Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

 You are in:  Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Friday, 1 March, 2002, 16:15 GMT
Congestion tax: Should motorists pay?
London's mayor, Ken Livingstone has given the go ahead to charge motorists a 5 toll for driving in central London.

Ken Livingstone said he would push ahead with his plans in a move which he believes will drastically reduce the amount of traffic on London streets.

Drivers entering the toll zone, which covers an area eight miles wide in the centre of London, will have to pay a daily fee between 7am and 7pm on weekdays, or face an 80 fine.

The government also plans to track motorists by satellite and charge them for every mile they drive in rush hour.

Opponents of road pricing say motorists already pay enough taxes, and many have no choice but to commute by car because UK public transport is so poor.

Is it fair to impose even more charges on motorists? With the UK reportedly suffering the worst traffic conditions in Europe, what else should we be doing to improve the situation?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I thought we already paid a tax for the use of roads, something called Road Tax?

Gary, Wales
I thought we already paid a tax for the use of roads, something called Road Tax? Forcing motorists to pay even more tax is completely unfair when the public transport system in this country boarders on the absurd. You can't ask people to stop using their cars if you cannot offer a working alternative.
Gary, Wales

What would be a good idea is to ban every politician and local government official who has any responsibility for roads or public transport from using their car for one month, and making them use public transport. The ban should include lifts from other motorists and their family. To be really nasty the ban could include their families as well so that they could find out just how hard it is to get children from place to place without a car. At the end of the month they should be told that if public transport does not improve dramatically the ban would be repeated next year, and every year until it does improve. Then sit back and watch the action!! Those of us who have to use the abysmal public transport in the UK would derive immense enjoyment from watching those who don't use it find out the hard way just how awful it is.
Lindsay Ponting, England

For starters, hit the people who cause most of the problem - people in gas guzzling 4x4's and big executive barges

Dan, U
For starters, hit the people who cause most of the problem - people in gas guzzling 4x4's and big executive barges - both completely inappropriate in a city, where they contribute a disproportionate amount to the pollution and congestion problems through their massive engines and extra use of roadspace. Charge drivers of these cars 100 a time to drive in, and make it free for people in small, efficient cars. Also exempt people who have to drive around London for a living - i.e. delivery drivers, engineers and so forth. Use the money to get public transport up to scratch, and then introduce wider charging for all drivers, but only when a viable alternative exists.
Dan, UK

This is a classic chicken and egg situation. On the one hand, we all want much better public transport, and on the other, excessive use of the car must be curtailed. Our Ken has grasped the nettle and is going to reduce use of the roads. And only then, later this year, will we get more London Buses. After that I can see the change in balance between public and private transport rapidly tipping in favour of the former. This will also reduce pollution, get people to work on time, reduce road deaths and create jobs for bus crews.
Johnnie, Wales

I am not sure that congestion charges will work. Faced with already poor public transport many people will just pay the money and carry on driving. However, there is clearly a problem to be addressed. I have heard reports that in the larger cities around the UK between 10 and 20% of cars are illegal (no insurance, not MOT, no road tax etc.) - surely it is time that a system was put in place such that at key points into and out of city centres (as proposed for the congestion charging) technology was put in place to identify these people and resources employed to stop and check suspect cars, which should then be immediately confiscated and, after an appropriate period to challenge the decision, destroyed. This would not only take off the road 10 to 20% of cars in the cities, it would reduce pollution (these cars are normally the worst polluters), it would reduce accidents and it would reduce insurance premiums for the honest law-abiding majority.
R Watson, Manchester, UK

The congestion problem has arisen from the lack of planning controls and investment. Why are there continued approvals for developments of progressively larger business premises i.e. multi-tower office blocks etc when the transport infrastructure is already totally inadequate? What are the health and safety executives doing to limit the overdevelopment of city centres and overcrowding on surface and underground trains? Legislation was applied to urban buses on the basis of health and safety - and they avoided overcrowding. But the trains were left alone. Why??
David, UK

Congestion charges are not the answer. The real solution is to stop the obsession with building everything in London and the South East

John, Suffolk, UK
Congestion charges are not the answer. The real solution is to stop the obsession with building everything in London and the South East. Everything about this country's infrastructure is focused, wrongly, on London. Just look at a map of the rail network, or just try and travel from the East Coast to the West. Until we realise that there is more to the UK than the inside of the M25 we will not begin to address the problem.
John, Suffolk, UK

To Jacqueline, Have you never thought of questioning that wildly exaggerated figure of 52 billion? The figures I've seen (from the Adam Smith Institute and others) makes the cost of lost time and business due to congestion, at 19 billion, far and away the largest cost. And guess who picks up the tab for that? That's right, the very people who will now be expected to pay even more. Have you ever considered what a bus or train ticket would cost if it wasn't heavily subsidised? You wouldn't be able to afford it. And anybody who believes that cutting traffic by 15% will alleviate congestion is living in a fool's paradise. Congestion isn't down to traffic volume, but traffic volume per unit of time. If everybody allowed twelve hours to get to work there wouldn't be any congestion whatsoever. As soon as you take some traffic away, people soon realise that they can sleep a few minutes extra in the morning, and then it's back to square one. The only realistic thing Ken can do about congestion is to remove all the obstacles like bus lanes, road narrowing etc. and allow the traffic to flow more freely.
Peter H, UK

As a nation, we don't seem to be able to accept that our great love affair with trains is over

