London’s ‘flat rate’ congestion charge should be replaced with a new system which charges drivers based on the time of day they enter the charging zone and how long they spend in it, according to a new report from the London Assembly.
High levels of congestion cause delays, including to buses which are falling out of favour with passengers due to longer journey times, and worsen the capital’s already heavily polluted air.
The report, published by the Assembly’s transport committee, describes the congestion charge scheme as “a blunt instrument” which is “no longer fit for purpose” due to its reliance on out of date technology.
Assembly Members say the current flat rate no longer acts as a deterrent to many drivers and that only a major overhaul will cut the number of cars and other vehicles on the capital’s streets.
Introduced by Mayor Ken Livingstone in 2003 to cover a section of central London, the scheme was later expanded but was reduced in scope following Boris Johnson’s 2008 election win.
Beyond periodic increases in the daily charge, the scheme is largely the same as when it was first launched almost 15 years ago. AMs claim that “a lack of political will” in City Hall over recent years has prevented the major overhauls needed if it’s to continue reducing traffic levels.
They want current Mayor Sadiq Khan to draw up plans for a new scheme which uses newer, smarter technologies capable of targeting drivers who enter the charging zone during the busiest hours as well as those who spend longest in it.
Such a policy could see mini cab drivers, whose numbers have grown dramatically in recent years and are cited as a major cause of London’s congestion, pay more to use the roads.
In the meantime, AMs want the current scheme reformed so that it better targets the journeys causing congestion and resulting delays.
Their report also calls on City Hall and Transport for London to look at ways to reduce daytime road use, including reducing restrictions on night-time deliveries and piloting a local Workplace Parking Levy.
TfL Commissioner Mike Brown recently told AMs that couriers delivering personal parcels to workplaces are also increasingly responsible for congestion. Today’s report calls on City Hall’s agencies, including TfL, to pilot of a ban on such deliveries to their premises.
Caroline Pidgeon, who chairs the committee, said: “Something dramatic has to be done about the enormous congestion problem on London’s roads. The issue is costing our city money and costing Londoners their health and wellbeing.
“TfL is doing a lot to tackle congestion, but not enough. Road pricing would be a fairer approach, as road users would pay according to how much they contribute to congestion.”
The report has been welcomed by Institution of Civil Engineers which has previously called for the introduction of road pricing to help fund new infrastructure investments.
London Director Suzanne Moroney said: “Investing in our road infrastructure is vital, but we must also use the limited road space we have to the best of our ability.
“Whilst the congestion charge has seen a reduction in traffic, it is increasingly clear that it isn’t performing as well as it did in the early years following its introduction in 2003 and could be reviewed to take greater account of journey length and congestion peaks.”