Fuel consumption down but scale of diesel use remains a worry for health

Cab speeds past-2The amount of fuel consumed by vehicles on the roads of London has fallen by nearly a third over the past 10 years.

The biggest reduction has been in personal travel, which includes cars, motorbikes and buses. Fuel usage in these types of transport is down by 31%.  The reduction for freight transport, which includes vans and lorries, is down by 22%. Personal travel accounts for 2½ times the fuel consumed by freight.

As previously reported by Urbs, traffic volumes have gone down by about 7% since 2004 despite a rising population. But the reduction in fuel consumption can also be attributed to better fuel economy for vehicles.

The estimates are based upon data modelling by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and it shows that fuel consumption, like car ownership, is highest in the outer boroughs, particularly those north of the river, such as Enfield, Barnet and Havering. The highest consumption level is in Hillingdon.

Fuel consumption

The estimates look at where fuel is consumed rather than where it was bought so areas with large arterial roads are likely to have higher consumption levels – the M4 running out through Hillingdon or the M1 in Barnet, for example.

The reduction in consumption is good news environmentally but the data reveals a statistic which is having an impact on the city’s air quality – the shift from petrol to diesel cars. In 2004 consumption of diesel was about 20% of the consumption level for petrol. By 2013 it was 67%.

Diesel engines were promoted by the government as they produce lower levels of emissions that contribute to climate change, but they produce higher levels of N02.  Recent research by Kings College found that NO2 is having a far more harmful impact on health than had been previously recognised and responsible for nearly 6,000 deaths a year.

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See also

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

Emission targets at risk as growing population hits greener city plan


Motorists pay £235 million in parking fines but number of tickets is falling

stocksolutions shutterstock_127246601-2

Photo: Stocksolutions ┃Shutterstock.com

The number of parking tickets issued in London went down by 6% last year but motorists across the city still forked out £235 million in fines.

There were 3.82 million penalty charge notices stuck on windscreens for on-street parking offences in the financial year 2014/15. In 2006/07 it was over 5 million.

Lambeth and Haringey make the most money from parking tickets. Both boroughs have penalty charge incomes of £18 million, according to their returns to the Department for Communities and Local Government. Their neighbours make a fraction of that, £8 million in Brent and £3 million in Southwark.

Westminster, which has larger traffic flows than Haringey and Lambeth, made £17.6 million from penalty charge notices.

Parking fines map

Motorist may feel that they are hunted by uniformed parking wardens, but the number of tickets issued and the resulting fines has been falling over successive years. Traffic volumes in London are on a downward trend but went up marginally last year due to increases in eastern areas. Traffic volumes in central areas, where the demand for parking is highest, have fallen, as reported by Urbs.

Parking fines income

Parking is big business in London. It generated £582 million for the councils in 2014/15, according to their own figures, analysed by the motoring charity, the RAC Foundation. That’s 40% of all the parking income for the UK, yet London has just 10% of the cars.

Westminster heads the table with £74 million, but its parking income has dropped in the past 12 months along with the other top earners, Kensington and Chelsea and Camden.

Parking total income

After costs are taken out London councils had a surplus of £308 million from parking. By law that money has to be re-invested in transport and environmental projects. Across the UK the surplus from parking represents 15% of the expenditure on local transport.

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See also

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Police identify the most ignored red light with 1,500 drivers caught on camera

Where 22,000 cars were stolen in the capital last year


Fewer drivers caught on their mobile while mobile


The number of people caught using a mobile phone while driving has fallen to levels last seen in 2007. Last year 22,876 drivers in London were caught using a mobile device while at the wheel, that’s more than 60 people every day.

As the popularity of mobile phones has grown over the past 10 years so has the number of offences. In 2007 there were 22,500 offences. This grew rapidly in the following 3 years, reaching a peak of more than 36,000 offences in 2010, according to figures from the Metropolitan Police.

Since then the numbers have been falling. Last year there was a reduction of nearly 18% compared to 2013, and the figures for the first 7 months of this year suggest a further fall is on the cards.

using mobile while driving

One area remains stubbornly static however – the 60 or so people every year who are caught using a mobile while supervising a learner driver. This is also an offence and can result in the same penalty of a £100 fine and 3 penalty points on your driving licence.

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See also

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Limehouse Link is the ultimate trap for speeding drivers

Police identify the most ignored red light with 1,500 drivers caught on camera








Limehouse Link is the ultimate trap for speeding drivers

Photo: Limehouse tunnel entrance 1 by Fin Fahey ┃Wikimedia Commons

Photo: Limehouse tunnel entrance 1 by Fin Fahey ┃Wikimedia Commons

The Limehouse Link Tunnel has the worst record in London for speeding. In the 12 months to May this year speed cameras in the tunnel captured more than 21,000 drivers breaking the 30 miles per hour limit.

