Improving Transport in Bromley - by Roger Lawson
This article was originally published in editions 19, 20 and 21 of the B.B.R.A.G. Newsletters in December 2002 and early 2003.
B.B.R.A.G. has been criticised in the past for opposing many council policies and plans, but without putting forward viable alternatives. People say it’s easy to complain, but more difficult to devise better solutions. So this article is an attempt to redress the balance. I believe that transport in Bromley can be substantially improved, and not necessarily by spending more money, although the latter would of course help. But it does require decisions to be taken about how existing resources are used.
Incidentally when B.B.R.A.G. objects to specific plans, such as a traffic calming scheme, we do usually try to put forward alternative proposals. However this depends on receiving relevant background information such as traffic accident data from council staff. They have unfortunately become increasingly obstructive in providing such data.
The National Transport Background
Bromley’s transport problems cannot be separated from the national scene. Our problems are much the same in many regards as the rest of the country. The capacity of rail and underground services has not improved significantly over the last few years, despite major investment and privatisation. Usage of bus services has been falling in most of the UK and cycling is declining. Meanwhile the number of road vehicles has gone up by 700 per cent in the last 50 years, but the road space has only increased by 25 per cent.
As people become wealthier, they tend to use motor transport more, and car usage has actually got relatively cheaper in recent years. In addition, many more school children get transported to school via car resulting in the “school run” problem - this was not just a result of more concerns by parents for their children’s safety (whether justified is debatable), but also the change in government regulations about what schools one can apply to attend.
The population has also been increasing, particularly in the South East area, and Ken Livingstone plans to further expand the population of London. As John Redwood pointed out in the article we published some months ago, there is simply insufficient capacity in all types of transport, and continuing under investment in expanding provision.
Bromley Transport Background
Although there are a large number of Bromley residents who use trains to commute to work in central London, in fact cars are by far the predominant mode of travel in outer London boroughs such as Bromley. In the last census figures from 1991, over 50% of people in Bromley used cars as their primary travel mode, and the figure is probably even higher now. Buses were 7%, trains were 26%, and other modes such as walking or cycling were 16%. These figures are represented by the pie chart below. For other purposes such as shopping, evening leisure trips and other purposes, cars are even more dominant. Freight movement is also almost totally reliant on road transport.
Vehicle traffic in outer London is projected to rise by 7.5% over the next 10 years (reference Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy). Bromley has one of the highest rates of car ownership in the UK. In 1991, 76% of Bromley residents had one or more cars, compared to 59% in London as a whole, or 67% in the UK. They also tend to own newer, more costly, cars.
It will be interesting to see how these figures have moved in the recent national census but it seems unlikely that car ownership or usage will have fallen. In fact, many more women are now car owners and drivers, more households are being formed, the general workforce is more mobile, and “school runs” have increased in the last few years.
Traffic volumes from counts taken by Bromley Council have apparently stabilised in the last few years, but that is probably due more to road saturation being reached than for any other reason (more on this later). See the following chart for the trend.
BBRAG believes that one should accept that private cars are going to be the primary mode of transport in Bromley for the foreseeable future. Therefore the strategies taken should recognise that fact. Encouraging the use of public transport may have some minor benefit, but, for example, even if you doubled the use of buses, it is only going to have a marginal impact on traffic congestion in Bromley. In reality, bus usage has been falling in the last few years in most areas (as people become wealthier they simply choose to use more comfortable and safer private vehicles), and reversing this trend is likely to be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible.
Behaving like King Canute by trying to reverse the inexorable trend to more private transport use is simply not a sensible policy.
The rest of this article tackles each of the main issues under separate headings.
Reducing Traffic Congestion
Everyone complains about traffic congestion, not just in Bromley, but in the UK as a whole. Articles in previous Newsletters have covered this subject, so I won’t repeat it here. Bromley Council has adopted a policy to reduce traffic flows by 10% between 1997 and 2010. How this is to be achieved however is not totally clear, but there are policies in place to increase the use of public transport and encourage more walking and cycling.
