Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Western C-charge campaign hots up

Our Council has been whipping up the locals into a frenzy about the soon-to-be-ditched western extension of the congestion charge. Mayor Boris has finally got round to delivering on something he promised in his election campaign years ago and announced he's on the verge of scrapping the zone. The looming Mayoral elections have of course no relation to this sudden gathering of speed.

Personally I wanted the zone to succeed. Last week's news that London had once again broken pollution rules and would now be fined unless it got it's act together was a fine illustration of the problem we have. In fact from my office in South London I have a view across Lambeth, the river and into westminster. There are times when I can't actually see the towers of the City behind the wheel. The Gherkin and others disappear into grey haze under which, presumably, brokers and the like are breathing. Air pollution is linked to 3,000 deaths every year in London. Scary.

But it hasn't worked. As the now ex-Government will testify, simply ignoring patently obvious truths doesn't actually get you very far. Traffic hasn't really gone down much inside the zone and on the borders, which in our case is Holland Park roundabout next to the Tube, it is gridlock as people skirt the zone. Oh, and a majority of locals have voted against it. Twice. Once in a Ken 'consultation' which was then binned and once in a Boris 'consultation' which was studiously ignored.

So our Council has been trying to get as many of us as possible to feed in to Boris' consultation on the issue. Cadres were out in force scaring startled shoppers and small children with their clipboards just a few days ago as the pic testifies. The West London Residents Association (who they?) are organising as much as they can and are pictured here in Hammersmith King Street outside Mothercare. Personally I've never seen a demonstrator clutching a loudspeaker with a clenched fist ... while dressed in corduroy slacks, blazer and old skool tie before, but goodness me, so be it!

Deputy Leader of LBHF and Environment Lead Cllr Nick Botterill says this:

"We all need to make our views known one more time if we want the western extension to be consigned to the dustbin of history. I know it feels like we have been here twice before but this is third time lucky. This is the last bureaucratic roadblock to scrapping the extension once and for all.”

“The people who are paying the highest price for this failed scheme are the residents just outside the zone as we are the ones who do not get a discount. We are the ones who have to pay to take our children to school across the border. We are the ones who have to pay to visit friends or relatives inside the zone.
“The extension cannot be scrapped a moment too soon for us.”

If this all sounds a bit political, then that's because it is. The Mayor has already made it quite clear the c-charge is a gonner, and the Council want a bit of the street-cred. Which in this case is fair enough since they have consistently campaigned against it even when Boris was sitting on his hands, as he has done on most other things since being elected. So in this case, well done Council!


  1. I notice you're using two year old figures there, which is unsurprising as TfL aren't publishing a congestion charge annual report any more, so in truth we don't know beyond a recent survey that basically said traffic in the zone was down while traffic in outer London was up.

    I'd therefore be *very* wary about trusting any statistics produced to oppose the WEZ, as the opposition is largely ideological, not thoughtful. The effect will be to bring more cars into central London, period, which includes many driving past me out here one borough west and the air quality's quite bad enough already, thanks.

    Also, if LBHF were really concerned about air quality, they wouldn't have removed the air quality monitoring station at the Broadway, would they?

    Finally, Boris did *two* consultations, one of which was in favour of keeping the WEZ or keeping and modifying it. That got studiously ignored, too.

  2. It depends what you mean by 'it hasn't worked'. I imagine it hasn't worked for Sheperd's Bush, because you have increased traffic from 'WEZ-dodgers' and you have to pay the charge should you choose to drive through the zone.
    As your TfL source says, traffic volumes in the zone are down, but as roadspace has also gone down, congestion has not been reduced as much as might be hoped. But one also has to ask whether, without the charge, there would have been near-gridlock due to the reduction in roadspace, no? As someone who works in central London, I see that most of the present traffic is black cabs and minicabs (both exempt from the charge), buses and commercial vehicles. Businesses have to make journeys, so no charge is likely significantly to reduce commercial vehicle traffic. So although the total amount of traffic is down 21% (14% in the WEZ), it would be more realistic to look at the volume of private cars instead.
    What rather worries me about charge abolition is the loss of £55M annual revenue. This combined with the general mood of austerity is almost certain to lead to substantial tube and bus fare increases. The combination of more expensive public transport and cheaper car journeys around the WEZ is hardly going to lead to less traffic or less pollution.

  3. I still wish they manchester congestion charge hadn't been sold down the river with a "referendum." It was like having a referendum on Christmas for the turkeys.