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Last Updated: Wednesday, 26 February, 2003, 08:43 GMT
Congestion charges: Your verdict ?
London's congestion charge scheme faced its first major challenge on Monday when most schools returned from half-term holidays.

An RAC spokeswoman said: "While slightly busier than last week, traffic is still flowing relatively easily in and around London.

Is London's new congestion charge a good idea? Are there any real benefits? Should there be a similar system in the rest of the UK?

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your e-mails. Read selection of your comments

Air quality and protecting the environment is more important than car travel
Russ, UK
London has several underground lines, several regional railway lines, thousands of buses and taxis and lots of cycle paths. OK they may be crowded sometimes, but why exactly do people need to drive into London to get to work with infrastructure like this available to them? The UK survived in the 1960's and 70's without this much reliance on the car so I am sure it can cope now! More charges please in other stinking and filthy towns. Air quality and protecting the environment is more important than car travel. Get up earlier in the morning to get to work you lazy lot!
Russ, UK

Ken, what a great money spinner! Does this mean that you are priming us for a congestion charge on public transport? I say this because of the number of times various station platforms have had to be closed down due to overcrowding!
Tats, UK

I don't believe this! Now we have people on this page moaning about the efficiency and availability of public transport - the London underground system and buses. Ok, so track maintenance work causes a headache but so do road repairs. Both are essential. However, the greater the demand for public transport the more there will be pressure on it to expand, improve and eventually become the main "people mover" in our towns and cities. Who said that change was painless?
Alan Hall, England, UK

People will just stay in their cars and pay Ken's tax
Jay, UK
If the congestion charges don't reduce traffic levels by at least 50% then it's a pointless exercise and will result in nothing more than just a tax on people driving within central London. But maybe that's the whole point of it. With the state of public transport - not just in London, but throughout the country (yes, the rest of the country DOES exist) - and the extortionate prices charged, people will just stay in their cars and pay Ken's tax.
Jay, UK

Car drivers are always moaning that they pay for the roads via car and petrol tax, and cyclists use them for free. Road maintenance is paid for out of council tax, paid by everybody. Car drivers have no more right to be on the road than anyone else, and since they are responsible for clogging them up should be made to pay extra.
Dan, England

Living as I do out in the sticks of sunny Lancashire I have been watching the London Project with interest. I currently work in Liverpool which obviously means a daily commute to and from a major city. However public transport is not an option. For example from home there are 2 buses a week (both go to ASDA supermarket) and no train station. The nearest train station is 4 miles away but to get to Liverpool will take 3 different trains. Why should I have to pay extra to go into the city? I already pay tax on fuel, tax on the purchase of my car, road fund tax, tax on my car insurance. When will it all end?
Dale Errock, UK

I am a driver and a motorcyclist and whilst I feel something needed to be done about the congestion, the timing could have been better. Would it not have made more sense to ensure public transport was running effectively first? I also think the issue of fraudulent entry needs to be addressed as I have already been the victim of individuals trying to steal my number plates since the introduction of the scheme. Thanks a lot Ken, now I have trouble getting to work and my car's vandalised!
Iain, England

I have no choice but to travel on public transport and not only is the Silverlink from Barking to Gospel Oak dangerously overcrowded but the Northern Line is even more unbearable than usual and from much earlier on in the day.
Susan, England

The tube is now a total nightmare
Ian, UK
Great idea except the tube is now a total nightmare. A combination of congestion charge and Central line closure has caused massive overcrowding on the Victoria line. Quite frankly, the dangers of a tube disaster on this line must easily outweigh the spurious safety reasons which have forced the shutdown of the Central line.
Ian, UK

Anything which contributes to weakening the dependence of the UK (and World) economy on "cars" has just got to be worthwhile in the long run although I do accept that there is no gain without pain!
Alan Hall, UK

The cyclists say "great" for a road system they don't pay for or abide by the rules. Does the congestion charge cover the cost of installation, administration and support of the system? Without the school holidays, how effective has this been? Let's be objective and not just listen to the "wet" brigade.
Andy Brimson, England

London belongs to ALL of us
John Norris, London. UK
Those people who suggest that London is 'theirs' are correct. London belongs to ALL of us and Ken is doing his best to give it back to ALL of us. Incidentally, I am a car driver, black cab user and a user of London buses and the tube so I win ALL round. Thanks Ken.
John Norris, London. UK

