Boris ditches part of C-Charge zone

by Michael Smith

Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London, not to be confused with the Lord Mayor who is the Mayor for the City of London, the so-called Corporation, has announced that he is scrapping part of the capital's Congestion Charging zone in response to public demand.

Resultant from an in depth consultation with Londoners, the Mayor said he will take steps to remove the Western Extension, which includes the affluent areas of Kensington, Notting Hill, and Chelsea.

Some, I know, have said that he is pandering to the rich of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea, especially the drivers of the Chelsea tractors, that is too say the large SUVs that never ever go off road.

Nearly 28,000 residents and businesses responded to a consultation on the future of the Western Extension earlier this year, with two-thirds of residents and 86% of businesses calling for it to be scrapped.

Businesses have been on about it for ever since the initial Congestion Charge was introduced under Boris Johnson's predecessor Ken Livingstone.

It comes just months after Boris Johnson scrapped another anti-congestion initiative launched by his predecessor Ken Livingstone which would have raised the daily charge for entering the Congestion Charging zone from £8 to £25 for the most polluting vehicles, in this case especially yet again the aforementioned Chelsea tractors.

"During the election I promised Londoners a genuine consultation on the future of the extension," Mr Johnson said.

"I promised that I would respect their opinions and I promised that if clear support for a particular way forward emerged then I would act on that opinion.

"Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that they would like the scheme scrapped."

He said Transport for London (TfL) was still working on a series of measures aimed at easing congestion in the capital, such as re-phasing traffic signals.

TfL estimates that traffic returning to the Western Extension will result in a small increase in emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, but said it is "unlikely to have any material effect on measured air quality" in the area or on its boundary.

But Green Party London Assembly member Jenny Jones said: "Scrapping the Western Extension will almost certainly lead to a sharp rise in traffic, more congestion, more air pollution and more climate change emissions."

She also raised concerns that the drop in income from Congestion Charge fares could lead to a rise in fares on public transport.

TfL will now begin the legal processes necessary to remove the Western Extension, but it is expected to remain until at least spring 2010.

While Mayor Johnson is correct in honoring his commitment to the London electorate the removal of the Western Extension will surely, as the Green Party member mentioned, lead to an increase in traffic, especially in those areas that have the charge removed.

The loss of revenue from not increasing the charge for the most pollution vehicles will also be sorely missed, I am sure, by TfL. In addition to that this fact also means that those vehicles will continue to travel into London and continue to pollute the air.

While one might not wish to impose and enforce certain restrictions on people as to which cars they may or may not buy, own and use, those highly pollution SUVs especially that have no other use than to make some people look big should, in my opinion, but this is my opinion, be banned from being sold bar to those that have a need for them, such as people who do actually live and work in the countryside and such like.

But, I know, I am skating on thin ice here as some people really will not like being told things like that and might be getting very angry with this. However, while I am at antagonizing people I might as well suggest, yet again, that the government must get its fingers out and create a public transport system that is reliable and affordable and then must encourage drivers off the road and into trains and buses.

© M Smith (Veshengro), December 2008