New Mayor Could Weaken London Congestion Charge

borisjohnson460.jpgLondon Mayor Boris Johnson may scale back the congestion pricing plan put in place by Ken Livingstone, whom Johnson defeated in May. The Times is reporting that the current 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. flat rate charge could be altered in a number of ways, including a reduction in the hours during which the fee is applied and reversing an extension of the zone, which was implemented last year.

Johnson’s director of transport, Kulveer Ranger, told the Times that Johnson is looking to the proposed Manchester pricing model, which charges for fewer hours per day.

Mr Ranger said: "Flexibility around hours of operation, flexibility around how it is charged; all of those things are options we’re looking to consider.

"The mayor has been absolutely clear that he wants to make it fairer for people, not so much as a blunt tool, but something that’s a bit more well managed and gives people a bit more flexibility in terms of how it’s operated."

The Times, which opposes pricing, relies exclusively on sources from "motoring groups" — who also speak of "making the system fairer," etc. — to fill out the story. But in the comments, reader "Barry" recalls how candidate Johnson professed an interest in improving conditions for those who don’t or can’t drive.

We certainly need more sophisticated road charging, where payment is related to time of day and distance travelled. But to rule out extending the scheme shows that Boris’s pre-election claim to support cyclists, pedestrians and bus users over the selfish minority of self-drivers was a sham.

Photo:
Guardian Unlimited

  • Boris’s chickening out on Ken’s plan for the western extension is old news. But the erosion of the plan for central London is a disturbing development. True, the percentage of commuters using transit has dropped in the last few decades, but rising petrol prices will soon reverse that trend. At least no one in London is talking about killing congestion pricing altogether. If the plan can be tweaked in one direction, it can also be tweaked in another.

  • I think it’s a good thing to get in the infrastructure for a sliding rate congestion charge. It opens the door to extending the charge’s hours under this or another regime, eventually to a 24 hour charge that accounts for not just congestion but road use in general. We will see what happens, if Johnson is able to cut into the revenue stream how he proposes to offset the loss. And if pricing is abandoned in West London, whether they like having their congestion back. More likely I think the revenue will have to be maintained near current levels, with different rates for different times and areas. That would actually be better congestion pricing; maybe Johnson is not what he seems and those “self-drivers” (love that!) are all suckers. (In terms of personal finance, that is a given.)

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    I think small businesses (the heart and soul of any city) are fed up with congestion taxing.

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/money/main.jhtml?xml=/money/2004/04/22/cncong22.xml
    Business down as a result of Congestion pricing in London
    http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-5007517-details/Congestion+charge+hammers+shops/article.do
    Congestion charge hammers shops
    By Richard Allen, Evening Standard Last updated at 18:51pm on 27.05.03

    As recent as September 2007
    http://manchester-blog.com/the-congestion-charge-business-effect/
    LONDON Chamber of Commerce
    79% of central London’s retailers experienced a drop in takings
    56% a reduction in customers
    42% thought congestion charging should take all, or most of the blame
    74.5% of restaurants responding reported a fall in takings
    Same restaurants noted a 78.3% fall in customer numbers since the change was introduced
    54% of those restaurants attributed both drops to the congestion charge

    As recent as March 2008
    http://www.lbhf.gov.uk/Directory/News_and_Media/Press_office/Press_releases/98386_Local_business_crippled_by_congestion_charge.asp
    Local business crippled by congestion charge by Hammersmith and Fulham Press Office
    30/05/2008

  • ManhattanDowntowner

    Sorry, in reference to the above, I am referring to small businesses in London – Bloomberg’s (un)”successful” example.

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