Is There a Better Alternative to ULEZ That Is Better for London, Londoners and the Air Quality?

By Peter J Hughes

The congestion zone was introduced in London on 17th February 2003.  Before that year the then prime minister and mayor Ken Livingstone both made similar announcements.  ‘London has a public transport crisis, it’s failing to keep up with demand for public transport there are bottle necks at Waterloo and Victoria and with delays on the Northern Line, the government does not have an answer to this and is inviting consultants to come forward if they have the answer’. At the time I had just sold a small hotel and restaurant business and phoned the Mayor’s office. 

I said, I believe I have an answer. The answer is complicated and requires that I make a short film and put together a presentation. Can I do this and present my answer to you? Ken Livingstone’s Secretary said yes and I said I will call again when the film is completed. I went to Poland and filmed there and in London we edited a short film together and then called again. The second time I called the goalposts had changed. They said I could not present the strategy but had to write it down and then send it in for them to review. I pleaded that to write the document would take a long time and would be hundreds of pages. She said to me if you want to present this, then that is the only way we will consider your work. So my partner and I rented a house, and spent more than six months writing. We sent the document in with a letter and headed note paper of the consultancy we set up based upon the name of our previous restaurant. A copy was sent to Tony Blair as well and yet rather than having the work reviewed and paid for this, within four days Tony Blair was reciting content from the work outside 10 Downing Street. 

One department after another began using the work and yet they would not acknowledge nor pay for any of the work. What’s more they would not permit us to represent our own work which is all illegal as cited in The Magna Carta. From 1215 all British subjects had the right to not have to give their work for free to a ‘lord’.  The copied work was passed from New Labour to Labour to The Conservatives. 

My partner and I moved out of the UK as a result and moved to Spain to start again. A few years after I was there, it became clear to me that I was being harassed by an organised group that was spending vast amounts of money on coercing me, threatening me, leaving flowers outside my house, swerving cars, people staying in my home as volunteers and making threats. I was coerced back to the UK. At the time I was happy with my girlfriend of a decade, yet they coerced me into The Priory. Within days of being there I was met by a senior employee of DEFRA who asked me for more work. She said I would be treated fairly this time and yet again the work was stolen, this time by Gordon Brown’s government. 

The congestion zone was never the answer to solving London’s transport issues. That was by the Labour governments own admission. What was in fact was a strategy that put the person first. The letter I had from TFL first questioned my Integrated Strategy, they could not consider transport to be anything other than bus, train, taxi, tube or as they said mass transit systems of travel. Yet the people are a mode of transport when there is creative thinking i.e. timed walking routes of signs, walking bridges, bike share, cycle lanes, stacking bike racks, then more unusual modes of transport like cable car, rickshaws, zip wires, walk way over what was then the Millennium Dome. Adding new facilities for the use of EV bikes and scooters. At the time these did not exist. Adding lifestyle improvements like vertical planted gardens and like giving licences to buskers on the tube and at railway stations. All of these and many other new additions were provided so that it’s easier for people to have access to more infrastructure that enables them to diversify, have more choices, more options, that reduces the use of single modes of transport and that then reduces traffic via more green options and therefore faster travel for all. The other aspect was rewarding travellers for using green transport, not penalising those that don’t. My answer was more about being a transport whisperer than a transport dictator. I.e. Green travel that is easy, affordable, more choice, less cost and convenient, not pay up more money than some spend on food per day which then does not get spent on the environment and if you don’t do that stay at home. All this money from the congestion zone has that been spent on saving the Amazon? No. More like covering the cost of flights for TFL and the Mayors office. ULEZ is massive con. None of it makes sense, it’s simply a perfect representation of bad policy creating at it’s very worst. 

You were conned by not being told the truth about the real original green deal answer to London’s transport crisis the government didn’t have. How many times did you hear the phrase Boris Bikes, almost enough to believe that did not originate from Ken Livingstone’s office, from my work. London has always been a community of communities, the West end, the East end Soho, the city, the pubs of Richmond on the river, the parks of Hamstead and Greenwich. The markets of Covent Garden. Camden. Smithfield, Portobello. The docks have been a central community meeting point for goods from around the world since the city was built. Since the city was built, developed from largely swamp land adapted to the needs of Londoners. The perfect position to the sea, yet inland enough to be central to the south of England. A city built as a hub around many communities. The ULEZ scheme is the first time in 1000 years of the history of London where there has been a scheme created to reduce the community cohesion of London. The communities of London are London. ULEZ takes London back to Londinium, a city with an um, that’s ULEZ. A policy that makes no logical sense at all when considered and even less than no logical sense at all when the original alternative is known. The HS2.

