Final reminder: Congestion Charge consultation

TfL’s consultation on proposed changes to the Congestion Charge ends today.  This is your final chance to send in your comments.

Briefly, the notable proposed changes are these:

  • Abolish the Western Extension Zone (WEZ) — the section in Kensington and Knightsbridge, west of Park Lane and east of Shepherd’s Bush.  This was a manifesto promise of the mayor.  The WEZ has been unpopular with rich tories who want to drive to posh Knightsbridge shops, and with the residents of Shepherd’s Bush, Hammersmith, and Wandsworth, who believe that it has merely shifted the congestion into their own streets.
  • More discounts and exemptions for cars with low CO2 emissions, including exemptions for plug-in hybrids and any conventional car that emits less than 100g/km.
  • Increasing the charge by £1, to £9.

Roughly, my comments on these were:

  • If the CCharge zone is merely redistributing congestion to other neighbourhoods, why not extend it, all the way to the M25 if necessary?  If the shifted-congestion claim is true, then TfL’s proposal is endorsing the return of congestion (even worse than before, given the recently remodelled streets) to Knightsbridge and Kensington.  I can’t say I’m much of a fan of these particular neighbourhoods, but our friends at NHM and Imperial might want to let the mayor know what they think about his endorsement of a congested and polluted Kensington.
  • This implies that the purpose of the CCharge is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.  It’s not.  Carbon emissions are important, but there are a whole suite of other equally important considerations, most notably saving our streets from the blight of continuous noisy intimidating gridlocked traffic, and saving a few of us from the particulate pollutants that kill 4-5,000 Londoners every year.  The new exemptions are an extra invitation for people to burn diesel in our streets — releasing pollutants so deadly that they would, if produced by anything other than a car, be illegal, and which will cost London taxpayers hundreds of millions of pounds — so long as they keep within the 100g/km CO2 limit
  • The price is, of course, absurd and regressive.  For most of the people who would want to drive in London — the bankers and drug dealers — £9 is nothing.  They’ll spend three times as much on lunch.  And for anybody who lives more than 30 miles out, it’s probably equal to a return train ticket.  The CCharge is failing, and will continue to fail, because the price is a token price — it’s not enough to put the Motorist off, but it’s sufficient to give them a sense that they have paid for a service, and are owed something in return, something that pedestrians, bus passengers, and cyclists have not paid for and are not owed.  The CCharge is the greatest example of our town planners attempting to manage the harm caused by car use, without actually solving the problem.  This practice is elsewhere exemplified by one-way systems, traffic signals, speed cameras, bus lanes, double-yellow lines, and forests of road signs.  Easily ignored, often useless, and yet frequently cited as evidence of the “War On The Motorist”.  Managing the problem isn’t working.  It’s time to simply close the central zone roads to any motor vehicle that doesn’t have a very good reason for being there.

I’m not really sure what I’m asking the mayor to do.  Strengthen the CCharge as an interim solution, until the problem can be tackled properly, I think.

(Tip of the hat to Clean Air London, @CleanAirLondon.)

3 thoughts on “Final reminder: Congestion Charge consultation”

  1. Dear Joe

    Thanks for analysing the issues raised today by the closing of the consulation on the future of the western extension of the congestion charging zone (WEZ).

    The Campaign for Clean Air in London (CCAL) objects to the proposed removal of the WEZ for a whole load of reasons including those listed on its website:

    Four well-known groups have joined CCAL today in condemning the Mayor’s proposal to remove the WEZ: Campaign for Better Transport, ClientEarth, Environmental Protection UK and Friends of the Earth.

    CCAL thinks of types of transport measures as being in two overlapping ‘circles’: emissions and congestion. Emission measures, such as low emission zones, focus mostly on reducing harmful emissions (but also deter some traffic). Congestion measures, including things like road pricing, focus mostly on reducing congestion (but reduce harmful emissions since vehicles at 20 mph are about half as polluting as those at 5 mph). CCAL calls these “The London Circles”.

    London needs to tackle congestion and harmful emissions. CCAL is advocating one or more additional inner London low emission zone (LEZ) like that in Berlin:

    Germany had 40 such zones in place by the end of 2009 whereas the UK has just one big, blunt one around London (and the Mayor is in the process of deferring Phase 3 of it from October 2010 to January 2012).

    In CCAL’s view, we should focus on keeping the most polluting vehicles (i.e. diesel) out of the most polluted places. For CCAL, it is about protecting public health not warring on anyone!

    With best wishes.

    Yours sincerely

    Simon Birkett
    Campaign for Clean Air in London

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