Posts Tagged transport

Lorries, Tescos and future icons

Lorry deliveries can be a sore point in London.

Our Victorian streets can’t cope with the size of many lorries, their weight shakes our homes, and their diesel fumes pollute our air.

At the weekend, I was at Islington Green with colleagues observing the Tesco lorries in action. The Tesco there is only a ‘Metro’ but it gets a full size artic to restock it. There is no separate delivery entrance so the artic parks in the buslane outside, pushing buses (including 2 bendy bus routes) into the already busy Essex Road, just where it narrows past the Green for the junction with Upper Street.

It’s a nightmare. Tesco are supposed to stick to certain delivery hours but as far as I can tell blithely ignore them. They leave their delivery cages all over the public pavement. They block the road and allegedly write off parking fines as an operational expense; they generally seem to be pretty uncaring about the impact on the community that provides their customers. Perhaps we should boycott Tesco until they are more considerate?

There are lots of things retailers can do to reduce the impact of deliveries on the area, and save themselves money too. Sourcing goods more locally is greener; so is reducing packaging. And those measures in turn would reduce distance of travel and size of lorries.

Sticking to agreed delivery ‘windows’ co-ordinated with other stores; sharing deliveries where possible; and using environmentally-friendly vehicles would also help. Encouraged by a low emission zone!

Meanwhile here’s a good idea, highlighted by Mike Tuffrey at the GLA.

He’s asked Mayor Boris to look at developing a small ‘London Lorry’, as proposed by the London Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies, to allow goods to be delivered to high street around London on smaller and more environmentally-friendly vehicles. Mike suggests thiis concept could be extended to the ubiquitous ‘white van’, be powered by electricity, and potentially achieve iconic status on London’s streets!

Better an icon than an eyesore.

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Jobseekers missing out

This message has arrived from my Lib Dem colleague Mike Tuffrey, who leads the Lib Dem trio at the GLA:

I have been fighting for two years to get people on jobseekers’ allowance half-price bus and tram travel. So I was delighted when the Mayor of London finally took up my plan.
But I’ve discovered that take-up of the discount since it started in April has been disappointingly low. Just 215 people have applied for this entitlement in Islington. That means more than 1,300 people are losing out.
Lib Dems want the Mayor to do far more to publicise this new scheme. I encourage everyone on the allowance for more than 13 weeks to claim. Go to or call the helpline on 0845 330 9876.

This is a great idea. London may be one of the best-connected cities in the world, but that’s no good if you can’t afford to get to your job interview or training course in the first place. So if you are entitled, claim your discount card now!

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The world is not yet our Oyster

It’s ironic that the man who presides over TfL, Boris Johnson, uses public transport so little.

Perhaps that’s why so many of his election promises on transport are running even later than the number 4 bus.

The latest example, highlighted by my colleague Caroline Pidgeon, is the rollout of Oyster cards to overground train services. The theory is that Oyster is your passport to all public transport in London. In practice, with many rail services excluded, it’s not. Outer London commuters have to juggle two or more tickets to get to work, while inner London residents get caught out when trying to use Oyster on rail services. It’s a mess. And at present, despite Boris’ promises, we’re likely to be hosting the Olympics before it’s sorted out.

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Catching up

The last couple of weeks have been so busy that I’ve barely had time to blog.

Which is a pity because there’s so much to write about…

– helping launch the One Hour Bus Ticket campaign
– chairing consultation event on women’s policy with Lynne Featherstone MP
– protesting against the permanent closure of the Wharfdale Road entrance to KX station
– meeting Tubelines to discuss tube services in the borough
– celebrating Mary Wollestonecraft’s 250th birthday
– taking part in Question Time at City & Islington College
– helping launch the Lib Dem Euro election campaign
– helped stick & stuff thousands of leaflets
– joined in commemorations for Dadabhai Naoroji

Last night, I attended Islington’s Annual Council meeting to see Anna Berent elected Mayor and Terry Stacy elected Leader.

It’s been a time of transition; as well as the new Leader of Islington Council, Graham Kings the vicar of St Mary Islington and Michelle Thomas the head teacher of St Andrew’s school are both moving on. So lots of appointment panels in prospect…

I’ve also managed to lose – and now replace – my phone. So even if I should have your number, I may no longer: please text me (my number’s unchanged).

Oh and we’re canvassing 7 days a week for the Euros! So a busy time. I’ll try and write it all up soon.

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A better way to go

The Lib Dems on the London Assembly have published their response to the Mayor’s transport policy consultation.

There’s lots of good stuff in there, not least the way the Lib Dem approach links transport needs into Londoners lives, and the challenges of making our city greener, healthier and a nicer place to live, rather than some train-spotter focus on the hardware in isolation.

Did you know that Londoners spend the equivalent of one whole month per year travelling to and from work? Transport policy should be about reducing that, not just allowing more people to join the commuter grind.

As Caroline Pidgeon points out, “We should be developing a capital city where people need to travel less often and less far. This means keeping essential public services like health, police and post offices local, not consolidating them into larger and more distant centres.”

All things that Labour government policy of recent years has undermined.

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Cross-river tram: students on board

I blogged before about the disappointing news that Boris Johnson has decided to drop plans for the Cross-River tram.

