A westerly extension of London’s congestion charge area comes into operation today – to the dismay of residents and businesses.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone claims the extension, which includes such areas as Notting Hill, Kensington and Chelsea, will cut traffic levels in west London by 10-15 per cent.
But the Centre for Economics and Business Research has estimated that the extension will lead to 6,000 job losses and £236 million in lost business a year.
And West London Residents’ Association Chairman Gordon Taylor said the extension was ‘completely unnecessary’.
The extension will almost double the congestion zone area in which drivers have to pay £8 a day between 7am and 6pm on weekdays. The original zone was introduced in February 2003.
There was a 30 per cent reduction in congestion in the original zone in its first year of operation, but the provisional estimate for reduction in 2006 is only 8 per cent.
Mr Taylor said: ‘This westerly extension is completely unnecessary. Only about 5 per cent of roads in the area are congested.
‘It’s like a surgeon cutting someone open from head to toe when keyhole surgery would do. London has the world’s most expensive and the least effective city wide congestion charging scheme and also the highest public transport fares of any world capital city.’
He went on: ‘The basic approach is flawed. Vehicles entering the charge zone pay a single charge allowing multiple entries. Their use of road space within the zone is neither time nor distance based. On a tolled motorway vehicles pay for distance travelled.
‘However powered, all vehicles add to congestion and should logically pay a charge, preferably related to size. In London all vehicles pay the same charge.’
Mr Taylor said that too many vehicles were exempt from paying the charge and that attempts to ease congestion in central London had not been helped by road-narrowing schemes and an increase in traffic lights and bus and cycle lanes.
The success of the westerly extension may be hindered in the first few months by congestion caused by three major roadworks schemes planned in the area.
Last week Mr Livingstone said roadworks had affected the central congestion charging area in 2006.
Transport for London said London suffered from some of the worst congestion in the UK and surveys showed that of all areas adjacent to the initial charging area, the western area had the most intense jams.
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