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News round-up - May 2024

Parking charges


Pollution from transport continues to be persistently high despite the trend towards less polluting vehicles. Many boroughs are realising that the rise in the number of large, polluting cars is part of the problem and, in order to encourage the use of smaller vehicles are raising parking charges for the most polluting vehicles.


Greenwich, Lewisham, Merton, Newham and Croydon charge two to three times for the most polluting vehicles. Diesel vehicles are also charged more in some boroughs and there a premium if more than one vehicle at an address is registered. Recognising that Westminster has some of the highest carbon emissions and worst air quality of any national local authority has persuaded it also to move to an emission based system. The borough has had a diesel surcharge since 2017.


Meanwhile they are going after SUVs in Paris, charging them a three-fold premium. Parking an SUV in Central Paris will cost €18 an hour.


Advances in battery power


The most efficient way to decarbonise rail transport is undoubtedly to erect overhead wires but the cost of this on lightly used lines is considered prohibitive. The most promising alternative is the use of batteries, but currently their power to weight ratio makes their use impossible on long distance routes, and the time needed for recharging means the trains are out of service for considerable periods of time.


But battery power is advancing at a rapid rate and the distance over which battery use is feasible is gradually lengthening.


The latest advance is in West London. The trains involved are ex-London District line trains repurposed by Vivarail before it went into administration. They are being used experimentally on the 2¾ mile, 10 minutes, branch from West Ealing to Greenford. Hopefully they will carry passengers soon. The recharging system is capable of delivering power of up to 2,000kW in 3½ minutes, more than adequate for this short branch. To charge retractable shoegear makes contact with a short section of rail in West Ealing station which is itself continuously trickle-charged from batteries fed from the grid. The short section of rail is only live when the train’s shoegear makes contact with it.


The operator, GWR, has carried out computer simulations of prospective performance on the other Thames Valley lines – to Slough, Marlow and Henley. Preliminary results are positive.


Accessibility on the underground


Making the tube accessible for disabled people is an on-going but expensive and difficult task. Currently about a third (92) of tube stations have step-free access to the platform, about 60 London Overground stations and all 41 Elizabeth line and 45 DLR stations. Plans to increase the number are underway.


One of the issues is the distribution of accessible stations. Ten stations currently being considered for accessibility work include some in areas of the capital where there is currently none. There is a particular focus on north-west London. Stations identified in that area include Eastcote, Rayners Lane and Northolt.


Some step-free stations still require the provision of a ramp for wheelchair and mobility scooter users to board the train, and this needs station staff to be on hand to deploy it.  Even where there is step-free access to trains, there remains a small gap which can trap castor wheels on wheelchairs or cause a painful jolt if there is a height difference.  A new development makes this easier with the introduction of a new mini-ramp which is light, quick and easy for staff to put in place.


Traffic Free Holborn


Plans to enlarge Holborn underground station seem to have bitten the dust, but other plans to help people navigate around Holborn are being made.


Camden Council plans to pedestrianise the road in front of the British Museum with ‘open, accessible, green, biodiverse, and safe public realm that encourages people to walk and cycle, sit, and socialise’. Other plans include the pedestrianisation of Southampton Place and public realm improvements in Theobalds Road and Great Ormand Street.





All the Superloop routes are now in operation except for SL4, Canary Wharf to Grove Park, which is due to start in 2025 when the Silvertown Tunnel is open.


TfL data suggests that Superloop is already a success with overall demand on the routes increasing beyond the network average level. The rebranding of the existing radial routes (SL6 to SL9 – formerly X68, X26, 607 and X140) appears to have been particularly successful. SL7 reports a 56 per cent ridership rise between June and November 2023.


Building on this success Sadiq Khan has unveiled plans for another ten Superloop routes including ‘Bakerloop’ to provide an alternative to the extension of the Bakerloo line from Elephant and Castle to Lewisham until funding for the tube line is secured. Most of the other routes would provide a second orbital ring around London.


An express bus route to allow Bakerloo line passengers to continue on to Lewisham is a good idea but not so good as extending the Bakerloo line. But of course London doesn’t have the money and government seems reluctant to cough up. It would help if local authorities could keep more of their money instead of having to rely on government largesse. There could even be more local government tax raising powers like France’s versement mobilité which taxes all firms with more than eleven employees to fund local public transport. There then needs to be stronger powers to extract contributions   from developers who make large profits when better public transport connections are made. Paris can do it. Why not London?


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