Anonymous, UK
Congestion charges and throwing money at the railway system are not the answer to road congestion. As a nation, we don't seem to be able to accept that our great love affair with trains is over. Trains are not economically viable as they cost too much to maintain in anything approaching a safe and reliable state. The track renewal program has proved that. Rail users cannot pay the fares that would be necessary to make them viable, and why should taxpayers subsidise one form of inefficient transport for the benefit of a small number of people? In most parts of the country, trains cannot be run economically so we should get rid of them and stop trying to create the impossible. Use the freed up tracks for new roads, encourage smaller, fuel-efficient cars and we all get what we want.
Anonymous, UK

I think that the government should take a harder look at how some other cities have dealt with this same problem. It's impossible to completely eliminate traffic problems, but they can be solved partially if you introduce more buses and underground trains.
Anonymous USA

Possibly, as I have only read and heard the BBC coverage through the Internet, I have an incomplete knowledge of the issue. Let's see, the taxpayers pay for the construction and upkeep of the roads, and then are taxed/fined again for using them. I understand there is immense congestion, but is some provision to be made for those who actually live within the 'congestion zone' and have to daily use their vehicles to exit the area? Doesn't this, in effect, become an additional local tax on those who live there? I realize that London is very different from cities here in the US, but the principle is the same. Double taxation just doesn't seem right. Everything I hear and read about the public transportation in the UK indicates that it could not take up the slack if a large number of additional users were added to the systems due to this fine/tax method. What are people to do? Cease going to work? My employer is LESS than sympathetic if I am substantially late to work - poor public transport is not considered an excuse. Will people have to start bunking at the office?
Barb Emerson, USA

Go by car? No way! Much too slow. Give me my bike any day.
Guy Chapman, UK

I think the motorists who actually cause problems by their selfishness and bad manners are the ones who should be made to pay

Paul, UK
I live in North Yorkshire, but all the hospitals, main line trains and entertainment are in North Lancashire. The public transport has gone from bad to worse, is very expensive, and with the existing schedules one can't travel to and from work or go anywhere for a day and get home as the transport is totally inadequate. Motorists also seem to be above the law and cause real problems for pedestrians as they constantly block the pavements, and, to be frank, the standard of driving is appalling. I think the motorists who actually cause problems by their selfishness and bad manners are the ones who should be made to pay and if they continue to break the law they should have their vehicles impounded or lose their licenses. I don't see why one section of the community should be above the law.
Paul, UK

Ken Livingstone should visit Singapore and adopt a similar system.
Harvey, France

I live in London and own a car. I regard my car as a luxury. Everyday I spend two hours commuting to and from work on the tube network. There are car parking facilities at my work place, but to drive would still be a two hour trip. Although I think that a more pragmatic solution needs to be found rather than congestion charging, I can't advocate the comments used by people who feel they still need to use their cars to commute in a city that is served by a vast, complex intricate public transport system, where you are usually never more than a mile from some sort of rail or tube station and can literally get anywhere within the city without having to drive. Oh, and a short walk to the nearest rail station won't do you much harm!
P Gleave, UK

Once again the rich can buy their way around it! How about banning odd-numbered cars on one day, followed by even numbered the following day. This would halve the traffic and force EVERYONE to use the alternatives!
Trevor H, UK

If too many cars cause road congestion, then the overcrowding on the Underground is because of too many passengers.

Peter H, UK
They're missing a trick here. If too many cars cause road congestion, then it follows that the chronic overcrowding on the Underground is because of too many passengers. Therefore the logical solution would be to charge tube passengers 5 during weekdays.
Peter H, UK

The root cause of congestion is the sheer number of people. If we really want to reduce congestion, and solve a multitude of other problems in the process, then we need to gradually reduce the population size. The government needs to encourage a voluntary limit on family size of two children per family to achieve this. It is a realistic long-term solution. Less people equals more quality of life.
K. White, UK

I've always thought the way would be to limit cars to less than 1300cc in town centres. Smaller cars and less fuel used. This smells of money making for the council to me. So they can give themselves another pay rise.
Philip, Oxon

Politicians should realise that charging people for doing something won't stop them from doing it. Tax from petrol and tax discs have gone up, and so has the use of cars. People will always make the same journey because they HAVE to, not because they have any choice in the matter. There is only one way of cutting congestion, and that is to only allow "good" drivers the run of the road. If you are caught speeding, drink driving, dangerous driving or anything like that, you should be banned from driving for a very long time, if not life. This would cut congestion and make our roads safer!
Paul Hardwick, England

There is no need for the vast costs of a satellite system. Singapore introduced a similar scheme in 1998 using coupons and a 'pre-loaded smart card' which is positioned inside the windscreen for regular users. the whole system was up and running within a couple of years and random checks eliminates avoidance at each 'portal'. Proven technology with measurable results.
Chris, UK

Let's stop issuing new licenses.

Kulu, UK
Owning and running a car is cheaper now in real terms than it has ever been. This is the root of the problem. We need to remove a large proportion of the traffic but how should we do it fairly?

I would propose that instead of pricing the poorest motorists off the road, we remove the worst drivers. Let's have a huge increase in parking fines with more clamping, many more invisible speed cameras with automatic bans for offenders as well as large fines, permanent bans for serious offences such as drink driving and dangerous driving.