A Typical Congestion Point in Bromley (Widmore Road)
Unfortunately a lot of the information on traffic congestion in Bromley is purely anecdotal. We all remember fuming in traffic jams, but there is no data on congestion or where it occurs. The above traffic volume statistics only tell you about the movements of vehicles past a few fixed points. If the traffic is slowed or stationary due to congestion nearby, then volumes may actually appear to fall.
Trying to cure congestion without measuring how bad it is, or where it occurs, is a pretty silly approach. Although there is some scientific argument about the best way to measure congestion (at least so that it reflects people’s subjective views on the delay or frustration they have experienced), one way is to measure the journey times between a number of fixed points. For example, you could measure the average journey times from the edge of the borough into the centre of Bromley using the A21 or A222 roads at certain times of day. Typical cross Bromley routes could also be studied. You could also measure the traffic queue lengths and typical time to cross at major road junctions.
BBRAG advocates that such measurements should be commenced as soon as possible so that a picture can be built up. The advantages would be:
Of course having such data would not be of much benefit if it was not used. One of the peculiar aspects of the current transport management regime in Bromley is that no effort or money is spent examining the existing problem areas, or looking at road improvement schemes. The council have staff allocated to traffic engineering, but in fact such staff seem to spend all of their time on bus lane schemes, permit parking plans, road safety schemes, devising transport policies and other matters. Your editor has not seen any proposal to reduce traffic congestion by road engineering (e.g. junction improvements, road widening, or even new road construction) in the last few years.
Of course road safety is an important matter, but unfortunately many of the road safety schemes have unintended negative effects on traffic congestion - such as the queues created in Perry Street (the A222 - see below) when the right filter lane into Ashfield Lane was shortened.
The Unnecessary Perry Street Obstruction
As a result, the general trend in Bromley will continue to be a worsening of congestion, even if traffic levels were restrained.
The only significant major new road construction in the borough in recent years was the Tweedy Road/Kentish Way development which removed A21 traffic from the town centre. Surely a major improvement for everyone! Clearly such developments depend on central government funding, but minor works could still be very advantageous.
Note that encouraging alternative transport modes such as the use of public transport or cycling is certainly worth doing, and BBRAG generally supports such measures, but only where there is a sufficient cost/benefit ratio. At present any expenditure on bus lanes or cycle paths tend not to be considered in relation to the benefits and nobody studies or forecasts the likely use of cycle paths, or the benefits to bus users from bus lanes (one recent TRL report in fact showed that many bus lane schemes resulted in negligible benefits in journey times for bus users while creating congestion for other road users - and expenditure on bus lanes in Bromley for example have been nearly a £1million so they are not exactly cheap). BBRAG would like to see a proper cost/benefit evaluation of all transport measures before they are approved.
One possibility to improve traffic congestion in Bromley would be the more extensive use of computer controlled traffic lights. For example, by suitable synchronised timing it might be possible to improve flows on Tweedy Road/Kentish Way.
Looking at some of the issues mentioned above is however difficult without having any model of the traffic and other transport flows in Bromley. Possibly a computerised model of journey routes in the borough could be developed to help predict the impact of different transport measures. This would also assist with planning policies (such as the impact of the Aquila development mentioned below).
Another measure that might be worth considering is the reporting of traffic congestion in real time in Bromley. At present, it is easy to pick up traffic congestion information on the M25 and other major routes - this is now available from various paid services, or free on the internet or on the radio. It enables you to easily divert around problems (well at least in some cases). However there is almost no data available on local roads in Bromley, even on the “A” routes. Knowing roads were congested would enable people to divert, or delay their journeys, thus relieving congestion.
A major cause of traffic congestion is road works. Although this problem is even worse in central London, where the same road can be repeatedly dug up by different contractors, it certainly affects Bromley as for example the Southborough Lane works mentioned in an earlier article. Even worse has been the Blackheath “hole” on the A2 which has closed a major London artery for many months.
