Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by the Corporation of London (IT 134)

SYNOPSIS

  1.1 In response to the Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Committee's request for a written submission on the Government's recently circulated Transport White Paper, the Corporation of London wishes to make the following comments:

  1.2 London benefits from a mature and high level of public transport provision but, due to severe peak hour overcrowding, particularly approaching the centre, improvements over and above those already planned are needed. The principal highway network is saturated with traffic and the only real hope of achieving the outcomes espoused in the White Paper is by the early introduction of measures which would increase the use of public transport and reduce the overall demand on the highway.

  1.3 The Corporation is willing to work in partnership with Government and the neighbouring boroughs to develop proposals to facilitate this objective.

THE CITY OF LONDON (GENERAL TRANSPORT BACKGROUND)

  2.1 On a typical working day, the City employs between 240,000 and 270,000 people in an area of approximately one and a quarter square miles. This high concentration of employees has only been possible within the City due to the nature of the public transport access infrastructure. Some 96 per cent of this workforce regularly get to their place of employment within the City by modes other than private car; the vast majority using rail transport and completing the journey on foot.

  2.2 On an average weekday, some 250,000 vehicles enter the City. In context this intense level of vehicle-based demand is higher than that on the busiest sector of the M25, but is not segregated physically from the adjacent land uses. To an overwhelming extent most of this traffic has little direct relevance to commerce in the City. The proportion of these trips that are associated with the City in one form or another rarely exceeds 30 per cent, with the remainder consisting of through movements. Most traffic in the City of London, (some 70 per cent to 80 per cent), has its origin or destination within Central London and it is therefore of relevance to the economic prosperity of that area.

  2.3 Over time there have been continuing increases in traffic demand across the country and, to a lesser extent, in Central London. If that continues, there is a particular risk of through traffic displacing or suppressing the local element as a result of increased congestion on a highway network of fixed capacity. Unless positive traffic management control is exercised, this increasing congestion would impede the normal working of the City and other Central London businesses.

  2.4 With a road network based on a medieval street pattern, and with only limited changes brought about as a result of post Second World War opportunity, the highway network available to service commerce in the City has to be achieved within a fixed capacity. We believe this capacity to be around 250,000 per day and the network reaches a constant saturated position for the duration of the working day. This position has remained constant over time as the table below indicates:

Daily Traffic Entering the City (not the Environmental Zone) 1990-1997

199019911992 199319941995 19961997

249,800246,500254,200 252,500247,800251,200 250,100253,200


RECENT TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT EXPERIENCE

  3.1 The Corporation of London has changed the whole pattern of vehicle movement within the City in one simple act through the original Traffic and Environmental Zone, which was put into operation in 1993. This adjusted the road network within the City so that through traffic could be separated from local traffic.

  3.2 It was achieved by 22 street closures and adjustments to one-way street working to concentrate access traffic to the core at eight easily controllable locations. As a consequence daily traffic levels within the core were reduced by some 40,000 vehicles. The Zone was highly successful, and the Corporation therefore enlarged it by a further 40 per cent in 1997. However, with current and predicted increases in demand for road travel, new steps which would contain or reduce that demand must now be considered.

  3.3 To date, all our efforts as the highway authority have concentrated on managing the supply of road capacity on a total network basis. Traffic and environment management techniques applied so far have enabled us to cope with existing levels of demand, simply by separating different traffic elements (the local and through traffic) and containing them within the existing City highway network. New environmental considerations from the Rio Earth Summit, along with public health expectations resulting from the Environment Act 1995 on air quality improvements, have meant that we, along with our immediate neighbours, will find it almost impossible to meet expectations of sustainability with the existing traffic levels. We should now be concentrating on ways of reducing the level of traffic rather than finding ways of accommodating expected increases.

  3.4 The Road Traffic Reduction Act 1997 and the Transport White Paper, seek to reduce traffic levels in town centres. Furthermore the London Planning Advisory Committee, in the context of a strategic overview for London, is developing advice which currently suggests that road traffic levels should be reduced by 30 per cent—40 per cent for the centre of London. None of these objectives appear to be achievable, unless some positive restraining system is put in place by the relevant Highways Authorities, accompanied by a parallel increase in the provision of public transport.

THE WHITE PAPER

  4.1 The Government's White Paper on the Future of Transport—"A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone" is a wide-ranging document which sets out the transport framework for the next generation. The Corporation of London agrees with the broad sentiments expressed by John Prescott in his foreword to the White Paper. In this, we believe that the Government seeks a better, more integrated, transport system to tackle congestion and pollution, emphasising the importance of public transport and giving increased personal choice by providing alternatives to the private car and by enabling forms of mobility that are sustainable in the long-term.

  4.2 Central London in general and the City of London in particular already benefit from a concentrated supply network of diverse public transport service. The area is seen as an excellent place in which to conduct business. However, as the White Paper acknowledges (Paragraph 4.92-4.99) significant levels of congestion and pollution place a burden on business and lower the quality of life for the people who live and work there.

  4.3 The mature and high levels of the existing public transport service can be improved upon. Rail projects are expensive with high lead-in times, whereas bus prioritisation schemes can be delivered more easily. However, existing traffic management measures and techniques will be insufficient to deliver the intentions of the integrated transport strategy.

  4.4 In the longer term, Government proposals to enable local authorities to raise extra revenue, after consultation withe the electorate, may provide and way of helping to deal with some of the problems of traffic congestion.

THE CORPORATION'S RESPONSE

  5.1 The intensity of commerce and movement resulting from the economic dynamism of the Square Mile makes the need for a managed, integrated approach to transport especially important for this local authority.

  5.2 Our comments relate to the practicalities and challenges that need to be addressed in attempting to reduce traffic volumes on the public highway, whilst retaining an effective working environment. We concentrate on the issues that would need to be addressed prior to the introduction of any scheme which discourages the use of the road network. In the particular case of the City of London, we are fortunate in already having an area-wide traffic and environmental strategy. Building on this experience, we believe that possible future opportunities for initiatives have been identified to encourage a greater use of public transport.

OPPORTUNITY TO REDUCE CONGESTION

  6.1 The Corporation of London's existing Traffic and Environmental Zone (paragraphs 4.1-4.3) and the technology in place may help provide the means to assess new ways of controlling or reducing traffic flows. We have already offered to initiate research to assess the practicality of using the zone for that purpose and would do so in close consultation with our neighbours, to ensure that all relevant considerations were taken into account before any new proposals were piloted within the area.

  6.2 London already has experience of permit systems to control the access and routeing of lorries and London authorities also have extensive experience of on-street parking control and of running the enforcement systems to dealing with stationary vehicles.

  6.3 Time is of the essence and we do not want to see the attractiveness of London and the City as a place in which to do business diminished. There exists an opportunity to test the effectiveness of further constraints on traffic prior to the creation of the new Greater London Authority.

6.4 THE CITY, AS A LOCATION, PROVIDES:

    —  the experience of a highway authority and a travelling public used to adjustment and who have intense travel demands;

    —  direct experience and expertise of major successful network and traffic management changes;

    —  controlled entry to an existing pre-defined zone;

    —  a potential enforcement mechanism of a camera system that is already in place;

    —  extensive traffic monitoring systems;

    —  a politically neutral environment.

CONCLUSION

  7.1 The Corporation would be willing to work with the Government and neighbouring boroughs to develop a pilot scheme in the City. Developing proposals now could provide a strong foundation for the new Mayor for London and Greater London Authority and also be of assistance to the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.


 
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Prepared 28 April 1999