Several news stories from over the weekend suggest a vividly different picture of how business is done in London with regards to transport.
Firstly, The Times unveils the complex story behind the Government and BAA's collusion to create a favourable environment for a third runway at Heathrow - something which LondonUnlocked is in favour of in order to sustain the economic growth of the capital:
Previously unpublished documents obtained under freedom of information laws show: BAA gave instructions to DfT officials on how to “strip out” data that indicated key environmental targets would be breached by the airport. The airports operator repeatedly selected alternative data used for the consultation to ensure that the final results showed a negligible impact on noise and pollution. The DfT gave BAA unprecedented access to confidential papers and allowed the company to help to rewrite the consultation document. The final document significantly reduced the likely carbon emissions caused by the runway by not including incoming international flights.
Secondly, the Manchester Evening News reports on early plans to extend a high-speed rail-link between Manchester and London, cutting the journey time to just 74 minutes. Such a scheme, and the massive economic benefits it would unlock for both London and Manchester, is well worth entertaining, and sensible in view of the cross-Europe rail alliance being formed.
Such a scheme isn't a new idea, and it is disappointing that it has taken this long for political and business leaders to only now begin approaching the relevant Ministers for a possible start date of 2026. Whilst it is important for the right plan to be in place before any action is taken, 18 years before any tangible delivery is at best a disappointment.
Finally, back in London, Stephen King writes in the Independent, on the changing focus of the Congestion Charge:
The problem arises from the shift in the congestion charge from its original aim of reducing the numbers of cars on the streets of London to its new aim of targeting cars with high CO2 emissions. The shift, though, leads to all sorts of unwelcome distortions. The incentive to "go electric" is reduced because those petrol cars with low emissions will now be allowed into London for free. Drivers with smaller cars who will now be able to drive through London whenever they want (and those who will now buy a smaller car to take advantage of the new exemption) undermine the "polluter pays" principle (although Mr Livingstone may re-impose a charge on these drivers later on, conveniently after the Mayoral elections). The driver of the Renault will suddenly sense there's a tax on children, so will doubtless feel hugely aggrieved. In the process of hitting the driver of the Range Rover, many others will be unfairly thumped as well.
Mr King's analysis is entirely correct, and tallies with the many e-mails we have received from LondonUnlocked readers. This is a major issue for Londoners and business alike, and we very much hope for greater clarity from the Mayoral candidates heading into the election.