So if U-LUZ what and who wins?
1. The Mayors Office. 
2.  Some big businesses (i.e. car manufacturers).

Who loses? 
1. You. More expenses to the cost of living crisis.  
2. The climate (shuttle is more people and planet friendly, saves people money).
3. Small businesses, cost of new vehicles. 
4 Local businesses, people using shops less, the high street less, more shopping online. 
a. This adds to the global economy more and the Local economy less. That creates more pollution with more airmiles for products.
5. More unemployment as businesses not being able to cope with cost of living crisis and this new poll tax.
6. More exploited labour in Africa due to mining of finite materials for electric batteries. 
7. More landfill waste of cars that could have been upcycled with other green alternatives. 
8. More Green options ignored such as ethanol, LPG, vegetable oil, biofuel or carbon dioxide can be converted into green fuel.  
9. Shorter shelf life of cars as the batteries require replacement. 
10. Less community cohesion adding to depression, adding to a lack of sociability, therefore more dependency on public services including the NHS. More depression in society creates more of a pandemic of depression.

What do the planners of ULEZ really not understand about their own transport systems strategy? The only green way to answer a city’s transport needs is to have many incremental concepts that combine. A blanket approach of Londoners all replacing their cars is absolutely not green. What is green is using all of the available technologies and facilities in imaginative new ways. The canal paths for cycling. Insisting rail companies can not ban the brining of EV vehicles like bikes and scooters onto trains. The encouragement of car share schemes. The instigation of car parks and park a ride schemes fifty miles away from London in all directions would do more to reduce car travel than ULEZ. 

The truth is that most people living in the suburbs of London do not have the same access to public transport that people have in Central London. If there is park and ride with the use of minibuses then people have more time to relax, write or talk. That is factoring in lifestyle and creating a city that is orientated around the needs of its inhabitants rather than its inhabitants being fearful of being unable to afford to eat if they are going to socialise.  ULEZ is the result of policy planning that is the result of unanswered letters, of idea copying, of ineffective appreciation and open discussion of policies that have previously helped London. ULEZ is meant to be reducing pollution and yet the policy in Scotland is to demolish and rebuild entire town centres. This make zero sense at all. There is an Integrated Strategy that can upcycle the high streets of Scotland into effective and affordable housing, there is an Integrated Strategy for the M25 and main routes into London that introduces car parks and minibuses that would create a vast park and ride scheme, and that would do much more to reduce pollution into London. That way people have more green transport options than the throw away so considered green ideas of either London or Scotland. Since 2004 both Labour and Conservatives have been trying to copy a thesis methodology to policy planning and getting the strategies wrong. These integrated strategies are good for people, planet and business. They use the best resources that already exist and they build community not stop community.

The disconnected thinking of London with ULEZ and Scotland with the redevelopment of its shops and high streets both prove that the thinking in political strategy is wrong. It’s derived from thinking where the government does not have the answers copies work dodgy dossier style when that suits them and then when they don’t do that they produce answers that when properly considered by people make no real sense at all. ULEZ is a scheme that seeks to control people more, obstructs really effective policy that helps people and the environment bot at once. All cities were build around the needs of people, you cannot now design cities around the interests of anything other than people.  Sadiq Khan did listen to people when planning ULEZ, there are aspects of the scheme that do provide enough ‘political content’ to be able to go to the USA and sell the idea as if it makes sense. However, when all the facts and truths are revealed the scheme is a scam that is produced from many years of their being another scam. The facts, the data simply does not stack up. 

So what’s the answer? A public enquiry into what caused the illogical scheme to be instigated. A public debate between the originator of the 2004 Integrated Transport System – an Ecological Transport Network and a team from Sadiq Khan’s department and TFL?

Or is the best answer that this article is found by Sadiq Khan and there is a re-think.

The Shuttle Strategy when Integrated Strategy thinking and planning are put into that can produce a viable, very much affordable cost saving win-win answer to improve transport in London, air quality and yet be there as a brilliant new resource to add to the public transport network of London. The ecological benefits are vast and the economic costs to the government, can be covered by Crowd Funding Investment. Yes, a minimal cost investment to London, that benefits all the people and people can benefit from economically and not have an economic loss is actually possible. These are the levels of win-win-win that are possible with ‘Eco-Shuttle’. 

A green public transport system that the public participate in and benefit from. The buses, trains stop in London at 12.00. Night busses are some and yet taxies unaffordable to the outer reaches of the ULEZ zone. Registered eco minibuses creating a new network to the car parks of the M25 park and ride scheme can provide London with what it really deserves a 24/7 transport system that is EV, affordable and enables London to be the green 24/7 city that it can be.

This Plan B for ULEZ changes a ULUZ for some to a UWIN for all!