Let's also stop issuing new licenses. Each new applicant should only receive a license when an existing one becomes available due to the holder giving up driving or being banned.
Kulu, UK

I think it's a superb idea. Something has to be done and this is a pragmatic and workable scheme. The additional buses offer an alternative, although more parking may be needed outside the zone to facilitate the switch from car to bus.
Craig Ritchie, UK

Just once, it would be nice to have a well thought-out policy that developed after a proper consultation process with real people, rather than political posturing (on all sides, as usual), the involvement of overpaid 'independent' quangos and internal squabbling.

Clearly, something needs to be done about the congestion and pollution caused by too much traffic in London. How about having a 10 charge for cars with single-occupancy? That would reduce the amount of cars dramatically, and increase car-sharing.

OK, so there will be an immediate improvement in the bus service (really!), but will that help people who come in from the suburbs, let alone from outside London. Has anybody actually done a survey to see where the drivers are coming from and how far they have travelled to get to Central London? It's an improvement in trains and tubes that we need straight away - a bus journey is only good over no more than a couple of miles - not 12! London is too big and too much of a draw for jobs. Perhaps a longer term strategy should be to encourage businesses to set up outside of London, but is that too obvious!
Cathy, London

I think it has to be made optional. Motorists should be able to choose paying either the yearly road tax (which can be higher than current tax) or the daily congestion charge.
Khairul Hasan, UK

Something has got to be done

Marianne Thomas, England
I do not live in London now, but on the east coast. I travel regularly by train into our capital to stay with family. Whilst waiting at the kerb for a long delayed bus, I cannot help but notice, the single occupancy of the cars going by and the pollution in the air is very apparent. I know that it is hard on the people of London but something has got to be done. My mother lives close to Greenwich and this particular area has some of the worst congestion and air pollution in the capital.
Marianne Thomas, England

I live in Frankfurt, which probably has the best public transport infrastructure in the world and at a competitive price. However, the roads are still congested at rush hour. If you don't like congestion don't live in a city or be prepared to do something more radical than tax people for using city roads. Cigarettes are taxed, people still smoke. Alcohol is taxed, people still drink. If the roads are taxed people will still drive on them.
Christopher, Germany

I, like many others, am a tradesman and need to use a van to carry both equipment and tools. Mr L can charge whatever he likes because I am not a charity and will pass on the costs of each visit in to the city to the client. If the client does not want to pay, he does not get the job done! It will therefore be the residents and businesses in central London who will pay the charge, the very ones that appear to think it a great idea.
John W, England

Paying more? I don't think so! As a recent graduate and motorist in London, I'm already paying more than enough as it is! I have to commute from Watford to Chiswick every day (due to over-priced houses, but that is another issue), and the congestion is terrible. "Use public transport," says the government. Over-priced, and under resourced. The government needs to stop bringing in more taxes, and start making better decisions.
James Newly, UK

On one hand I see government and local authorities deliberately causing congestion with road-narrowing, traffic calming, bus lanes, poorly phased traffic lights, etc. and on the other hand I see charges being imposed for the congestion this causes. Are the lunatics now in charge of the asylum?
Brian W, UK

It's about time London was used as a guinea-pig for a new idea.

David Hazel, UK
It's about time London was used as a guinea-pig for a new idea. It makes a change from the way Scotland was repeatedly used by the Tories to test controversial ideas such as the Poll Tax. At least if it turns out to be a bad move, it shouldn't be that difficult or expensive to undo, unlike the Poll Tax fiasco.
David Hazel, UK

Great - I can't use the tube during the rush hour because it so unreliable and overcrowded. I can't use the mainline trains for the same reason and now I can't drive either.
Andy , UK

I will answer all those people who say "what alternative do we have to this scheme?" It's simple. Start using the extortionate amount of tax I pay on my petrol to improve public transport. Why do you think people use their cars so much? It's because there is no viable alternative. Our transport system is dirty, dangerous, overpriced and overcrowded. If I have the choice of sitting in a traffic jam or getting mugged, filthy and waiting for ages to get from A to B, which do you think I should take?
Steve Ford, UK

It's too late now. All of us travel so far now to get to our destinations that no matter what is put in place, it won't solve congestion. The population is so widely distributed throughout the country. We will all just have to learn to put up with the inconvenience.
Anonymous, England

I wonder how many of those advocating the charging scheme actually live and work in London

P Saunders, England
I wonder how many of those advocating the charging scheme actually live and work in London. In addition I suspect that many who are involved in the legislation will have the taxpayers meeting their bill. The cost of the administration of the scheme will be immense and the figure of revenue created by the scheme is always the headline rather than the net figure. On this point, it is essential that if this dreadful scheme goes ahead, the revenue is earmarked for much longer than 10 years - it will take a large portion of the 10 years to recoup the capital expense. There are many jobs where a journey into London by car is often essential but where the entry fee to our capital cannot be passed on to anyone else (e.g. a client / government dept.). Many of these people are not well off enough to simply pay the entry fee without a second thought. I know the fee will make some people a lot worse off. Practical response? Well, the fee period should end at 18.00 and the area of coverage should be reduced. I drive through London a lot and aside from congestion caused by road works (that's a council problem and should not be laid at the door of motorists) the very centre of London always has fairly free flowing traffic - my long experience tells me that the inner suburbs are the really congested areas (north of King's Cross, western end of Marylebone, most parts of the south circular). This project needs more public thought.
P Saunders, England

