Wednesday, May 04, 2005

London's Congestion Charge

The Congestion Charge has succeeded in reducing traffic in central London by 18 per cent during charging hours. Overall congestion and car traffic are down by 30 per cent. Public transport has coped with ease, and one of the GLA’s great successes has been the improvement in bus services.

Under Ken Livingstone the GLA has invested large amounts of money in 560 extra bus services in the morning peak period. This and the Congestion Charge mean that average bus speeds have increased by 7 per cent; there are almost 30,000 extra bus passengers a day.

The Congestion Charge is a regressive tax falling equally in all regardless of income. But, on balance, people on low incomes have benefited. Few of them own cars, and even fewer used them to drive to central London. They do overwhelmingly use public transport, particularly buses, and the low-paid have benefitted from improved bus services.

The Congestion Charge and better buses are not an overall solution to London’s problems. The capital – like the rest of Britain – is still crying out for an integrated transport plan.

Such a plan would combine large-scale cheap car parking, buses, trains, trams, underground, and proper cycling facilities into an efficient and joined-up system, funded through public subsidies and contributions from businesses in London.