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Flawed message to mayoral candidates?

Professor David Begg, the Chair of the Commission for Integrated Transport, speaking to a conference with London's mayoral candidates, outlined a blueprint that offered quick improvements to the capitals transport.
Saying "We don't need to wait for the long-term investment in London Underground's infrastructure or for a technology-based congestion charging system to deliver the improvements everyone is crying out for, " he then proposed:

24 March 2000

Brian Lomas, LRTA's Development Officer comments:

While Professor Begg is right to point out that there are a number of things which could (and should) be done to improve the effectiveness of public transport in the short term his proposals give me cause for concern.
It is certainly correct that the slow boarding of many buses is a problem that needs to be put right but free travel is not the only method nor probably the best. For the many users of travel cards there would be no benefit as there is already no additional expense in using the bus. I doubt that there would be any large scale movement from the underground and suspect that the biggest increase will be for short journeys that would previously be done on foot.

The proposal for a guided busway network is the most surprising in that it hardly comes into the 'quick fix' category. Once again the 65% figure (for which some are rather skeptical) for the Leeds 'token' guided busway is trotted out. This busway, which one transport consultant describes as largely cosmetic, is in reality a mixture of bus lanes, bus priorities at junctions, a park-and-ride and short sections of guideway. Some bus services have been diverted onto this corridor to make use of these priorities so it is not possible to decide what amount, if any, of the increase in patronage is due to the guideway, nor are there any figures to indicate if any transfer from car to bus has occurred. While the introduction of priorities for buses is important this does not necessarily require the use of guided buses especially when capital resources for infrastructure investment and renewal are in short supply and should be used to best effect.

The argument that high tech solutions are not necessary for congestion charging would equally apply to fare collection methods for the buses. In practice the block to introducing congestion charging is the need to increase the capacity of public transport in advance so it is able to carry the extra traffic generated from the transfer from cars.

The last point is the least controversial although even here until the public transport capacity is increased there is little change of reducing the road space to make it happen. It is understandable that politicians are easily seduced by the possibilities of 'quick fixes' and 'cheap' solutions to the problems that they have to overcome but it does not help when someone in Professor Begg's position encourages them with this sort of naive proposals and in doing so I fear that he has done a grave disservice to the users of London's public transport.


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