Congestion Charging coming west

Mayor to proceed with scheme despite strong public opposition

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The Mayor has announced a new transport strategy which sees the congestion charge zone extended west as far as Shepherd Bush and White City and down to Chelsea Embankment.

Ken Livingstone says that the extension will reduce traffic by up to 10 per cent - and congestion as much as 20%. This would lead to reduced pollution and improved bus journey times.

The proposal will extend the existing charging zone to include the area to the west of the current central London charging zone, broadly bounded by Harrow Road, Scrubs Lane, West Cross Route, Earls Court Road and Chelsea Embankment, encompassing most of the boroughs of Westminster, and Kensington and Chelsea. The area suffers congestion throughout the day, comparable with that experienced in the central area.

A second consultation will take place to determine the precise boundary of the western extension. The Mayor has already yield to demands for a 'buffer zone' in the Earls Court Road area where 20,000 residents who do not lie in the zone will still qualify for a discount. The proposal to extend the scheme north of the Westway to Harrow Road is felt to be likely to be ditched in the second stage of consultation. The Westway itself will remain a 'free way' through the congestion charge area as will Chelsea Embankment and the Edgeware Road.

Jonathan Gough, prospective Conservative parliamentary candidate for Ealing, Acton & Shepherds Bush, said of the plan, "we will continue to oppose it but if it is introduced I will be calling for a fully Discounted Permit to be issued to any car-owner outside the zone living in a W12 postcode."

Many people complained about poor publicity for the consultation which was the largest ever undertaken by Transport for London. The consultation was promoted in local newspapers and by a mail shot to over 3,000,000 homes. In the event only around 2% of households in the target area responded.

There was a high level of opposition to the scheme from the general public with 77% saying they were not in favour (48% strongly against) and only 6% supporting it. For businesses 89% opposed the extension. Most of those in favour were in areas already covered by a congestion charge zone. Of respondents from the internet, 71% were strongly opposed to the scheme perhaps explaining Transport for London's reluctance to use on-line media as part of the consultation. These numbers do not include 11 petitions signed by 28,000 people opposing the scheme.

Subject to funding availability, the earliest an extended scheme could be operational would be in 2006. TfL expects the scheme to bring in revenues of £10mn per annum although the estimates for revenue for the central scheme did prove to be wildly optimistic. At the moment 110,000 vehicles a day pay the £5 charge, raising £79 million a year including penalty fines. This is reinvested in public transport.

It is proposed that residents will receive the same discounts and exemptions that apply in the existing central London scheme, in which all residents are entitled to a 90% discount from the congestion charge.

August 11, 2004