The causes and solutions to these problems could justify a separate article on their own, but it would certainly seem possible to the writer to resolve these difficulties if sufficient effort was put into it. This is surely an issue of lack of management time, management commitment and budget.
The “school run” is another major cause of traffic congestion which has significantly worsened in recent years. The initiative to create “walking buses” (you can get a video from the council on how they operate), might help to a small extent, but the problem is really that you only have to have a small proportion of children coming from some distance away to result in a lot of extra car movements. Maybe staggering school hours would be one solution, either have different classes or years start at different times, or whole schools on different schedules. Certainly there would be some objections raised to such proposals and there may be some cost implications, but is it not better to do something than nothing?
Alternatives are the provision of car sharing plans or school buses, but again these require resource commitments. The more one looks at this problem the more one realises that there are solutions, but simply a lack of commitment of time or money to do anything about them. However “school travel plans” to encourage some of the above are a part of the councils plans.
“Green travel plans” and other initiatives to help workers to plan their journeys via public transport may also be useful, and can be relatively low cost.
“Red routes” to ensure traffic continues to move on primary routes have been introduced, but are bedevilled by poor enforcement and exceptions made for local traders. Although the GLA has been increasing enforcement, I would like to see a lot more done to keep these routes clear, and in fact extend the scheme to other main routes.
Improving Road Safety
Cutting the number of road accidents is clearlyan important measure, and has widespread public support. In addition, if you measure the economic costs that arise from major road accidents then the payback from simple measures can be very good. The return on most road safety measures is in theory very quick (supposedly less than a year for many road engineering proposals), so the rate of implementation is more limited by available funds than by suitable targets. However, as you can see from the above chart, there has been only a slight improvement in injuries in Bromley over the last few years. So despite considerable expenditure on road hump and other schemes, the benefits seem to be a mirage in many cases. Moreover much of the improvement is probably accounted for by improved vehicle safety, rather than road engineering measures.
In general terms BBRAG agrees with the current policy to target those accident black spots that offer the best cost/benefit return. However, we think that the effectiveness of expenditure can be improved.
What has happened in the recent past is that many traffic calming schemes consisting of multiple speed bumps have been devised to tackle relatively simple problems. The main faults here are:
a - A preference for speed bumps as a road safety measure when in fact they are not particularly cost effective.
b - A failure to spend adequate time and money devising road safety schemes. In other words, there is too small a proportion of the budget spent on devising the scheme as opposed to actual construction. The result is often a poorly designed scheme, that relies on simplistic techniques (such as speed bumps) and which does not please anyone. These schemes are often more expensive to construct than more carefully thought out proposals would be.
In fact the budget for such schemes have often been predicated on the use of a typical hump scheme before they are even designed, which is truly ridiculous.
c - The failure to use local knowledge and to consult with residents and other parties (such as BBRAG), before firm proposals are conceived.
If you take the recent “60 speed bump” proposals for Poverest Road, Elmstead Lane and Queensway, proposals were developed by the council’s consultants without talking first to local residents associations, street residents, BBRAG, local emergency services, bus companies, or anyone else. How they can do this simply astonishes me.
Lots of local knowledge about road conditions, the cause of accidents and how best to improve matters is simply not taken into account. Of course one of the reasons why this is not done is probably because the consultants do not have an adequate budget to give them the time to do this.
At present, there is a formal “consultation” process after the proposals have been reviewed by councillors, but it is very difficult to get significant changes made as a result. Council staff are like many civil servants in that they do not wish to be seen as having made a mistake and therefore will automatically tend to argue against revising their proposals. In reality, responsible people who submit objections are often ignored (eg. the police and ambulance services), and road users are likely not to be consulted anyway. There is no legal obligation to take into account any objections made, just to listen to what is said, so the existing consultation process is deeply flawed.