Relax everyone, we cant run the railways, we can't run the NHS, we can't run the Dome, we can't even build a new national sports stadium. There is no way this will happen. We do not have the skill and expertise to make it happen.
Colin Mackay, UK

London's transport problems are quite different to the rest of the county. They can't be compared to other cities, or to rural backwaters. It's worth trying this idea. If it doesn't work, then we can try something else. Most commuters leave their cars at home and use public transport, but a few Very Important People cant manage with London extensive public transport system, and simply have to drive. 4 solo drivers take up the same space as a double-decker carrying over 60 people. What do these drivers suggest we do about congestion?
Michael, UK

As the hair brained scheme seems inevitable that argument for and against are lost. May I suggest an addition: If the congestion charge does not reduce journey times on any given day then a refund is provided. Then we will really see how effective it is (not)
A, England

Wendy, what annoys me is the lack of school buses. We live 2 miles from the infant school my children attend; this is too far for my young son to walk. We have tried cycling, however we have found it to dangerous, hence we are forced to use the car. In an attempt to be more environmentally friendly I share the school run with another family. If the government really wanted people to stop using their cars they would improve the public transport rather than tax people who are forced to use their cars.
Caron, England

What a novel approach to solving this problem: throw in another tax and hope that things improve

Giles, England
What a novel approach to solving this problem: throw in another tax and hope that things improve. And this comes from the mayor who refuses to condemn striking rail workers. Is it just me, or do others feel that Red Ken has no interest whatsoever in improving the lot of those of us who are just trying to get to work?
Giles, England

To Wendy: If they put their kids on the bus, how will these sad little people ever be able to show off their new 4x4 to the other parents? It is absolutely vital to keep up one's appearance- didn't you know that??
Andrew, UK

I work in Central London and I live on the outskirts. I have done so for nearly 10 years, and during that time I've only driven through Central London on 4 occasions. Each time was a complete nightmare, with congestion, bad signposts, inconsiderate drivers and suicidal pedestrians and cyclists. There is little excuse for driving in Central London unless you're a delivery person, taxi etc. Oh, and a suggestion for Dr Nauth-Misir and his wife - if it's going to cost so much to drive your children to their Central London school, why don't you investigate the idea of car pools with other parents?
Della Macmasters, London, UK

They couldn't make public transport decent enough for people to want to use it so now they're trying to make it the only option by bleeding us drivers of every penny we have. To those people who claim we should all be cycling to work - personally I don't want to arrive at work sweating and stinking. What I want to know is are the MPs and the mayor also going to have to fork out every day from their chauffeur driven cars or will that be paid for by our already extortionate road tax?
Paul, England

I was wondering if anyone could clarify if the rumour that the motorcycle parking bays will no longer be free within the zone is true?
Bryan, UK

What really should happen is that the government should invest money in providing a reliable, safe and hygienic rail system. They should then make it economical and compulsory for most freight to be sent by rail. Also, public transport should be improved in our towns and cities so that road traffic can be eliminated from the centres. But, as usual, it needs a determined, committed, government with imaginative and honourable goals to achieve this. That is a kind of government that we haven't seen for decades.
PhilT, Oman

The real solution is for businesses to disperse to the rest of the country

Simon, UK
I have noticed that this plan is being blamed on "The Government". Unless I'm mistaken this is the Mayor's idea. As Londoners directly elected him, with this plan part of his manifesto, I think they are getting exactly what they voted for. The real solution is for businesses to disperse to the rest of the country.
Simon, UK

I think that the congestion charging is a good idea. London is, in the main, well served by train services, and from the main commuting areas. Something has to be done to curb the massive increase in car usage for the good of the health of the nation. True, much can still be done to improve public transport but what makes buses late? Car congestion! A shift towards cleaner fuels and electric vehicles would make things even better. I personally want clean air to breathe rather than the cocktail of poisonous fumes we get at the moment.
Richard, UK

Yes, it is an appropriate move. Car owners seem to forget that it is currently cheaper to own and run a car than it has ever been (evidenced by multi car owning families) which is what is encouraging the overuse of road vehicles, it should be more expensive than public transport.
Vince Summers, Scotland

I used to cycle 14 miles a day to University because public transport was so slow. I now have a job that involves 40 miles of travelling per day and there is no other way around it than by car. Motorbike is out of the question as I have to lug equipment around from one site to another as well.
Ed, UK

It will not work. It will create more problems than solving the traffic congestion. Many clever Londoners are already thinking of how to crack the system. Politicians like a "high-tech" solution, but they don't understand the limitation of new technology. I can foresee many practical problems. People will drive their cars dangerously close together to avoid their number plates being captured. People will brake at the last moment realising they are about to enter the charging zone. The perimeter of the charging zone will become accident hotspots. Also, these cameras will be hated more than the speed cameras or the red-light cameras, I am not surprised that they will be vandalised frequently. If not planned properly, it will be another example of the taxpayer's money going down the drain.
Simon, U.K.