I believe it’s a short-sighted decision. The tram would provide a new link into London’s best-connected station, Kings Cross St Pancras. At a time when London’s population is growing, it would ease congestion on existing routes. And it would provide new routes to parts of south London that urgently need regeneration. As GLA member Caroline Pidgeon has pointed out, it can take longer to get from Peckham to central London, than it does to Reading.

Well, despite Boris’ backing out, the many communities who could benefit from this important cross-London link are not taking no for an answer. The latest to join the campaign are London students, led by student Lib Dems, Liberal Youth.

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Boris’ way to go – not by tram

Mayor Boris Johnson’s new transport strategy has been unveiled.

As expected it has measures to support cycling and clear street clutter, both approaches long advocated by Liberal Democrats. I’ve been lobbying TfL to clear the clutter from their routes in Islington for years.

But it’s not all good news: and the strategy is attracting more controversy over what’s been left out, than what’s in there.

Several major transport projects have been dropped, including three tram links, the Thames Gateway Bridge, the Docklands Light Railway extension, and other projects in east London. This is a real break from the previous Mayor’s emphasis on investment in regenerating the Thames Gateway area.

The Thames Gateway Bridge has been a controversial proposal because it involves destroying the ancient Oxleas Wood. But that’s not the reason Boris gives for dropping it. Money is tight, and the Mayor is blaming lack of central Government investment for abandoning these schemes for now.

As I argued in the Guardian last week, at times of recession, the priorities for transport infrastructure projects should be that they fight climate change, benefit communities as well as passengers, and join up with other regeneration investment (like the Kings Cross bridge).

On that basis, I’m sorry to see that the Cross-River Tram has been dropped. Connections that get people across London are vital – that’s why Thameslink has been such a success and why Crossrail is attracting private investment. As my colleague Caroline Pidgeon points out, private investment should be investigated for other projects too. It’s ironic that a supposedly free-market Tory like Boris is relying on Labour government spending to decide which projects get to survive.

The Cross-River Tram would have linked up bits of south London not on the tube with the massive new developments around Kings Cross: a real missed opportunity if it doesn’t go ahead.

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Guardian blog 31 October

My latest Guardian blog – covering the economy, Mandelson, and a bit on transport (including pressing the case for the Battlebridge bridge) – is now online.

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Kings Cross access: stormin’ Norman vs stonewall Winterton

I’ve blogged before about the campaign to get better – or rather any! – access to Kings Cross station from the Islington side, once the station redevelopment is complete.

At present, Network Rail will close the existing Wharfdale Road and York Way entrances to Kings Cross, without any replacement. Camden Council imposed a planning condition that Network Rail at least look at the feasibility of an access bridge, but the only options they considered were the unfeasible ones.

It’s incredibly frustrating for the local community. The very regeneration scheme that was supposed to open up new opportunities for residents in one of Islington’s most deprived corners will instead make them more cut off than before. Yet a bridge would cost less than 2% of Network Rail’s total budget for the scheme.

Campaigning Lib Dem MP Norman Baker has taken up our cause, and tabled this Parliamentary Question:

Norman Baker (Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, Transport; Lewes, Liberal Democrat) asked the Secretary of State for Transport if her Department would “make an assessment of the effects on (a) the local community and (b) regeneration in the King’s Cross area of Network Rail’s plans to close permanently pedestrian access routes to King’s Cross and St Pancras rail stations from the north-east of the station complex; and if she will make a statement”.

And the reply?

Rosie Winterton (Minister of State, Department for Transport; Doncaster Central, Labour) replied that “Network Rail applied for and received planning consent from the local planning authority (London borough of Camden) for the redevelopment of King’s Cross station. Consultation was undertaken as part of this process, which resulted in Network Rail commissioning a study to consider ways to maintain access to the station from York Way. Network Rail has advised me that the study concluded that from an operational safety perspective the access to York Way in this location could not be maintained”.

That’ll be a no, then. So much for a listening Government.

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End of bus Savers

Even in Bournemouth, there’s still bits of casework to do.

An email arrived from a woman, drawing my attention to the end of the bus Saver tickets. These were the pre-pay single journey tickets (the equivalent for buses of the tube ‘carnet’). They were particularly useful if you had a bus pass, or latterly an Oyster card, and were travelling with someone who did not. Because they were undated they were extremely flexible.

I used to keep a few in my purse in case of emergencies, but to be honest I’ve not done so for a couple of years now. It may be such a minority choice now that Transport for London thought no-one would miss the bus Saver.

But my correspondent will. She works with a group of vulnerable adults and homeless people. Bus Saver tickets have been invaluable to her, when taking them on trips or sending them off on appointments, when their chaotic lifestyles wouldn’t make them retaining or topping up an Oyster card a reliable option.

It may be that she can get a set of pre-pay Oystercards and loan them out, but that’s obviously more complicated, and opens up a different set of relationships, than simply handing out Savers. It’s good to encourage more self-reliance, but that should be at the right time for each individual, not forced by TfL policy.

I’m not aware that there’s been any information, let alone consultation, about this change. But for all the warm words about accessibility, it seems there’s at least one needy group that’s losing out.

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