One of the problems that bedevils road safety policy is the curse of “gesture politics”. Concerned about the accident figures? Then propose a reduction of speed limits on all roads! Changing a few road signs won’t cost much and, after all we know “speed kills” - the government tells us so.
Apart from the fact that the latter statement is not supported by the facts (excessive speed is a contributory factor in relatively few road accidents), there is no evidence either that cutting speed limits has any effect on road accident injury figures. Even anecdotal evidence in Bromley supports this view - for example there was a recent fatal accident to a motorcyclist in Perry Street (the A222 in Chislehurst) soon after the speed limit was reduced from 40 to 30 mph.
Look at the national accident figures - massive expenditure on speed camera and radar enforcement of speed limits has not reduced accident figures significantly.
You might say, well at worst such activities may be harmless. Unfortunately it detracts resources, both cash and management time, from more effective measures that could reduce accidents. It’s a distraction because it suggests action is taking place when no useful action is accomplished. Accident reduction is a difficult problem, and there is no simplistic solution. So we would like to see less emphasis on simplistic speed reduction approaches, and more hard work on the nitty gritty of tackling problems in an appropriate manner. More thought, less action might be the slogan.
Note also that Bromley has a very successful educational programme for school children. Further expenditure on this, and on trying to cut the accidents to elderly people who haphazardly cross the road by appropriate education should be considered.
Reducing Air Pollution
Bromley has much less of a problem from road vehicle pollution than many other London boroughs, so I won’t spend a lot of time on this issue. The problem is also like to resolve itself over the next few years as newer vehicles are much less polluting than older ones. However, there are particular “hot” spots at certain junctions and other heavily congested areas. For example where there are a lot of HGVs or buses present such as in some parts of Sevenoaks Way and the High Street in Orpington.
The Mayor of London’s strategy to improve matters was in fact generally quite sound (unlike some of his other policies). This included more encouragement for using alternative fuels, and particularly for switching public transport and public service vehicles.
Improving vehicle emissions is the most practical way to reduce pollution. For example, Ken Livingstone recently stated that 25% of particulates in the atmosphere of London came from black cabs (and the rest probably mainly comes from older buses and HGVs). Particulates are a major health hazard and aggravate such conditions as asthma. He promised to tackle the taxi problem, and that all bus engines will be replaced by 2005.
The Polluting London Taxi
Encouraging the use of low emission vehicles or alternative fuels in Bromley could be done by offering free parking as is done elsewhere. Similarly the establishment of an information and education policy in this area would be worthwhile.
Note also that removing traffic congestion and speed bumps would also make a positive contribution to air pollution. Incidentally the London congestion charging scheme was never designed to improve air pollution and will not do so, which shows that reducing traffic, particularly car traffic which is the easiest to reduce, has very little benefit in regard to air pollution.
Do you believe that public transport uses less energy, makes less contribution to global warming and should therefore be encouraged anyway? It’s probably not so. Look at the following table which shows the fuel efficiency of public transport versus automobiles from a study made in the USA in 1999:
Note the insignificant benefit of public transportation overall, and the advantage of automobiles over buses.
Improving Bus Services
Ken Livingstone stated at the recent “London Conference” that bus passengers in London were up 25% this year, whereas they have previously shown a steady decline for many years. Apparently this has been done by reformation of services and significant extra funding - between £150 and £200 million per year (although some of that has gone in increased pay for bus drivers).
Some of this extra cost will be funded from the London Congestion Charge although that scheme is now only expected to generate about £100 million per annum of net revenue. However, the “displaced” road users are primarily expected to move to using buses.
It is certainly true that there are a lot more buses in central London - in fact from personal experience I would say that there are now so many that they have actually made traffic congestion worse in some roads. However people seem to still have major concerns about buses on two grounds: comfort and safety.