The basic problem is that compared with thirty or forty years ago too many people are travelling too much too far in the course of their daily lives. We need a radical rethink of the way we work and live if our transport problems are to be solved.
Jane, Wales, UK

Would it not be a good idea to introduce cheap travel cards that allow the user to use them any time other than rush hours and encourage companies to stagger their hours so that employees could take advantage of the scheme?
Laurie Frampton, England

I am all in favour of this 'charge' and as a cyclist and motorcyclist will not be paying it anyway. I hope that Ken will be using some of the money to pay for secure parking for motorbikes to help reduce the theft rates in the capital.
K.Wood, UK

I understand from recent reports that 30% of London's congestion is caused by roadworks, whereas Ken's scheme is expected to have a 15% impact

Trevor, UK
I understand from recent reports that 30% of London's congestion is caused by roadworks, whereas Ken's scheme is expected to have a 15% impact. Would it not make more sense to target the roadworks in some way? This would save pots of money for the ratepayers, have a bigger effect on the congestion, and not hack off the motorist once again.
Trevor, UK

I'd rather pay 5 for using my car rather than the 15 a day it would cost me to commute into London via public transport which offers nothing more than an overcrowded, filthy tube train.
Mark J, Herts, UK

Public transport into London is overcrowded, unreliable, dirty and expensive, not to mention unsafe for women travelling alone. This is precisely why I take my car in everyday. I already pay a small fortune for petrol, parking, tax and insurance and now will be forced to pay this charge as well. I am beginning to think the benefits of working in London are far outweighed by the horror and expense of getting there.
Natalie Webb, England

Why are we even debating this? Even if road charging is grossly unfair, expensive and invasive, we all know that the great British public will simply roll over and accept it. We'll all have a good moan to our friends and neighbours but nobody will rebel.
Tom, England

Andy of London - your comments on public transport in London are on the mark but 'outside of the morning rush hour' or evening rush hour is where the problem is. When I use the tube to get into work and leave to go home, how it works during the rest of the day is of no interest to me. I use the tube when most other people use it and I can tell you from first hand experience that its operation then is, at best, poor. The mayor has the right idea, but he has to get a viable alternative in place first.
John Alkire, UK/USA

I agree with Chris Longhurst (USA). I too live in the US now and although there are some things I miss from back home, a tax is certainly not one of them. You are taxed to death in the UK. It seems to be the stock answer to everything: "Taxation shall continue until morale improves!" Motorists are always a favourite target. I pity the genuine smaller business owners in London who will be hard hit by this lunatic idea and the streets outside the zone will end up suffering from chronic parking problems. I have a tough enough time explaining "TV licenses" to Americans, never mind how you are now going to be taxed just to drive downtown.
Lawrie Taylor-Duncan, USA

Great idea - I think they should have gone further and banned all vehicles within the centre of London - except public transport and buses.... great news

Would they please spare a thought for those of us who live in rural communities?

I too feel very strongly that it is OK for people who are in the fortunate situation of having regular buses, tubes and taxis available to say we should all use public transport. Would they please spare a thought for those of us who live in rural communities? To get to my place of employment (without a car) I would have to travel by two buses. The bus from my village only runs once an hour (if it turns up) and then I would have to catch a second bus. My journey time would be in excess of one hour.

I travel from Dulwich to Blackfriars Road by car every Monday evening before 6pm. I have to drive because of the equipment I need to take with me. I receive no payment for the work I do there. Our profits go towards the work of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in Southwark, which receives no central or local government funding. There should be some means by which people engaged on charitable work who absolutely NEED to travel by car can enter the zone without payment.
Gwenneth Bransby-Zachary, UK

Actually, it isn't Blair's lot who are introducing this, it's Mr Livingston, London' Mayor. It's a shame it can't be introduced countrywide! I used to live in Croydon and still go back occasionally to visit family. The traffic is terrible, and nearly all cars have only a driver. I'm sorry for those who need their car to drive around the country, but this is only London so they shouldn't be affected. It's about time 'cars' were made to pay for some of the pollution etc in London. If people don't want to use the underground (& I can understand that) then they can always get a scooter or bike, as they will be exempt. Well done London, lets hope that it works and that they can sort out the public transport mess.

It seems quite ridiculous that people are complaining about this with very little to offer by way of an alternative, except for of course making public transport perfect. I don't really understand why anyone would want to use a car in London under the current conditions. Going by car is quite considerably slower than public transport (often even slower than walking). From all my experience of using public transport in London I've found a lot less to complain about than in other cities. London is currently a horribly congested and dirty city and it is only going to get worse. It seems rather pathetic that we all spit the dummy as soon as practical measures have to be taken.
Kathryn, UK

Got to agree with Ian! - If you don't like paying 5 pounds per day - get motorised 2 wheels! I ride a Yamaha TDM850 into work every day it isn't snowing, 'because riding a motorcycle is soooo much fun , and I'm gonna wave at the cameras when they're installed! I think the charge should be at least 20 pounds per diem, 'because that would REALLY reduce traffic - I mean a fiver isn't going to stop me using the car on the days it DOES snow!!
Michael, London

A minority of Londoners wanted a mayor. An even smaller minority voted for Red Ken. What 100% of Londoners ended up with is a whole load of new taxes and a platform for Red Ken to air and practice his left views. There is a very simple solution to easing London's congestion and reducing pollution. Reduce the number of buses and bus lanes and London will start moving and breathing again.
Mike, London,

Singapore has a charging system that works wonderfully, and is very, very difficult to avoid. I applaud the idea of the city folk having to pay to pollute the environment.
John Atkins, England

Despite the moans about taxes, motorists in fact do not cover their costs. It has been estimated that road transport costs this country around 52 billion, of which motorists pay around 33 billion. Why should the rest of us subsidise motorists' private activities - and activities which cause so much damage and reduce the quality

