London's Motorists

Plenary on 2019-02-07
Session date: 
February 7, 2019
Question By: 
Keith Prince
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)


Are London's motorists unfairly subsidised? 


London's Motorists

London's Motorists

Answered By: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Thank you, Chairman.  Last year the southwest of England received £269 million from the Government for roads funding.  London received just £20 million.  Following the removal of TfL’s £700 million annual operating grant by the Government and the Government’s refusal to consider devolving Vehicle Excise Duty to London, there is currently no source of funding exclusively set aside for London’s roads.  As a consequence, TfL has no option but to subsidise the operation and maintenance of our roads from elsewhere, primarily from the surplus generated by the London Underground, meaning that public transport users subsidise motorists.  The reality is that Londoners contribute in the region of £500 million a year to the Treasury in the Vehicle Excise Duty but receive little in return.


As with all other parts of the transport network, investment in roads is needed to ensure safe and reliable operation, but due to the financial constraints from the Government TfL has been forced to pause all

non-safety-critical renewal work for the second year running.  This is not a sustainable position over the longer term.


TfL is already developing the highest-priority renewal projects for 2020/21 onwards including works on Vauxhall Bridge, the Westway and the Rotherhithe Tunnel.  I am pleased that some of London’s major arterial roads have been classified as falling within the scope of the Department for Transport’s Major Road Network Guidance.  It has not yet confirmed exactly which roads in London would be part of this network and the Government is yet to fully commit to funding the programme.  Therefore, the extent to which this will be a useful funding source for London is unclear.


TfL is also identifying potential schemes ahead of a funding submission to the Government’s spending review this summer [2019], as well as developing the outline business case for a scheme at Gallows Corner.  However, I am still concerned that many of the key roads connecting London with the rest of our country, including those leading to the Blackwell Tunnel, are missing from the final defined network and therefore will not be eligible for vital funding.


Of course, we need to move to a situation where many more road users are using cleaner, healthier and more efficient transport options like walking, cycling and buses.  That is why TfL has increased investment in its latest business plan to support these alternatives, but what is clear is that we do need long-term guaranteed funding for London’s transport network including the road network so that we can keep our city moving and open to business.  My administration will be making this case to the Government in the lead-up to its planned spending review.


Keith Prince AM:  Commissioner, could I ask you a question, please?  The Mayor has indicated that we have frozen road maintenance.  I assume that is proactive road maintenance he is referring to.  Tell me.  What is the usual cost of proactive road maintenance year on year?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  I would have to give you the breakdown in the figures because it depends on the type of maintenance we are doing, whether it is on the ironwork or pothole work or whatever else.


I would just say to reassure you and reassure the Assembly that you are quite right that it is proactive road maintenance.  There is no question of us not dealing with safety-critical issues as and when they emerge, including potholes and including in particular areas where the road surface may be compromised and may affect vulnerable road users such as cyclists.


Keith Prince AM:  I have no doubt about that, yes.  Could you give me the figures, then?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  As I said, I cannot give you the specific breakdown because it is varied across the piece, but it is clearly a direct result of the lack of Government subsidy, an average of £700 million a year, a significant proportion of which would have been used on proactive road maintenance.  This is the second planned year of a reduction in that proactive road maintenance that we have had to do as a result of that reduction in the grant.


Keith Prince AM:  All right.  Perhaps I will phrase the question slightly differently, then.  You have said quite correctly that the proactive road maintenance has been frozen for two years.  How much are you spending on road maintenance this year and last year compared to the years before?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is much smaller.  It is about 10% of what we would have been spending because we are spending only on the reactive maintenance and where there are issues that need to be picked up from a health and safety perspective.


Keith Prince AM:  That is 10% of what it would have been?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes.


Keith Prince AM:  Either what is 10% or what is 90% and I can do the maths myself?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  I can get you those figures offline as to what it was, but, as I say, it is a direct result of not having any income for the road network that we can pass on to do road maintenance.


Keith Prince AM:  Yes, you have made that point. Could you write to me with that?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  I will, of course.


Keith Prince AM:  Give me a four-year figure of how much we have spent and so on.


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes.


Keith Prince AM:  Good.  That is very helpful.  Thank you very much.  Mr Mayor, good morning.  Do you expect April’s [2019] ULEZ opening to go off without a hitch?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  It depends how you define a hitch.  I am looking forward to it starting on 8 April [2019].  I appreciate the Conservative Party is opposed to cleaning up the air in London ‑‑


Andrew Boff AM:  No, we are not.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  ‑‑ but we are keen to proceed with the plans we have.  I am hoping it is a success.


As I said in answer to a previous question, I am still speaking to the Secretary of State for any additional assistance the Government can give us, for example, by assisting with the London scrappage scheme.  Notwithstanding that, we are still planning to proceed on 8 April and I am hoping it does, in your words, go off without a hitch.