In respect of comfort, some of the newer buses seem worse than the old Routemaster type which were fine in their day but are now archaic. Some of the new ones have a very hot top deck in summer, few opening windows and otherwise are badly designed. In comparison with the modern motor car, buses seem to be crude. The former now almost all have air conditioning, with comfortable suspensions, well built seats, music or other entertainment as you desire, and of course your own choice of travelling companions. How can anyone expect a bus to compete with a private motor car unless it is of a comparable standard? Why would anyone wait for a bus, which may or may not arrive on time, in the typical cold, wet, English winter rather than step into their motor car?
To be attractive to the typical Bromley resident, particularly for more than a very short journey, buses need to be air conditioned, have decently sized and comfortable seats at lower densities, have better suspensions, have more powerful and quieter engines, have more security devices and have more polite and better trained drivers.
There needs to be a minimum national standard for public buses, set by the government, because at present the economics of bus operation mean that the lowest quality, cheapest buses, will tend to be the norm.
A Typical “Uncomfortable” London Bus
By doing some of the things mentioned below, you may be able to encourage some people to move to using buses, and by using a big stick on others, such as penal road charges, you may get them to move, but let’s not kid ourselves that the net transfer in Bromley is going to be very substantial unless bus quality is improved.
What can be done to encourage the use of existing bus services? Some of the possibilities are:
a) Better reliability of bus timetables can be beneficial, and clearly providing dedicated bus lanes where there is space could be advantageous here. However such provision is costly and needs to be examined very carefully as to whether it actually provides significant benefits and does not simply cause a “dis-benefit” for other road users. Often bus lanes are underutilised.
b) More indication of when buses are likely to arrive by electronic signing on bus shelters, or messages that can be picked up on your mobile phone. London Transport already have several initiatives in these areas. More comfortable bus shelters would also be a good idea.
c) More attention to security. For example, TfL have started a trial scheme with the police to have them travel on buses. They not only target crime on the buses themselves, but can drop off to deal with bus lane and parking infringements that delay buses.
d) More services, particularly for outer suburbs. One possibility already being looked at is to introduce “express” services with limited stopping points for long distance services.
e) More “park & ride” services for shoppers and business staff could be introduced. Such services already operate for Christmas shoppers in Bromley and I believe their extension to other times is being looked at.
BBRAG supports many of these initiatives, but unfortunately they tend to be labour intensive and costly. Also few of them are under the control of local politicians or the local electorate so all one can do is push for appropriate action.
Trains, Underground, Light Rail and Trams
Train services suffer from the same problems as bus services to a large extent, which were covered in a previous edition, but they have also experienced problems recently with growth of use but inability to expand capacity, and the debacle of privatisation.
A Typical Connex South-East Train
Expanding and improving train services, or the extension of underground or “light rail” systems such as the DLR into Bromley, would certainly be a good idea, but is unfortunately outside local control. In addition, introducing new lines would create major conflicts with existing land use.
Some people have suggested introducing trams such as has apparently been successful in Croydon. But in Croydon most of the route ran on disused rail lines or existing park land. Running them down the centre of roads, such as is currently proposed in west London, creates major objections from local residents and businesses. The writer is old enough to remember trams and electric trolley buses before they were widely dismantled, and although they had many advantages, at the end of the day they proved inflexible and costly. One can reroute a bus, or put on new bus services in a matter of weeks, or even days, but building a new tram line takes years and incurs enormous capital costs. If population or business movements occur, as they tend to, you are often left with an unprofitable service, and you can’t easily meet the needs of new developments.
In summary, the author does not think that new train, light rail, tram or other similar services are going to be the answer to most of our problems. It is more likely that expanding the capacity of existing routes, and making them more accessible to the public is the way forward. So for example, improving interchanges between public services, and providing more car parking at train stations to encourage public transport use.
Regretfully, since Railtrack took over the former British Rail station car parks, the charges have risen enormously and the provision has often got worse. In addition, land than could have been used for additional parking provision has been sold off. Bromley Council’s policies even appear to have been to discourage long term car parking at stations or nearby, thus discouraging the use of public transport for the majority of the journey. For example, they have removed on-street parking by the use of permit parking schemes, changed the pricing structure in public car parks to discourage long term commuter use, set in place planning policies to discourage new long term car parks, and even proposed demolishing the Orpington Station Road Car Park that is used to some extent by commuters.
