Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Battle for Transport

Ken Livingstone’s transport policies have been copied around the world. He pioneered travel cards and congestion charging, expanded the Freedom Pass, and is the first to seriously tackle vehicle pollution and boost London-wide cycling.
All this would be threatened under Boris Jonson, a climate change denialist and friend to road rather than public transport users.
He says Livingstone is “clobbering" motorists and opposes the £25 charge for larger cars, claiming it would have little impact on C02 emissions.
Johnson called Livingstone’s attempts to avoid part-privatisation of the tube – now exposed by the £2 billion Metronet fiasco - “ideological warfare”.
Livingstone points out that "from his transport plans nobody knows what he plans to do with the tube."

Freedom Pass

Livingstone plans to extend the Freedom Pass, used by pensioners and disabled people, to 24 hours a day if he is re-elected. He has already given free bus travel and tram to under-18s in full-time education.
Although Johnson’s website promises the Freedom Pass is an “untouchable right for London pensioners,” both he and Lib Dem candidate Brian Paddick said the proposal was “eight years too late”.
In reality under a Tory or Lib Dem mayor there would almost certainly be no Freedom Pass at all.
Livingstone fought off Tory attempts in the House of Lords to remove his powers to operate the Freedom Pass, and last year the tories tried to replace free travel for under-18s with a far more restricted scheme in only six London boroughs.

No-strike deal

Johnson is currently holding secret talks to find a Transport for London head prepared to “take on” the Rail Maritime and Transport union, and proposes a no-strike agreement with the union.
Such a deal would be a recipe for staffing and safety cuts with far-reaching implications for London commuters.
An RMT spokesman said Johnson was “living in cloud cuckoo land if he believes this kind of approach could ever work. The RMT does not sign no-strike deals and would never give up its right to strike.”

Porsche v the people of London

German luxury car maker Porsche is threatening to challenge the £25 charge on high emission vehicles with a judicial review, calling it "unjust". A spokesman said “successful people from across the world” would be put off living in London by the charge.
The mayor's office has described the move as an attack the democratic right of Londoners to discourage the use of “gas guzzling and polluting vehicles”, and if successful would mean imposing high levels of pollution on Londoners.
The Stuttgart-based company has launched a website which says “Porsche is not prepared to sit by and watch a world class city indiscriminately damaged”. It claims that three out of four Londoners oppose the new charge.
Its poll, based on a sample of only 505 adults, included questions on how Londoners voted in the last mayoral election. It does not actually ask those polled whether they are against the CO2 charge, but says 68% thought it was too high. According to the mayor’s polling the charge is supported by 71% of Londoners.
The new charge is part of an environmental strategy – Britain’s first – including a clean air zone and spending £500m to encourage walking and cycling. The goal is a 60% reduction in London’s CO2 emissions by 2025.
Road pollution in London is known to cause severe health problems, and existing road taxes mean drivers of smaller cars are effectively subsidising 4x4 drivers.
For once the wealthy – in this case around 30,000 4x4 and sports car drivers – are being targeted by the new charge, while the cleanest cars will pay nothing.
Motorists’ organisations have resorted to ludicrous arguments against the charge, such as the RAC Foundation’s claim that it "is gesture politics rather than a serious attempt to tackle London's air quality problems".
In fact Livingstone is the first politician in Britain to implement effective and co-ordinated transport and environmental policies, after decades of government support for road building and drivers, while public transport has been run down and privatised.

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