So everyone reckons that the congestion charge has been a success - the roads in central London are clearer and news reports show free-flowing traffic and happy cyclists. Marvellous. Well I'd love it if Mr Livingstone had tried to make his way round the North Circular yesterday or today. My usual 40 minute journey from Muswell Hill to Brentford took 1.5 hours - the roads were jammed. So it's great for the politicians working in central London, but spare a thought for the thousands who don't, and now have twice as many cars using the already clogged peripheral roads to get around the CC zone.
Mark Elliott, London, UK

There are plenty of alternatives to the car already in place. London buses have all along had loads of spare capacity even during rush hours. Now they move more quickly and reliably. What's YOUR feeble excuse for not using them, lazybones?
John, London UK

The roads are just as busy and I have noticed that the traffic light sequences around Victoria/Westminster have changed, they are longer on green allowing traffic to flow easier and pedestrians waiting longer to cross the roads.
Trish Dunville-McCombe, England

To: James W, UK. It doesn't matter whether its a car, public transport, taxis, emergency services or whatever. A vehicle is a vehicle! People need to learn to be less selfish, in less of a hurry, less greedy, and to slow down. Then the quality of their life and yours and mine will improve.
Alan Hall, England, UK

The reason we notice green lights more might have something to do with the fact that less cars equal less times in standstill traffic. Well done Ken - Its about time!
Sandy, UK

We pay ever increasing road tax
George, UK

Since when have car drivers ever used the roads for free? We (car drivers) already pay massive taxes on fuel, very little of which finds its way back into the transport infrastructure - although I'm sure some of it is used to provide subsidised rail fares for people like yourself. We pay ever increasing road tax and other crafty stealth taxes such as those levied on Insurance Premiums (so the government actually profits from the increased premiums resulting from car crime) and the 'perk' of company car ownership. Please get your facts straight and don't be so quick to have a go at car drivers. Without the 40 billion or so the Chancellor wrings out of us each year, your train fare would be a lot more than 5.
George, UK

Firstly it will be impossible to tell whether conjestion charging is successful until Ken's 2 month ban on non-essential roadworks is over, such as those at Old Street that held the east of London (Buses included at a standstill for months) Secondly, it already costs up to around 40 to park in central London for a day, is a 5 conjestion charge really going to deter the people who can afford that? Thirdly, the people who suffer through this is those Londoners who live close to the zone and can no longer afford to take their car to the closest supermarket or on other essential journeys.
Emily, UK

Its very interesting to see the number of "now I can get around..." comments. Who are these people that think London is 'theirs' and everyone else was in the way?! You ALL caused the congestion!
Liz, UK

I live in Manchester and use public transport to travel to and from work every day. I've been watching the London situation for a while and can't wait for it to be implemented throughout the country. I have two observations to make about traffic congestion. I can take one of two routes into work, one passes a high school and one passes a motorway junction and a primary school.
My first observation is that once you have passed either of the two schools the traffic decreases dramatically and last week, when the schools were on half term, it took nearly half the time the journey normally takes. Secondly, 95% of the traffic that passes while I am waiting at the bus stop is one person in each car. Each bus can carry between approximately 50-70 people, can you imagine if that number of cars were off the road. Problem solved.
Jo Krasij, UK

Long overdue and at long last we can now move around central London at a reasonable pace
John Norris, UK
Long overdue and at long last we can now move around central London by bus or black cab at a reasonable pace. I would consider extending the zone to the M25 boundary and additionally banning on street parking within 1/4 mile of any school between 8am -9am and 3pm - 4pm during term time.
John Norris, London UK

The congestion charging is so short sighted. What we need to do is make the zone smaller and make it permit holders only: emergency vehicles, delivery drivers, taxis, public transport and residents only. It works elsewhere and would force people onto public transport. The reason people don't use buses is because they are so slow. This would solve the problem.
James W, UK

I heard an interview last week with someone who was clear that the congestion charge would fail after the half-term break. The same woman was interviewed this morning and is now saying that it will take a year before we realise what a failure it is. Surely if it lasts a year it can only be considered a success!
Simon Cooper, UK

Why should drivers get to use the roads for free? I have to pay nearly 5 a day just to use the train to get to work. Some people can't afford a car, but you never hear people calling for train fares to be abolished!
Robin McMorran, UK

In response to Robin Mc Morran, drivers do not exactly use the roads for free. For every 1 worth of fuel that we put in our tanks, 80p goes to the Government. We also pay road tax, and VAT on servicing, parts and repairs. The British motorist is a cash cow as it is, so why should we pay more?
Dan, UK