Jacqueline, UK
Despite the moans about taxes, motorists in fact do not cover their costs. It has been estimated that road transport costs this country around 52 billion, of which motorists pay around 33 billion. This represents a 20 billion shortfall - effectively a subsidy to each and every motorist of around 1,000 per year. Why should the rest of us subsidise motorists' private activities - and activities which cause so much damage and reduce the quality of life for the rest of us living in the Capital as well as the rest of the world?
Jacqueline, UK

A few things need pointing out here: 1) To Stewart Johnson - we pay the LOWEST taxes in the EU hence some of the worst services. 2) The CIT has no statutory powers so no one needs to worry about big brother just yet. These ideas are not new it's just the research and technology is beginning to build up a head of steam. 3) Has anyone actually considered how this could be implemented practically and politically? It would be very hard to implement on both those fronts. 4) No one is talking about this happening across the country - there are a number of cases where it is possible to implement what is essentially a toll system - London is the obvious case study. Manchester and Leeds would be others. If the money goes to fund better public transport services then the idea has merit certainly. The comments on this page do make me smile however, it seems many of you want better public transport. Great. Unfortunately about 75% don't want to pay for it, make any sacrifices or lifestyle alterations for it and basically get it for nothing - especially without paying taxes for it. So how's the Government supposed to address this crucial issue??? I work in transport research and this avenue has to be explored but as usual it looks like we Brits want something for nothing.
Neil, UK

If all of the money raised from taxing the motorist had been spent on roads we could have had a far better road system and much less congestion. Free moving traffic produces less pollution than traffic stationery in a traffic jam. The answer to the congestion problem is to build more roads and to reverse the recent trend of reducing capacity by creating little used bus lanes and bottlenecks. Any driver who keeps an eye on his/her petrol consumption knows that the rate of petrol consumption is higher in stop-go traffic than it is in free moving traffic. If petrol consumption is higher then there must be more pollution. In my childhood we did not have a car. We used public transport bicycles and shanks pony. I do not want to go back to that. My car is to me essential. There are many things I would give up before my car. The government will not price people off the road without creating a great deal of discontent.
Peter Lucas, England

Let's give this scheme a go

Richard N, UK
What annoys me in rush hour is the sheer number of parents driving their kids to school. Put them on the bus!!!!
Wendy, UK

I travel through London by car all the time, but only on business so I'll get my employer to pick up the tab. For the good of Londoners let's give this scheme a go and deal with its problems as they arise. If it really is a madcap scheme going nowhere we can always dump it later. I voted for Livingstone - now let's give him a chance to make a real difference.
Richard N, UK

If these charges go ahead, what happens to people who visit London? Will toll booths be set up at the border of this no-go zone to allow visitors inside the 'London Wall'?
David Patrick, Southampton, UK

It's about time we were discouraged from commuting 100 miles a day. It's all very well living in the sticks and enjoying the rural idyll while maintaining your earning power but it just isn't common sense. It wrecks rural communities, causes all sorts of dirt, noise and danger and wastes two hours of your time EVERY DAY! Long distance commuters, get a life! Road charging and congestion taxes are an excellent idea - they work in France and keep their cities vibrant and lively. Bring on the tolls, I say!
Max Blinkhorn, UK

I suspect that we are not the only family that will be affected in this way

Rohan Nauth-Misir, UK
I work as a transplant surgeon at UCLH and my wife as a Cancer Therapy Radiographer at St Bartholomew's. My wife also brings (and takes home) our two young children to a central London school each day. We will both be affected by congestion charging. It will add 2500 to our yearly bills to allow us the privilege to work in London. If it is introduced then we and our children will have to leave our jobs and look elsewhere. I suspect that we are not the only family that will be affected in this way and I feel that central London hospitals may lose many staff.
Rohan Nauth-Misir, UK

What do we expect from a government that appoints a minister who cannot drive as the head of the transport dept...
Caron, England

I object, as a Londoner, to being charged extra to drive in my own town! Sutton (and much of south London), where I live does not have access to the tube, Connex (or whoever) are cutting back on trains, and I work in central London. This tax pre-supposes that the people who are driving in London are mostly doing it through choice but it is often because the buses and trains etc do not go where we want at the time we want. Also, even at 5, it will still be cheaper for me to drive my car 11 miles to work than pay 9.80 in fares. This won't work Ken!
Roger, England

How many of the critics of public transport actually ever use it? In London, despite all the criticisms, the public transport system is pretty good. Outside of the morning rush hour, the tube is quick, pretty reliable and not especially crowded. Buses are frequent and, even in rush hour, on most routes you can get a seat. I use public transport everyday - it is quicker, cheaper and less stressful than car transport. Tax the motorists off the road, and make buses even faster for the rest of us.
Andy, London

Andy of London - you may be right in your comments about London's public transport, in fact I would agree with you. Do not, however, extrapolate your experience of London to the rest of the country. Try using public transport in North Cornwall, and then you will know why many people are dependent on their cars. Put the "integrated public transport" in place throughout the country before car users are punished for daring to use their car.