Keith Prince AM:  Just for the record, we do not oppose cleaning up London’s air and, as far as I am aware, we are not opposed to the ULEZ in its core, but there we are.  The Federation of Small Businesses has called for the ULEZ to have a soft launch.  That would mean TfL writing letters to businesses entering the zone with non-compliant vehicles and giving them, say, three months to change their fleet or receive backdated charges.  Would you be agreeable to this?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  We have been speaking to small businesses across London, including through the Federation of Small Businesses.  That is one of the reasons why I announced a London scrappage scheme in December [2018] of £23 million.  We are still speaking to them in relation to the details of that and other assistance we can give to small businesses across London.  You will be aware that one of the things I was able to announce in December was assistance to microbusinesses.  These are businesses that employ fewer than 10 staff.


We will carry on talking to businesses to make sure we ameliorate any concerns they have and help them with the transition from more polluting vehicles to cleaner vehicles or alternatives.  We will carry on doing that not just up until 8 April [2019] but afterwards as well.


Keith Prince AM:  Are you saying that there will be a period when you will not enforce on small businesses?  What are you saying there?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  No, clearly, I would not telegraph in advance of something beginning that we are going to go easy, but what I will do is make sure we carry on talking to businesses and those who represent businesses, in particular small businesses.  That was one of the points I made to Michael Gove [Secretary of State for Environment Food and Rural Affairs] when I spoke to him last week that any assistance the Government can give to businesses in London will be greatly appreciated by them and clearly by me as a Mayor who believes in trying to clean up the air sooner rather than later.


Keith Prince AM:  If a business is operating within the ULEZ - let us say it is a small business working out of City Hall, just for geographical purposes - and if that vehicle does not go outside of the ULEZ, would that be picked up?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  There are exemptions for residents inside the Congestion Charge area, but if you are a business with a vehicle that is not compliant with the ULEZ requirements, then you would have to pay a fee if you were going to carry on using that vehicle.


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes, that is correct.


Keith Prince AM:  How would you pick it up?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  The technology will pick up vehicles that are operating within the ULEZ as well as entering the ULEZ.


Keith Prince AM:  There are cameras within the ULEZ as well as on the borders?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  There are.


Keith Prince AM:  That is very useful to know.  Thank you.  Commissioner - and I am happy for you to write to me if you have to - how much do you expect the ULEZ to bring in in income in its first year?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  If you look at 2019/20 we are expecting an income of £174 million with operating costs of £47 million, but that number of course will decline very rapidly over the business plan period.  By 2022/23, for example, I would expect that there would be only a very small surplus of some £37 million.  The key thing for me is that it is not an income source; it is around compliance.  Let me be very clear.  The whole aim of this scheme is not to generate income to make up the shortfall I was referring to in answer to your previous question.  It is about ensuring that we clean up the vehicles entering central London and then eventually of course entering London at all.


Keith Prince AM:  Clearly, with the ULEZ currently being proposed being limited to a similar area as the Congestion Zone, I do not suppose you have had to spend an awful lot on infrastructure, have you?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  No.  Clearly the existing infrastructure is there.  The work that we have been doing with Capita, the provider, to ensure that that infrastructure is able to respond to the slight differences of the ULEZ are in place.  It is important, as I said, that we as part of familiarisation do what we are doing with all the digital screens you will have seen and the other information around the network.  There were 250,000 letters sent in December [2018] and January [2019] to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency to registered owners of vehicles that have been crossing into the ULEZ.  The whole thing about information provision and about ensuring there is a readiness for Londoners and those affected is going well.


Keith Prince AM:  Is that money in this first year and second year important to the business plan, would you say?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It has been factored into the business plan, but I would far rather it was zero.  Let me be absolutely clear.  I would rather it was zero and that we had full compliance because London’s air quality we cannot put a cost on.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  The bad news is that the money raised from the ULEZ is still half the amount we are going to be spending on air quality.


Keith Prince AM:  The ULEZ money is ringfenced for use on roads, though, is it not, under the law?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes.


Keith Prince AM:  I accept that you have been doing some work in relation to informing people of the upcoming ULEZ, but there was a recent report that showed that only 41% of respondents were familiar with the tighter emission standards and nearly a third of businesses were unaware of when the ULEZ comes into force.  Do you think what you have done is enough?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is not enough yet because we have not finished.  We are still partway through this but, as I say, there have been 250,000 letters, 150 digital screens and at petrol stations petrol pump nozzles.  We have had features in the Metro newspaper.  We have had some 2.8 million emails sent to users on the TfL database and we are going to be sending more emails prior to the ULEZ implementation. 


It is important, Chairman, if I may, through you, just to say that we are of course targeting those who are at the moment driving into London on a regular basis or even on an occasional basis with a non‑compliant vehicle.  The numbers you are giving on the awareness are no surprise to me.  It is a much wider sample size that you are looking at, for all Londoners.  We are very specifically and very explicitly, in terms of ensuring that we spend public money wisely, targeting those who we know would be in breach of the ULEZ requirement when it is launched. 