These policies are short sighted and misguided.
Encouraging Cycling and Walking
Cycling has been in decline for many years. Reasons are perceived safety risks, a climate that makes it uncomfortable in winter and the simple fact that with more wealth, people can generally afford quicker, more comfortable transport. Incidentally Bromley Council have an objective to increase cycling as a “journey to work” means from 2.1% as it was in 1991 to 8% in 2011, but it seems very unlikely to be met. As with other parts of their adopted transport policies, it may be a great ideal to aim for, but it is not likely to be practically achievable.
Confusing aspirations for a perfect world with realistic objectives bedevils transport policies in Bromley, as it does in the rest of the UK. In fact, in 1999 cyclists fell to 0.5% of all recorded traffic in Bromley, so if it falls any further it will be difficult to measure.
In Bromley there are the particular problems that many of our roads are quite narrow, increasing the risk, and there are a number of steep hills, particularly around Chislehurst. This is always going to mean that cycling is a minority interest.
Establishing cycle paths on the wider roads is also not always a good idea. There seems to be little evidence that they improve cyclist safety. Much better to establish them on the verge or as part of the pavement (so long as they can be clearly separated from pedestrians), or where possible as a separate route altogether.
Incidentally Bromley is supporting the London Cycle Network (LCN) as part of the Mayor of London’s Transport Strategy - the cost of this will total £60 million so it’s a pretty generous level of expenditure on very few users in Bromley.
Encouraging walking is surely more of an educational problem, although providing footpaths away from congested and polluted roads may be of some help. Anyway Bromley has a “Pedestrian Strategy” if you really want to read it.
The UK planning system, and the way it is operated in Bromley, is a major impediment to the establishment of an efficient transport network.
In the past, planning restrictions have actually resulted in more travel than is necessary, as offices and industrial developments had to be in zones that were separate to housing. In fact, this approach is even being perpetuated in the new GLA policies where commercial developments are targeted for the city and west end, with just a few minor spots in the suburbs, such as existing business parks in the south west of London. This might have been logical when industrial enterprises were typically very polluting, and commercial operations needed to be physically contiguous for good communications, but it no longer makes any sense.
The end result of these policies is that people commute further and spend longer doing so - in fact the average Londoner wastes more time commuting, whether by train, car or other modes, than almost anybody else in the world. Much better would be to have mixed developments in local centres, so that people could live relatively close to their workplace.
Commercial, retail, industrial and leisure developments should be distributed to encourage this approach. At present, the policy is almost the exact opposite - new commercial developments have to have good transport provision (and with restricted parking policies that typically means public transport). The result is that development tends to be concentrated in central Bromley, adjacent to train stations, where it is already congested and where land is very expensive.
One only has to look at Aquila, ex-MOD site, in Bickley to see what currently happens. Although this site is already developed, with redundant light industrial buildings, which would make it suitable for almost anything, the proposal as it stands is for high density housing on all of the site. Little regard has been taken of the major additional traffic congestion that would be created by this development and even though in theory the negative impact on traffic could be a reason for rejection, the planning department are unlikely to complain on that issue, or the relevant planning committee reject it. If they did, a Planning Inspector would probably overrule them anyway. This site would possibly be suitable for a mixed commercial, retail and housing development to form a self contained community, but it is unlikely to happen, and the provision of good access routes is also unlikely.
There is in fact hardly any co-ordination of planning matters with transport and traffic issues, even though lip-service is paid to the concept. There is certainly no strategic plan to improve the road network in Bromley, on which most of our transport relies.
How can the situation be improved? Planning needs to take a much more proactive role in developing improved transport infrastructure and encouraging development that is consistent with such plans.
