February 17, 2003

London's new Congestion Charge

The new Congestion Charge starts in London today - you have to pay a flat rate charge each day you drive in a central zone between the hours of 07:00 and 18:30 Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. The charge is 5 pounds (GBP) [approx 8 USD] if you pay before 10pm, 10 GBP [16 USD] if you pay before Midnight, and an 80 GBP [130 USD] penalty if you forget to pay on the day. There are many exemptions and discounts available for core groups like residents of the central zone, disabled drivers and registered taxis and buses.

Many people are describing it as "the most ambitious experiment yet" - no city has attempted a scheme of anything like the size, scale or complexity as this one. The results will be watched closely by economists and politicians around the world.

Apparently over 80 million vehicle-kilometres are travelled in the city each day, and the goal of the scheme is to cut congestion by reducing traffic inside the zone by 10-15%, reducing delays by 20-30% and raising 130m GBP each year to invest in public transport and road schemes.

There will obviously be some teething troubles during the first week, many of which will unfortunetely make the news broadcasts even though such early glitches are entirely to be expected.
There are also many politicians waiting to cast the blame on Mayor Ken for all the problems that will no doubt occur, but I think the opinion of real Londoners is best summed up by a comment a London cabby made in the radio news this morning - "Things have been getting worse for years, and at least someone is doing something about it now".

Overall though, I think the scheme will be a success ultimately - so long as it is properly policed and enforced in the interests of the whole community.

It certainly can't make things any worse IMHO - drivers can spend over half their time in queues, and according to statistics on average drivers in central London face 2.3 minutes of delay for every kilometre they travel at the moment. That means that vehicles in central London move no faster today than horse-drawn carriages did 100 years ago - which is hardly progress!

Entry categories: General
Posted by Jorgen Thelin at February 17, 2003 07:00 AM - [PermaLink]