The tunnel accounts for over 20% of the 97,122 speeding offences captured by cameras operated by the Metropolitan Police from June 2014 to May 2015. The data was revealed by the Met in response to a Freedom of Information request.

The Limehouse Link Tunnel is just 1.1 miles long and connects the north approach to Tower Bridge with a point just north of Canary Wharf in Docklands. The majority of the camera flashes were seen on the westbound carriageway.

The camera on Cromwell Road by Kenway Road SW5 recorded the second highest number of offences. And the route westbound along the Cromwell Road is proving a speed trap for drivers in a hurry with the cameras near North End Road and Warwick Road in W14 catching thousands more.

Most active speed camera May 2014 – June 2015
Location Number of incidents
Limehouse Link Tunnel E14, westbound 17,110
Cromwell Road, by Kenway Road SW5 5,700
Chelsea Embankment by Cheyne Walk SW3 4,059
Limehouse Link Tunnel E14, eastbound 4,029
Cromwell Road, junction of North End Road W14 3,842

When caught by a speed camera a driver receives what is called a Notice of Intended Prosecution. The minimum penalty for speeding is a £100 fine and 3 points on your licence. This means that the cameras at the Limehouse Link netted more than £2 million in the 12 months.

The Metropolitan Police says that it has 989 fixed camera locations and 324 of these are fitted with cameras. 204 of these were operational at the time the request for information was made.

Source data

See also

Police identify the most ignored red light with 1,500 drivers caught on camera

Do fewer offences mean better bike behaviour or laxer policing?

London leads the way in declining car use but the East is bucking the trend

Nearly 9,500 deaths a year – study reveals impact of air pollution

urban sunsetAir pollution is killing nearly 9,500 Londoners each year, more than twice the number previously thought.

The drastic increase is caused by the inclusion for the first time of numbers killed through long-term exposure to nitrogen dioxide, NO2, a pollutant largely blamed on diesel engines.

Experts from the Environmental Research Group at Kings College developed new methods to quantify the effects of NO2 in the study carried out for the Greater London Authority and Transport for London. It is thought to be the first study to capture NO2 related deaths.

Previous estimates were based on the damage caused by small particles in the air caused by pollution, so called PM2.5. A study in 2008 calculated these caused more than 4,000 deaths a year. The new study revises that figure down to 3,537, but the addition of 5,879 deaths attributed to NO2 has dramatically increased the estimated death rate.

As previously reported by Urbs, all but two London boroughs are in breach of EU regulation on NO2 levels. The outer boroughs of Sutton and Bromley were the only ones meeting legal limits last year. But this study, based on 2010 data, shows that Bromley had one of the highest rates of deaths caused by air pollution. Along with Barnet, it has the equal highest mortality numbers, followed by Croydon. These are 3 of the most populous boroughs in London, and they have the most cars.

As our map below shows, Sutton comes around mid range. The lowest estimated death rates are recorded for Kingston and Hammersmith and Fulham.

Air pollution deaths

The study also found that the combined effects of PM2.5 and NO2 were responsible for nearly 2,500 hospital admissions for respiratory problems and 740 for cardiovascular damage.

See also

Most boroughs fail on legal limit for toxic gas that could harm health

Car ownership reveals a tale of 2 Londons

Heathrow gets the nod to expand, but it’s already Europe’s noisiest airport

Researchers based their findings on pollution levels from 2010 as it is the most recent base year data available from the London Atmospheric Emission Inventory, the system set up to gather air pollution information on the capital.

The GLA says that as the data is 5 years old it does not take into account more recent measures to improve air quality, such as the introduction of more hybrid buses to replace diesel vehicles.

The Mayor, Boris Johnson,  has announced an Ultra Low Emission Zone for 2020 to reduce heavy lorries and coaches in the capital. And in releasing the data he called on the UK Government and the EU to do more, as the study says that half the pollution in London comes from outside, including diesel fumes and industry emissions from continental Europe.

The Mayor also used the opportunity to again voice his opposition to the expansion of Heathrow, as recommended by the Airports Commission.

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Car ownership reveals a tale of 2 Londons

© Micka | Dreamstime.com - Heavy Traffic In Central London Photo-2

Photo: © Micka | Dreamstime.com

Car ownership has crept back up again in London in the past 12 months after falling for 5 successive years. But the longer term trend is down and a tale of two Londons – inner and outer – is emerging in Londoners’ relationship with cars.

Data from the Department of Transport shows that 2.71 million private or lights good vehicles were licensed in London last year. That is down from a peak of 2.76 million in 2008. Total car ownership in the capital then fell each year until last year, perhaps driven by the financial crisis.

Last year numbers nudged up in all but 3 boroughs (Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea) but the trend in inner London boroughs shows a significant drop between 2008-2014. In Wandsworth the number of licensed vehicles fell by 21% and in Hackney and Islington by 9%.

