As London was built over the centuries, the streets were designed for use by the odd horse and cart, a carriage at the most, and plenty of pedestrians. The volume of motorized transportation on the city’s roads today would have shocked and horrified London’s ancient architects. Congestion is a major problem with which London attempts to contend through public transport. However, the frequent disputes which break out in this arena ensure that London’s bus and tube services run far from smoothly. Current Mayor Boris Johnson’s attempt to deal with the problem by constructing bicycle “superhighways” has (in the short term at least) exacerbated rather than soothed the problem. He is not, as a consequence, popular with many of London’s frustrated commuters. It’s an issue which needs urgent attention. And, with a mayoral election coming up in May this year, it’s one which is likely to play a major part in city politics. London Travelwatch, an independent watchdog for transport users in and around the city and funded by the London Assembly, has come up with various suggestions for the attention of mayoral candidates. Here are a few of them:
One of the most efficient ways in which to deal with the congestion problem is to reduce the amount of cars on the roads. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so. Londoners are better than most urban dwellers at walking, cycling, and using public transport. Indeed, private car use is falling in the up and coming generations. But even here it’s perilously tough to get people to part with their cars. Travelwatch, however, thinks it can be done. It recommends “a planned and coordinated approach to reducing road traffic demand,” using tactics which could include greater use of congestion charges. It also recommends prioritizing pedestrians over private cars when it comes to road legislation (by lowering speed limits, for example) essentially making it easier to walk than to drive.
Pay More Attention To Public Transport
Travelwatch is of the opinion that buses and trains should be the subject of far more attention than they currently are. Fares are problematic for many Londoners, despite being related in part to the prohibitive costs of running a public transport service without adequate financial aid from the authorities. London’s bus and tube fleets badly need updating – not only in terms of rolling stock but in terms of route infrastructure. All in all, with the rapidly-changing nature of London’s population, a more holistic approach needs to be taken with its public transport. It needs to be able to adapt quickly to meet the needs of the people relying upon it. And it needs investment. Lots of investment. Give the people a reliable, efficient public transport network with fares which they can actually afford, and they will use it. This will certainly reduce the pressure on the roads quite considerably.
Ease Of Access
There’s been a lot of improvements in the accessibility of London’s public transport in recent years. Travelwatch wants to see this continuing. It wishes for more bus and tube stations to be wheelchair accessible, and demand a zero-tolerance policy for obstructions which may prevent a disabled person from boarding. Step-free access is also a priority.
Travelwatch in general wants to improve the reliability of public transport services, and reduce disruption. However, it has noted that in the event of disruption currently, passengers are often left bewildered, and with little to no recourse to information. Furthermore, it can be difficult for people unfamiliar with London’s transport network, like tourists, to work out precisely what is going on. It is, therefore, calling for “reliable, accessible, and timely information.” For a start, it wants passengers to be informed of delays outside tube stations, so that it can change routes as soon as possible to minimize personal disruption. It also wants a centralized information service – London transport working together to provide the kind of fully-comprehensive information service which will allow passengers to plan their routes more effectively. London is currently dotted with “infoliths” which provide information regarding location, walking times, and nearby public transport information. The public has responded well to these. Travelwatch believes that this should be extended into more areas, and made even more comprehensive in order to both promote the use of public transport, and to make it easier.