Car Parking Policies
Parking policies in Bromley are currently designed to deter cars, rather than provide for demand. To quote from a council policy document: “Parking - to adopt policies and standards for parking provision as a means of influencing transport choice and discouraging indiscriminate car use” - in other words they will discourage car use by cutting out parking. Parking provision is being reduced, rather than expanded, charges are being raised and permit parking schemes introduced to deter long term parking.
The Mayor of London is trying to introduce work place parking taxation also, although apparently he is having some legal difficulty in formulating suitable legislation. New building developments have more restricted car parking provision imposed. So instead of having a minimum provision set which can be devised to remove on-street parking, they have a maximum set which simply encourages it. These limits have been reduced further recently.
The results of these policies can be easily seen in Locksbottom where the new Farnborough Hospital is being built. Parking has always been difficult in this area, and in fact has become unbearable for local residents since hospital construction workers started parking there. However this will not get better when the hospital is finished because it has totally inadequate parking provision, either for staff or visitors. This will make life even more miserable than it is for local residents, businesses and people wishing to visit the shops.
Generally such parking policies simply make matters worse because unless you remove the need for parking (which is like cutting traffic - almost impossible to do), the remaining spaces just get fought over more aggressively, or the traffic moves around in circles looking for a space. The latter is clearly seen in Bromley around Christmas when gridlock is quite common as the result of too many shoppers looking for too few spaces.
I would suggest such policies be totally changed. The council should have a policy of providing new off street parking facilities, or of encouraging other people to do so. So for example, where permit parking schemes have been introduced, or are being contemplated, because of complaints from residents, then extra off street provision should be looked at.
Permit parking schemes are an example of introducing a bureaucratic system, that tends to please neither residents (who now have to pay to park outside their houses), nor visitors (who can’t find a parking space they can use even when there is a lot of vacant space). The only people who benefit are local council staff who get employed and paid for this unproductive work - perhaps that is why they support such schemes.
Any new building development should not be permitted unless adequate parking provision is made (I realise that such provision is determined by central government or GLA policies but there may be ways around them, and certainly representations should be made that the guidelines be changed).
In this article I have hopefully given you a quick overview of transport problems and policies in Bromley, and shown you where they are going wrong. It also contains some specific suggestions on how these problems could be tackled.
Some of these proposals do not involve expenditure, but more a commitment to do something. Others require expenditure, and with budgets being severely limited, and a general desire that local taxes do not increase, this inevitably means that reallocation of existing budgets may be necessary. In reality, the existing allocation is severely distorted with massive expenditure on cycle paths, and bus lanes, when these are used only via a very small minority of the population in Bromley. I am not arguing that there should not be some expenditure on improving bus and cycle services and usage, but there is a clear imbalance when no money is spent on reducing traffic congestion for the car user.
Regretfully the three layers of central government, the GLA and the local council, all of whom have some say in transport policies and expenditure, does not help to develop a clear strategy that is accountable to the electorate. This situation is made worse because there is no clear, dedicated responsibility for transport matters at the local level. For example in Bromley it comes under the “Environment” portfolio as if nobody wanted to take responsibility for traffic and transport. It suggests that the sole objective of transport policy should be as an element in environmental management which is clearly absurd. Certainly few people in the general public know who has responsibility for transport matters. A change of job title would be a good starting point.
In the GLA, the only clear elected figurehead is the mayor himself, and the best of luck with trying to communicate directly with him (most of the public who sent in consultation responses about the congestion charging scheme were opposed to it but he didn’t take any notice).
In theory it clearly makes sense for there to be a central London co-ordinating body for transport, but all we have seen so far from it is an emphasis on boosting bus services at enormous cost. Obviously the political structure has a significant impact on activity and accountability. If people could vote directly for someone with the specific responsibility for transport, they may pay more attention to what their policies are and what gets achieved. So political reform would be my final suggestion.
To conclude, improving transport in Bromley is not an impossible task. But it does require a stronger commitment to tackle the problems, and some changes of policies.
If you have any comments on this article, or additional suggestions for improvements, please let us know.