Urbs has used the data to calculate car density across the capital and an inner/outer London difference emerges very clearly. Total numbers for 2014 equate to 31 cars for every 100 residents, or roughly 1 car for every 3 people.

But in all the boroughs defined as inner London, which have seen the greatest population growth, the ratio of cars to people is lower. In many of the outer boroughs it is considerably higher.

car ownership

In Tower Hamlets and Hackney there are 15 cars per 100 people. The availability of public transport and taxi service compared to the inconvenience of having a car in the centre of the city with limited or high costs parking may be significant factors.

In Harrow in the west and Havering in the east ownership is 3 times that level with 49 cars per 100 people. The below average availability of public transport, as reported by Urbs, may mean that people in outer areas still rely on owning a car.

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See also:

Traffic constant, profits up – a congestion charge story

Availability of public transport below average in all outer boroughs

Road deaths and serious injuries down but pedestrians remain most at risk


Road disruption doubles but most journeys avoid the worse jams

hThe number of hours of traffic disruption each day on London’s streets has nearly doubled in the past two years.  And the trend is continuing, with February this year showing the highest level of daily disruption.

Transport for London releases monthly data for serious and severe disruption on the road network.  Serious is defined as congestion that is unusual at a time of day or location when the delay is less than 5 minutes when traffic lights are not on red.  Severe is defined as delays over 5 minutes.

Urbs calculated the average daily hours of disruption.  Our analysis reveals that the daily average across the network in 2012 and 2013 was 5 to 6 hours.  In the past 12 months it was nearly 10 hours a day, and was as high as 13 hours a day in February.

Road disruption

Much of the disruption is caused by planned road works. TFL points to the Hammersmith Flyover, the North Circular and Lower Thames Street as examples of major projects that have increased the hours of congestion.  But unplanned disruptions have also increased with substantial incidents such as a burst water main and an overturned lorry causing hours of delays in the past year.

Despite the huge rise in disruption, journey times across the road network have remained broadly steady according to TfL’s Journey Time Reliability figure.  This calculates the percentage of 30 minute trips that were completed on time or with a delay of less than 5 minutes.  For most Londoners road travel is a fast or as slow as usual, apart from those unlucky enough to drive down a road hit by a major incident.

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Traffic constant, profits up – a congestion charge story

hThe congestion charge has no impact on the committed motorists who drive into the centre of London every day. For the past 4 years the number of cars in the zone has been flatlining according to the monthly average for a rolling 12 month period. This shows that on average 3.6 million cars travel through the zone each month.


A year on year analysis of the data from Transport for London produces a familiar picture of seasonal ups and downs, with high points in the autumn and low points during summer holidays and Christmas.  In 2014 September was the busiest month with 4.2 million cars, August the quietest with 3.2 million. 2014 was in line with the annual trend since 2011.


The congestion charge was introduced in 2003 and extended westward in 2007, capturing millions more cars.  The western extension was abandoned by the Mayor, Boris Johnson, in 2010, causing a drop big drop in the numbers. Since then the monthly average has remained consistent. Transport for London says the 80,000 fewer cars a day enter the zone compared to pre-charge in 2002.

The failure to persuade more drivers to abandon their cars may be a downside in terms of congestion and the environment but it is financial good news for Transport for London delivering a predictable cash income.

While car numbers remain static the income is going up, helped by a £1.50 charge hike in June 2014, and the costs of running the scheme is coming down.  Last year TfL made a profit of £149 million from the congestion charge. That’s up from £132 million in 2013.  

Congestion charge revenue cost profit

The AA estimates that drivers have handed over £2.6 billion since the scheme began. By law, TfL must spend profits from the charge on transport improvements. It says it has invested £1.2 billion in public transport since 2003, most of it on the bus network.

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Traffic pollution battle stalls

Pollution cars copy

The battle with harmful air pollution caused largely by vehicles has stalled.

Data analysis by Urbs of the Daily Air Quality Index collected by the Department of the Environment shows that the rate of small particle pollution in the capital has not seen significant change since 2008.

The index measures the rate of small particles in the air that are largely caused by road transport. It records 10 micrometres particles and smaller ones of 2,5 micrometres that are more harmful to health.

In the period from December 2008 to March this year there was a 15% reduction in the 2.5 micometre particles, but it has gone up slightly in the past 12 months. The rate of the larger particles has remained relatively unchanged with just a 1% reduction.

The air quality index is graded in bands between 1 and 10. The good news for London is that air quality remains in the low risk 1-3 levels. A comparison with other cities commissioned by the GLA in autumn 2014 shows that London has lower levels of traffic pollution than Paris, Barcelona and Los Angele but people could breathe a little more easily at the roadside in Madrid, Berlin and New York.

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International comparison