Congestion Charge Increase – Make Your Views Known!

Anyone who pays the London Congestion Charge will know that it is proposed to increase it immediately to £15 per day and extend the hours. Although it is suggested this is a “temporary” increase, bearing in mind it seems to have been prompted mainly by TfL’s financial difficulties, it is quite likely it will be made permanent.

Transport for London (TfL) are inviting comments on the proposals. You can send your comments to yoursay@tfl.gov.uk. But it needs to be done by the 4th June so don’t delay!

These are some comments we have sent which you can use as you see fit but it’s best to use your own words:

“Please note that we object to the proposed increase in the Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax)  to £15 per day, whether a temporary increase or a permanent one. We also object to the extension of hours.

The very large increase in the charge is simply irrational. The Congestion Charge was originally designed to reduce traffic congestion but has not done that (see this page of our web site for a full analysis: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/congestion.htm ). It has just turned into a tax on Londoners to support public transport. And it is an excessive and punitive tax where the costs to collect the tax consume most of the revenue. It particularly discriminates against the less well off and those who have no choice about their working hours or transport options – for example the disabled or elderly.

The impact of the Covid-19 epidemic might encourage people to use private transport rather than public transport because the former is clearly safer. But the cost of the Congestion Tax is already so high, plus the cost of parking is very high, that it is very unlikely to result in substantial numbers of people moving to commuting by car into London. Most of the vehicles entering the Central Congestion Zone are goods vehicles, or those on essential journeys or on ones that cannot be made by public transport. They cannot avoid paying the tax.

Clearly the intent of the proposed increase is to solve the budget problems of TfL by raising a tax on a small minority of hard-working Londoners. Why should they have to pay for the Mayor’s financial incompetence which is as big a cause of the deficit in TfL as the recent pandemic.

The increase in the charge and the extended hours will have a very detrimental impact on businesses such as theatres that rely on customers visiting central London. It will also prejudice those such as the police who have to work unsocial hours in central London and cannot easily use public transport. This simply looks like the Covid-19 epidemic is being used as an excuse to attack private vehicle use in London, which is totally unjustified.

We urge you to reconsider this proposal, and look at other ways to balance the TfL budget.

In our view the Congestion Tax should be scrapped as being ineffective and regressive, not increased”.

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GLA Scrutinise Traffic Congestion in London

The Greater London Assembly Transport Committee is currently undertaking a “scrutiny” of traffic congestion in London. They have apparently become concerned about recent increases in congestion. For example they report the following:

– A reduction in traffic speed. On London’s A-roads, average speed fell from 16.3mph in July 2013 to 14.8mph in July 2015.

– Excess waiting times for buses have increased from an average of one minute in 2013/14 to 1.2 minutes in 2015/16

– Journey time reliability on the TfL Road Network (major roads) has fallen from 89 per cent in 2013/14 to 87 per cent in 2015/16.

Some of this increase has been blamed on the increase in the number of minicabs (private hire vehicles) from the rise of Uber and other similar booking systems.

But the removal of road space and such projects as the Cycle Superhighways are surely the main cause.

In brief we argue that the cause is lack of consideration to the impact on the road network of projects that damage it, the failure to develop a proper road network in London, and a simple failure to spend enough money on it.

Roger Lawson

New Mayor’s Broken Promise

No sooner had new London Mayor Sadiq Khan taken office than it transpired that one of his key vote winning pledges was not what it seemed. He promised to freeze public transport fares for four years but that will only apply to certain fares it is now reported.

Mr Khan told the London Assembly last week that the price freeze would not extend to season tickets because they can include stages on trains run by private companies. Those companies are regulated by the Government and not by the Mayor and TfL. The Government has rejected any idea of freezing fares so the Mayor’s original promise cannot be delivered in full.

Mike Brown, Transport Commissioner, gave us the good news though. This means the cost of the “promise” will only be a £600m impact on TfL’s budgets rather than the £1.9bn that he was talking about under the previous regime. But that’s a lot of money to find to fill the hole in the budget and still deliver on the Mayor’s other promises.

Mr Khan is hoping to save money by tackling inefficiencies in TFL where more than 400 staff earn more than £100,000 a year and both they and their families get free travel perks (now under review).

Old Mayor’s Advice Ignored – Bus Passengers the Main Losers

An article in Local Transport Today (LTT) had long-standing public transport supporter David Begg complaining that Boris Johnson ignored advice to reduce road vehicle demand in central London while introducing the cycle superhighways. By not reducing traffic volumes, the result has been worsening congestion and slower traffic speeds. He said “Bus passengers have been the main losers”. The article reported that bus speeds have fallen by more than 5% on a third of routes in London in the last year. This has also reduced bus passenger volumes. But even Mr Begg concedes that “It is the substantial reduction in road space, with planned roadworks increasing by 362% over the last three years, which has led to significant increases in congestion”. Editor’s comment: how amusing to see this arch advocate of road pricing and congestion charging admit that congestion has been caused in London by the previous Mayor’s perverse destruction of the road network in the pursuit to get us all cycling.

Roger Lawson

London leads the rest of Europe

But London residents may not be pleased to hear that London is now the most congested city in Europe, having recently overtaken Brussels according to a report in the Financial Times. The average London driver spent 96 hours stuck in traffic last years, a rise of 14 hours on the year before according to data from Inrix. The cost of this congestion was reported as being $8.5 billion. Explanations given were population growth, a strengthening economy, on-line shopping causing a rise in light vans, and construction projects.

Garrett Emmerson, Chief Operating Officer for London Streets (part of TfL) suggested this was because “We are a medieval city in many ways, certainly in Central London” which implied it was difficult to do much about it.

Comment: Mr Emmerson is being disingenuous. Not only has London failed to improve its roads and add more capacity over many years unlike other major cities, it has actually been reducing road capacity. The reduction of the Embankment, a major east-west route, from two lanes to one is an example. This has contributed to a major increase in traffic congestion in central London in recent months which has been blamed on the road works to implement the cycle superhighway, but that congestion is very likely to be a permanent new feature in London.

Roger Lawson