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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 15:43 GMT 16:43 UK
Spluttering start to congestion charge
Kings Cross station
Will Livingstone's plans have an impact on congestion?
Motorists prepared to brave central London's daily commuter crawl are facing another hurdle - a 5 daily charge.

Under transport plans unveiled by London Mayor Ken Livingstone on Tuesday, any driver entering a central zone during peak times will pay the charge or face a heftier fine.

People will just find ways around it

Newsagent Patrick O'Brien

The initial zoned area being introduced in 2003 will span the River Thames, taking in the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Southwark, Lambeth, the City of Westminster and the City of London.

But do people see this plan as an effective means of persuading people to abandon their cars and train, bus or bike it?

The busy commuter area around King's Cross station will fall within the new zone, but people there have mixed views about how it will work.

Patrick O'Brien runs a newsagent stand just outside the station and says he needs his van to drive into work from north London's Swiss Cottage.
Patrick O'Brien
Patrick O'Brien: Still needs his car despite the jams

He said: "I have to leave at 4.30am so I can't use public transport that early in the morning. And I also need it for deliveries through the morning."

As an early riser Mr O'Brien would escape the 5 tariff but he believes that other drivers will find ways of dodging it.

"I think motorists pay enough. People will just find ways around it. They'll park just outside the zone, so it won't really solve the problem."

Mini-cab drivers, public transport, motorcyclists and certain transport companies would be exempt from the scheme.

Taxi driver Brian Chapman, from Chingford, Essex, has been driving in central London for 41 years and has seen the traffic gridlock deteriorate.

But he remains sceptical about the plans to charge.

"I don't think it will make a blind bit of difference - even if they were to charge 100 a day."

Management consultant John Andrews from Windsor, Berkshire, feels a 5 charge will not deter people intent on using their cars.
John Andrews
John Andrews would like to use his car more

Mr Andrews, who occasionally brings his car into London for business, admits he would use his car more often "if the traffic wasn't so bad".

"Economically speaking a 5 charge plus your petrol is probably much cheaper than using the train. And cars are much more comfortable".

Ashlee Liddell, from Hertfordshire, who was joining the lengthy queue for taxis at King's Cross station with her husband and young daughter, said she favoured a congestion charge if motorists had a viable alternative.

She said: "People don't mind paying for something that's good and efficient.

"But given the state of the Underground and public transport here, I don't see how they can ask motorists to pay more."

One coach driver at King's Cross, who did not wished to be named, ferries commuters from Kent into central London every day.
Alison Bennett
Alison Bennett: Cutting pollution a key aim

He would favour the charge if it would help reduce the traffic but he wants exemptions.

"My wife has cystic fibrosis and I regularly have to take her into the Royal Marsden Hospital for treatment. I don't think in those circumstances drivers should pay."

Plans for the congestion charge are opposed by many UK local councils, who believe it would be cumbersome or unworkable to implement.

Alison Bennett, a trainee priest from Nottingham, says there are already a number of worthwhile schemes in her city to cut traffic and improve the environment.

"In Nottingham, there's a buddy scheme which encourages people to car-share, and there's a regular Green Day which encourages car drivers to take public transport for the day."

I try to use my car as little as possible

Wine expert Oz Clarke
One confirmed public transport convert is the wine expert Oz Clarke.

Sitting on a Circle Line tube heading for Paddington station, he said: "I try to use my car as little as possible in London, I'll always take the Tube wherever possible.

"I don't know much about the details of Ken Livingstone's plans but anything that cuts down on traffic - I'm all for that."

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Drivers face 5 London toll
23 Mar 01 | UK Politics
Councils shun congestion charging
28 Jul 00 | UK
London drivers face car tax
26 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Congestion charging faces jam
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Mixed response to transport plans
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Huge cash boost for road and rail
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Transport 2010 at a glance
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