Rather than charging people to drive, the authorities should make public transport more attractive

Jayne, UK
One of the problems in London is that much of the traffic will simply be moved to the outskirts of the congestion zone. These suburbs, where many people live, will be solid with traffic as people drive around the edges of the zone. Rather than charging people to drive, the authorities should make public transport more attractive. It needs to be less crowded, less expensive, cleaner and more reliable to get people out of their cars. I don't know what tube line Andy uses, but my tube this morning made me late for work. It was dirty, overcrowded and I had to stand squashed under the armpits of someone with BO! Another overlooked fact is that the tube is already at capacity at peak times. If you force people out of their cars and onto the tube, the tube wouldn't be able to cope.
Jayne, UK

This is nothing to do with congestion or civil liberties. It's straight greed. Livingstone knows that people have no choice in some cases and have to drive into London. So he knows there's a guaranteed revenue stream. A flat 5 fee is only the beginning. This will be 10 within a year as Ken will tells us: "The 5 fee doesn't appear to be working." Then he'll expand the area to include the M25. And where exactly does he propose this miracle 15% reduction in traffic will go? We can't use public transport - it doesn't work. We can't use our cars because we'll be taxed (again) for that. Welcome to eight square miles of ghetto (or London as it used to be called). The whole 'fleecing the motorist' thing is one of the reasons I left the UK.
Chris Longhurst, USA

I think that after all of Ken's incessant bleating about PPP on the tube (which I have to say he was right about), it's funny that he should do exactly the same with congestion charging. Force it through, when everyone in the capital is against it, and most can't afford it. It's a hell of a thing to be doing, gambling with the success of one of the largest cities on the planet.
Gavyn, UK

Perhaps the best way to cut back on unnecessary car journeys would be to charge the first mile moved during the hour, with no further charges until the start of the next journey. If drivers got a bill for moving off their driveway to nip down to the shop, school, or pub they might think twice. Meantime the rest of taxation could be via road fuel tax, on a pay as you go basis. The technology would be simple and would not need to know where the vehicle was, therefore no human rights problems!
Barry P, England

This is a great idea for London

Carl, UK
This is a great idea for London since it already has a transport system (the tube) that gives commuters easy access to all areas of the city. However, until the rest of the UK has similar systems it will not work.
Carl, UK

What London needs are a number of car parks on the periphery for commuters and a railway station offering a direct connection into central London at an affordable price. Very little of Red Ken's taxes on the motorist will be invested in transport of any kind.
R Sobrany, UK

There is one easy answer to all of this: buy a motorbike or scooter - neither will pay Red Ken's charge. As for the tree huggers, a few of whom have posted to this forum, I ask everyone else to remember the good old days once London is being choked by the fumes of thousands of extra buses, mostly empty.
Ian Thomas, England

This isn't very far short of mass electronic tagging

Rodger Edwards, UK
There are basic civil liberties issues associated with this madcap scheme. The tax aspects of the proposals are bad enough, but I am certain most people would not approve of the idea of the Government knowing where they driving at a given time. This isn't very far short of mass electronic tagging.
Rodger Edwards, UK

The government is not interested in reducing congestion or pollution, just making more profit. If they were serious they would reduce the cost of public transport so it would be cheaper to use than the car, therefore encouraging people to use public transport.
Ruth, UK

Pollution will be increased

C Jenkins, England
There are many reasons why this will not should happen:
1) We already pay 90% tax on petrol, so why should we pay more to drive on the roads we already paid for?
2) It is a restriction of free movement, and is the worst example of big brother government trying to control the population.
3) The traffic jams would be moved back onto the smaller local roads that the larger trunk roads were built to alleviate in the first place.
4) The fact that cars will be moved from one road to another less suitable road proves that pollution will not be reduced by these measures but increased.
5) Try forcing me to fit such a device to my car! I feel very strongly about being numbered and told where I can and can't go like a criminal.
C Jenkins, England

I passed my driving test in December. I didn't want to take it but the incentive of cutting the journey time to commute to my new job was to great to miss. Instead of a 30 minute walk, 30 minute bus ride and 25 minute walk to work (seven miles away) it now takes me 25 minutes in my car. If there was a bus service to my work I would take it. I've always travelled on public transport before. But there isn't and the idea of taxing me to travel to work in my car when I can't get a bus is ridiculous. If they improved public transport I would use it. So don't tax me for a situation I can't change.
Rebecca, UK

Selfish drivers cause the very congestion they complain about

Randy, UK
We're talking unnecessary journeys here. Take those out of the equation and you have more freedom to move for buses, for example. Journey times for those who have no choice will be reduced. Mothers will put their little darlings on a school bus. Overall, it doesn't take a genius to see that single occupancy cars against multi-occupancy buses just doesn't add up. Selfish drivers, too stupid to see they cause the very congestion they complain about.
Randy, UK

A car is an absolute necessity for some people. I drive around 100 miles per day to and from work. I can't move nearer to work because I'm freelance and my place of work changes regularly. I can't use public transport because it takes far too long - the network is designed to take people in and out of major towns, but not across country. Stop hitting the motorist, and improve public transport so people can use it.
Richard, UK

Why doesn't the government just increase fuel tax? The machinery for collecting it is already there, everyone has to fill up so it can't be avoided, no massive increase in public spending on complicated technology is needed (with our record it will take 10 years to get right and cost billions!) and those that use the most pay the most. Whilst they are at it, why not make people display an MOT disc and insurance disc as well? Road tax can be made minimal to help pay for the upkeep of the DVLC who should also integrate the records to help tell the police not only the registered keeper but also if the vehicle is taxed or not. What could be simpler? I can't think of a single drawback that cannot be overcome apart from convincing old Johnny Two Jags!
Philip Heafford, England

What we need is a good school bus system

Scott, UK
It doesn't take a genius to realise that when the schools break up for holidays the level of congestion suddenly becomes acceptable and the time taken to get to work is cut dramatically. What we need is a good school bus system and maybe lanes on every road that are blocked off for motorcycle use only. I for one would definitely ride a motorbike if I didn't have to contend with the dangers of cars on the road.

