10 years of congestion charging - but resistance to city congestion charging shows little sign of easing
Only 29% of AA members support congestion charging in cities – despite London having 10 years to prove the benefits. So poorly has the case for paying to drive into cities been made that those strongly supporting such a move (6%) are outnumbered more than 5:1 by those strongly against (33%), according to an AA Populus survey.
The current level of support, from the survey of 22,827 AA members, echoes the 21% who supported Manchester’s failed bid to levy a congestion charge in December 2008.
Even Londoners, despite an extensive public transport system, are split 45% for and 41% against the congestion charge. The strongly opposed (24%) outnumber the strongly in favour (13%) nearly 2:1.
Areas of the UK least likely to support congestion charging in cities are:
Congestion charging was introduced to London a decade ago (17 February 2003) and, by the end of this financial year, is set to have taken more than £2.6 billion from drivers, business and potential consumer spending in the capital in the past 10 years.
The complexity of the scheme means that, for every £2 collected from drivers, more than £1 (57%) has been spent running it.
In return, traffic levels in central London have fallen by 20% since 2000, which is twice the rate of other London roads. However, the city’s transport policy has taken away the spare road capacity leaving roads in the heart of the capital clogged and traffic speeds have dropped.
In an ongoing consultation on cost-cutting, scheme officials admit: “While traffic volumes have been falling within London, traffic has also been getting progressively slower over the past decade, particularly in central London. The historic decline in traffic speeds is most likely due to interventions that have reduced the effective capacity of the road network in order to improve urban realm, increase road safety and prioritise public transport, pedestrian and cycle traffic, as well as an increase in road works by utilities and general development activity.”
They also admit that engine and exhaust technologies have improved so much that car emissions of PM10 particles are greater from tyres and braking than from exhausts – a problem aggravated by the failure to convert less vehicles into smoother traffic flow.
London drivers have paid a heavy price for slower journeys over the last decade
Edmund King, AA president
Edmund King, AA president, said: “Some ten years since congestion charging was introduced in the capital and four years on for the no vote in Manchester, drivers seem to have little appetite for similar schemes in other cities anytime soon. London is perhaps unique as 86% of commuters to central London used public transport even before congestion charging was introduced. In other cites a higher proportion tend to drive.
“London drivers have paid a heavy price for slower journeys over the last decade. Some have argued that without Congestion Charging the traffic speeds would have been even worse; however speeds in central London have remained fairly constant since the days of the horse and cart some 100 years ago. The Congestion Charge hasn’t improved traffic speeds but may have substituted some lower income drivers for those that can afford it or have no choice. Towns and cities looking to boost their local economies should be looking to improved parking, park and ride, better traffic management and improved public transport.”
(13 February 2013)