doing something to reduce their impact – but more could be done here – planning conditions could be used to encourage using grid electricity instead of generators and lower emission vehicles

In second place, diesel rail. The good news is that the Conservative government are doing something – the electrification of the Great Western line will enable diesel trains to be phased out from the line – possibly reducing a whole class of polluter.

In third place is non-domestic gas, and I know of nothing that the council is doing to address this.

Finally, in fourth place, are buses – as Mayor, Boris Johnson introduced the hybrid Routemaster bus to reduce pollution, which the current Mayor has decided to cancel. Boris had also started requiring zero emission buses be used on ever more routes – this is an area where the Council should be working harder with the Mayor of London, to set a timetable for all buses in Hammersmith and Fulham to be zero emission – removing all diesel buses from the borough would do more than removing all diesel cars, and it is achievable without introducing stealth taxes on our residents.

Some might say that it is just £20 per year, those who drive new flashy 4x4s can afford it, but that misses the point – most people with a new 4×4 will replace it in a few years, and can choose a vehicle that meets the emissions requirements.

As the cabinet report says – “those less economical [sic] well off, as these people are more likely to own older cars which are less emission friendly. As such the new permit structure and associated prices may have a greater impact on this sector of residents.” – not may – it will, as these are the people for whom an extra £60 per year is an unwelcome additional expense, but who cannot simply replace their vehicle.

Shocking state of Bassein Park Road

Residents of Bassein Park Road have raised concerns about the very poor state of their road. The Council response was that it “is not in the list for road resurfacing as there are no bad patches of surface deterioration found apart from the section from Askew Road to Rylett Road.”  In fact the whole length of Bassein Park Road is in a pretty shocking state – the photographs below show just a few of the problems. Nor is it the only road which has been left to deteriorate to an unacceptable extent.

I am pressing the Council to take action…