Transport for London has announced the start of a statutory public consultation on proposed changes to the Congestion Charge schemes including the Western Extension Zone (WEZ).
In 2008 the Mayor and TfL conducted an informal, non-statutory opinion poll based ‘consolation’ about the future of the WEZ however before any changes can be made to the scheme a formal consultation must be carried out.
The consultation announced today proposes that the final charging day for the Western Extension would be December 24th this year. After the usual festive suspension of the entire Congestion Charge schemes, the Zone’s borders would revere from Tuesday 4 January to “substantially” the same as those for the original Zone.
If the WEZ is scrapped residents within its catchment area would lose the 90% discount they currently receive when driving in the Zone.
TfL are also proposing that a “Congestion Charging Auto Pay scheme” is set up to make paying the Charge easier and more convenient. Drivers could pre-register a deceit or credit card which would then be auto-debited a daily charge of £9 whenever they entered the Zone.
There is also a proposal to remove the Alternative Fuel Discount and introduce a Greener Vehicle Discount in the hope of encouraging a switch to cleaner and more CO2 efficient cars.
Announcing the consultation Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “West London never wanted the Western Extension and it is right that residents there can now tell us whether this Christmas should see the end of it. The central zone still plays a useful role but it has to be administered more fairly and straightforwardly, which is why I’m delighted the proposals include changes that should mean no one need ever be fined again.”
There has been mixed reaction to news of the consultation. Labour’s Val Shawcross described removing the WEZ a “big mistake” and warned that “cyclists, bus users and local residents will all suffer from more congested roads and dirtier air while TfL will throw away millions in valuable revenue at a time of financial hardship.”
“Next time the Mayor talks about TfL’s finances or the need to put up fares, he should reflect on what a big mistake he is making.”
There was condemnation too from the Green Party of the London Assembly, AM Jenny Jones said: “The congestion charge, including the western extension zone, has been successful in reducing traffic, reducing emissions and encouraging people to switch to public transport and cycling. It also improves the quality of life for residents living within the zone.
“It is difficult to see why Boris is meddling with a policy that has been proven to reduce traffic at a time when London is struggling to meet European limits on air pollution and faces major fines. This is a big backwards step on air pollution.”
Friends of the Earth’s London campaigner Jenny Bates said the proposed reduced zone was “unlikely to be as effective in environmental terms as a wider scheme covering more of the capital.”
However there was support for the Mayor from Assembly Liberal Democrats, transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said:
“I welcome the final removal of the Western Extension from Congestion Charging which has penalised an area quite different to the initial Congestion Zone. It is also good news that the 100 per cent discount will in future only apply to cars that emit not just low levels of CO2 but also low levels of other harmful emissions that affect the health of so many Londoners.
“However, it would be madness to simply rip up the cameras in the Western Extension zone at a cost of £5 million. There is now a golden opportunity to put these cameras to good use to improve London’s air quality. After giving time for the most polluted cars to be cleaned up we should then start using the cameras to prevent the most polluting diesel vehicles entering central London.”
More information on the consultation, which runs until Monday 2 August 2010, is available from TfL’s website at www.cclondon.com