Robin McMorran, UK, drivers do pay to use the roads via road tax, petrol tax. Why should we pay even more tax to subsidise public transport?
carol, england

The last thing we need on our overburdened transport system are thousands of displaced drivers
Giles Weston, UK
As someone who just uses public transport, I think it's a terrible thing. The last thing we need on our overburdened, outdated, run-down transport system are thousands of displaced drivers. If they were happy being stuck in gridlock before, leave them to it.
Giles Weston, England

Whilst I do not claim to agree with all of Ken Livingstone's policies I think this one is long overdue and he should be commended for having the guts to persevere with this scheme in the face of its unpopularity. I hope other cities will be suitably inspired to follow his lead.
Keith Whitten, UK

Yes I support congestion charging to discourage unnecessary car journeys and let the real traffic flow.
Morris Bradley, UK

At last the beginning of the end for the selfish "I have a car and must be allowed to drive anywhere at any time" attitude. I can't wait for it to come to Canterbury where I live soon.
James Styles, England

To James Styles, England, absolutely! I couldn't agree more! Let's have this scheme introduced in ALL cities and towns of populations of 40,000 and over.
Alan Hall, England

My journey to work today was very fast - very unusual and not sure whether it is due to the charge, but I am happy!
Emily, UK

It is like a vicious circle - if we don't charge then we do not have the money to improve public transport, but in imposing the charge people have to travel by bus, tube, and at present these services just can't cope.
Hannah Green, England

To introduce the congestion charge is actually shifting the responsibility of government
Wei Wang, UK
I don't think congestion charge is a good idea. It is the responsibility for the government to ensure the traffic will go smoothly, not the drivers. The drivers have already paid heavy taxes and other fares, so they have to fulfil their duties. To introduce the congestion charge is actually shifting the responsibility of government to drivers again, and it is unfair, not only to drivers but also to other tax payers.
Wei Wang, UK

For weeks all we've been hearing are doom and gloom merchants professing disaster when poor old Ken's scheme hit the streets. Well, bah humbug to the lot of them - well done Ken!
Amanda Veal, UK

Provided that all of the money raised goes into public transport, it is a very good idea. It is about the only transport policy that has actually proved effective.
Calum, UK

This scheme should be scrapped and not rolled out across the UK. It is a tax on poorer drivers who have little choice particularly when employers insist that they have a car for the job. Public transport is at least a choice in London but elsewhere public transport is far from the level of the capital city.
Graham Robertson, UK

I would support an extension of the charges
Michael, UK
I think the congestion charges are a good idea. Last week, showed a significant reduction in traffic, however, the litmus test will be with the resumption of schools across London. Today, I experienced a slight increase in traffic, however, my journey time so far into work has been reduced -on average - by 25%. If this continues, for the foreseeable future, I would support an extension of the charges.
Michael, London, UK

It's interesting to see how well it's worked.... and for me, at least, London is already a more pleasant place to be. Give it a month or two to completely bed in, then let's extend it! Another zone, outside this one, with a smaller charge...
Paul Bernal, UK

I think the congestion charge is a brilliant idea. I praise Ken's politcal courage and vision in implementing the scheme and look forward to recent proposals to extend the scheme both to other cities within the UK but also within London itself. I believe this policy is the first step in the right direction in encouraging people to leave their cars at home and use the excellent public services we have on offer. Well done red Ken.
Andrew Grant, UK

As a cyclist it is a great idea. Perhaps we could make the centre of town more cyclist friendly with more cycle lanes and better road maintenance so that there are not as many pot holes!
Daniel Richards, UK

Whilst I have no objection in principle to regulating traffic by charging, before it was implemented, there should be adequate alternatives in place. The lack of good alternatives is a major cause of the problem and this is due to a chronic lack of investment over many, many years in public transport. Why should the motorist have to pick up the tab for this? A side issue that this raises is when will MPs be held accountable for causing such long term problems?
Paul Luper, UK

Apparently the Romans are to blame. So sue them under European Law of Human rights to get your money back!!
Neil Small, Scotland

There are alternatives to driving, one is to use a bus - and guess what, with fewer cars on the roads buses are faster! Well done Ken, polluter pays, everyone else benefits.
Stella, UK

Anything which curbs (pun not intended) the lazy, selfish driver is welcome. Cars are too cheap to buy, run and own. A very substantial "Environment tax" should be imposed on all car sales like it is in Denmark.
Alan Hall, UK

Strange how the traffic lights in Central London now appear to spend far longer on green since this came in. Just an observation though.

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