Once again, the government of the day is creating a better service for those with money and hitting the poor where it hurts. When will it learn and realise that most of society's problems stem from poverty? Eliminate that and you create a better and safer society overnight.
Scott, UK

Tolls will not cut congestion in the short term. Car use is intertwined with the way people live now

Max, Scotland
Tolls will not cut congestion in the short term. Car use is intertwined with the way people live now. People will have to move house or move job to cut their car use. Congestion is a good thing because it prevents speeding, cuts noise and sets an absolute limit on pollution and traffic on other roads. More off peak cars will be a disaster for noise and pollution. Here in Edinburgh whole streets are closed. Not even rich people can kill pedestrians on a closed road.
Max, Scotland

This is a potentially excellent solution to the problem on London's streets

John Harnett, England
This is a potentially excellent solution to the problem on London's streets. Many, but not all, car users will be infuriated as we can see by some of the postings already but they are suppressing high levels of frustration in order to use their cars at all at the moment. I only hope the political will is there to persevere and solve the real problem of our unnecessarily overcrowded roads.
John Harnett, England

The real winner here will be the environment

The real winner here will be the environment. I live in a big city and transport is generally good. I have never felt the need to learn to drive. I'm sure a lot of people in towns and cities across the UK could use public transport effectively - it's just that they have become accustomed to the convenience of a car. I would rather see a tax increase that led to a decrease in cars on the road and more investment into public transport. Maybe then the few cyclists on the road could take their dust masks off.

Public transport is not a serious alternative any more

I'm afraid the Commission for Integrated Transport is living in cuckoo land, not the UK. Not only are they discussing monitoring where people are around the UK, they are also suggesting people should be penalised for having to travel during busy periods to make a living. A scheme like this would be a restriction of free movement. How would they charge foreign tourists and lorries for using our roads? Or would they go free and yet again penalise our lorry drivers for using their own roads? Public transport is not a viable or even a serious alternative any more.

That's fine, as long as the government forces my employer to allow me to turn up after rush hour or provides a cheap, safe mode of public transport that doesn't involve getting up an hour earlier and sitting at various stations in the freezing cold.
John, UK

I think it is a secret plan to make living in Britain so expensive and unpleasant people will emigrate, thus less traffic. Let's face it, fresh motoring charges, NHS in ruins and company pension schemes shut down because of Brown's removal of tax incentives - might as well go and live somewhere sunny!
S Harrison, England

Public transport contributes to my health problems

Jo Perrett, UK
For many people, the car is the only viable way to get to work. I only work seven miles from home, but to get there on public transport takes between two and three hours, which in turn contributes to my health problems. Travelling outside of rush hour is unworkable for many people, and as someone said earlier, people will already try to avoid as much congestion as possible. To tax the motorist even further is obscene.
Jo Perrett, UK

If I remember correctly from the fuel crisis, less than 10% of all the money raised from road fund, fuel tax etc is spent on the entire transport system (roads, trains tubes etc). Perhaps the government should think about spending a fairer percentage of this money on transport before charging us even more for what is noting more than a disgrace compared to transport systems elsewhere in Europe!
Paul, England

I cannot ever envisage going back to London to face the torture of public transport there

Chris Powell, Germany
I worked in London for 18 years before moving to the continent. In Munich where I now live, the public transport is so good, my car has not been out of the garage for nearly two months. I cannot ever envisage going back to London to face the torture of public transport there. This does not mean, however, that the roads in Munich are traffic free, far from it, but to tax people who have no alternative for getting to work seems daft. As mentioned elsewhere, tax incentives for teleworking are a much better idea and my US colleagues tell me it is now very popular in the States and indeed, I see promising signs here in Germany.
Chris Powell, Germany

Would Mr Blair be paying for the GPS boxes? I certainly can't afford to. The last time I tried to go anywhere on a bus I ended up walking several miles along a dark pathway with my nine-month old daughter in my arms to get home. The bus didn't come and next time I'm taking my car.
Chris, UK

Surely an easier way to ban congestion would be to prevent lorries from travelling during the rush hour? Although my guess is that the unions would protest and they would all be exempt from the charges.
Mark E, England

As unpleasant as it may be to make driving expensive, it's the only way to reduce the volume

Dave Bevington, Canada
I moved to Canada from the West Midlands six years ago and traffic conditions contributed to my decision to move here. In my opinion Britain's roads are the best in the world. Unfortunately the sheer volume of traffic results in premature deterioration of their structure and the ridiculous delays that British motorists have to endure. More and wider roads are not an option. Asking people not to travel won't work so as unpleasant as it may be to make driving expensive, it's the only way to reduce the volume.
Dave Bevington, Canada

 Congestion Tax
Should motorists pay?



3969 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

26 Feb 02 | England
Motorists to pay London toll
18 Feb 02 | England
Road toll could be delayed
06 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Tories attack 'traffic stealth tax'
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Talking Point stories