Siobhan Benita

Lib Dems propose post-lockdown transport safety measures

Lib Dem Mayoral Candidate, Siobhan Benita, has written to Mayor of London Sadiq Khan suggesting five measures that could be implemented in the capital to keep travel safe when lockdown measures are eased.

The plan includes introducing temporary cycle lanes, express bus services and early bird fares to relieve congestion on the tube at peak hours.

It also addresses improving the financial sustainability of Transport for London, including the reintroduction of ULEZ, with exemptions in place for essential workers, and a call to commission a report into smart road pricing.

Temporary cycle lanes have been introduced in other European cities, like Milan and Paris, while express bus services running across key orbital and radial routes could help further relieve congestion on the underground network.

The Liberal Democrats have long called for early bird fares, to encourage pre-peak travel, but this congestion-busting measure is now viewed as vital to passenger safety.

In the meanwhile, reintroducing road charging and looking into a more comprehensive tech-led pricing scheme should avoid the problems other cities have faced coming out of lockdown, where car use and its related emissions rocketed as people avoided public transport.

Speaking about the package for transport safety, Siobhan Benita, said:

“As we tentatively look ahead towards when lockdown measures may be eased, it is vital that London does everything it can to keep commuters and workers safe. We should learn from what other cities have experienced, taking on the best ideas, like temporary cycle lanes, and avoiding the worst impacts, such as unprecedented car use.

“Further guidelines on any lockdown measures will, of course, come from Central Government and any measures introduced in London must be compliant. But it’s important to start planning ahead to ensure any new measures are ready to go.

“Setting up ULEZ exemptions for essential workers, establishing the best routes for temporary cycle lanes or express bus routes will all take time - but the urgency of such measures will be apparent the moment Londoners start to move across the city in numbers again.

“When we eventually ease out of lockdown, our priority must be to keep travelling Londoners and our system’s workers safe. We should be exploring all options to do so and I hope the Mayor takes on board our suggestions.”

Letter to Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, in full:

Dear Sadiq

I’m grateful for all the work that you, GLA colleagues and our amazing key workers are doing during this extraordinarily challenging time.

As we tentatively look ahead towards when lockdown measures may be eased, it is vital that London does everything it can to keep commuters and workers safe. That includes exploring ideas that may take some preparation to put in place, five of which I suggest in this letter.

Firstly, we should urgently introduce a new temporary cycle network across the city. The UK Government has made provisions for this and other cities in Europe, including Milan and Paris, have already implemented such measures. Not only could an expanded cycling network help relieve congestion on public transport in the short run, but it may also help establish long-lasting lifestyle changes towards more sustainable travel.

Second, as we witnessed earlier in this pandemic, even moderate increases in peak-time use of the Underground can quickly make social distancing impossible. Platforms and carriages can overcrowd quickly, At street-level, there is more flexibility. That is why I would like TfL to look into introducing Express radial and orbital bus routes, to reduce the overall numbers on the Underground and to enable better queue management above ground.

Thirdly, the Liberal Democrats have long called for Early Bird Fares to encourage pre-peak travel to work. This congestion-busting measure is now vital to passenger safety. I’m hopeful that employers will continue to allow many workers to work flexibly, either from home or with non-standard start times and we should help incentivise non-standard travel times through the fare system.

My fourth and fifth points relate to the financial and environmental sustainability of our transport network, which has been placed under considerable strain by this pandemic. I welcomed the swift removal of the ULEZ and Congestion Charges to support key workers earlier in this crisis. We now have the time to introduce a proper exemption scheme for these workers so that we can reintroduce charging when lockdown measures are eased. Other cities have seen a post-lockdown surge in car use, which is undesirable on many levels. Reinstating road charging should go some way to reducing this effect.

With the unprecedented challenges our city faces, we should also be considering bolder, long-term ideas too. Smart road pricing would diversify the income channels of TfL, reduce its dependency on public transport users and more justly account for the most polluting form of travel in our city. I urge you to now bring forward serious consideration of such a scheme.

This is a challenging time for our city. I hope that, by working together constructively, we can develop and implement the very best solutions to keep all Londoners safe.

Kind regards

Siobhan Benita

Liberal Democrat Candidate for Mayor of London

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