Keith Prince AM:  Just a personal observation.  I travel in daily and I was quite pleased to see a big red sign saying, “ULEZ coming on 8 April [2019]”, which is good.  The only problem I thought is that it should have given us some kind of direction to say, “Visit TfL for more information”, or something, because what does it mean?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Can I just reassure you on that?  It is a really good point.  We have had more than 2.3 million people check the website to see if their vehicle’s compliant, which reassures me because you are right, there are going to be different levels of awareness.  It is like in an election.  There are different levels of awareness raising.  Mike’s point about microtargeting people who are currently driving a vehicle that is not compliant is really important.  It is like targeting voter ID at those who are your voters.  There is an air campaign and clearly the stuff that you have referred to, but if, for example, very few people had checked the website to see whether their vehicle was compliant, I would be quite nervous about knowledge.  That reassures me, and clearly the more the Tory party oppose us, the more awareness there will be of the ULEZ scheme.  Please carry on articulating your opposition to the ULEZ.


Keith Prince AM:  I am always delighted to oppose you, Mr Mayor, obviously, and thank you for the invitation, but I am trying to help on this occasion. 


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Just be more effective at raising awareness of your opposition, please.


Keith Prince AM:  I just feel that if you could put some reference on those signs to direct people to the website to learn more, that would be helpful.


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  We will certainly have a look at that.  That is a reasonable suggestion, yes.


Keith Prince AM:  Finally, in the survey 26% of small businesses surveyed said they would be unable to service or deliver to some customers or certain areas once the ULEZ is introduced.  What can you do, Mr Mayor, as a pro‑business Mayor, which you have said you are?  I know you have touched on it but is there anything more we can do?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Absolutely.  There is always more we can do.  It is important to paint a complete picture because I know you would not want, directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead people. 


Keith Prince AM:  No, I leave that to you, Mr Mayor.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Businesses are in favour of this.  The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is supportive of ULEZ, demonstrating that I am a pro‑business mayor.  London First is supportive of my ULEZ.  The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry have a large number of members who are road users, who are broadly supportive.  Businesses are lobbing us to expand ULEZ to the North and South Circulars, from Arriva to Balfour Beatty, and so we are speaking to businesses.


Keith Prince AM:  Can I just correct you there, Mr Mayor?  This is in good humour and I appreciate that.  You are saying “your ULEZ”.  It is obviously our ULEZ.  We thought of it first.  You do appreciate your predecessor ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, we are seeing the start of a U‑turn here.  This is really important. 


Keith Prince AM:  No, Mr Mayor ‑‑


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  The Conservatives are now claiming they are in favour of ULEZ beginning on 8 April [2019].  This may be a U‑turn.  Now, the question is: does Assembly Member Bailey agree with you or does he disagree with you?  Assembly Member Bailey.


Keith Prince AM:  Mr Mayor, it is not a U‑turn; it is a ULEZ.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  You are very quiet.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  When Assembly Member Bailey is sitting in your chair he shall answer the question.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, just like in Parliament, the Conservative Party here is divided.


Keith Prince AM:  Mr Chairman, this is coming up on the end of our time but can I just remind the Mayor that we ask your questions and it is not your position to ask the Members of the Assembly?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, I am sorry but we are seeing another Conservative split here.


Keith Prince AM:  There is no split.  We are 300% behind Mr Bailey and we look very much forward to him sitting in that chair come 2020.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, I am unclear.  What is the Conservative position as of 11.35am on 7 February [2019]?  I am sure it will change by tomorrow.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  The point has been fairly made by Assembly Member Prince that you do not ask the questions, he does. 


Keith Prince AM:  I was trying to help you there, Mr Mayor.  Is there any more you can do to help small businesses?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman, it is worth just checking and being accurate because I know you would want to be so, Chairman.  The previous question began with a proposition that the Conservative Party is in favour of this ULEZ.  I was trying to ‑‑


Gareth Bacon AM:  Point of order, Chairman.  The Mayor is deliberately wasting our time.  He was asked a very clear question there, “Is there more you can do to help small businesses?”  He is deliberately wasting our time and everyone in this rooms knows that is exactly what he is doing.  Can we please have our time added back on?  If the Mayor wants to grandstand in this way, fine, but we would like to have another five minutes on our time, please.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Chairman ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  No, let me answer.  It is the responsibility of Members to keep the Mayor on track.  If you think that the Mayor is filibustering, tell him so.  It is not my job.


Gareth Bacon AM:  Mr Chairman, it is your job.  You conduct the meeting.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I am conducting the meeting.


Keith Prince AM:  Excuse me.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  I am conducting the meeting and I expect Members to hold the Mayor to account.


Keith Prince AM:  Excuse me, it is my question.  What I am going to do, Chairman, is withdraw the question because I have given the Mayor more than one opportunity ‑ and it was genuinely trying to be helpful ‑ to tell Londoners how he can help small businesses more in relation to ULEZ.  He has chosen instead, regrettably, to just grandstand and try to make political points, and so I withdraw the opportunity for him to get some good publicity for himself.  Thank you very much.