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The BBC's Tom Symonds
"Ken Livingstone's remedy for London is undeniably radical"
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The BBC's Jane O'Brien
talks to Helen Holland of Bristol Transport Executive
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Ken Livingstone
discusses the introduction of congestion charges
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Tony Travers, dir. of Greater London Group
"It is possible it might work"
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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 14:29 GMT 15:29 UK
Drivers face 5 London toll

Motorists will be charged 5 a day to bring their cars into central London under plans unveiled by the capital's mayor Ken Livingstone.

Congestion charging, to be introduced by January 2003, is the centrepiece of the mayor's 10-year transport strategy which also proposes major improvements in London's Tube and rail networks.

Mr Livingstone said major road-building plans to ease congestion would be financially and environmentally "unacceptable", and he predicted that congestion charging would cut traffic in central London by 15%.

There is a real danger that the mayor will cause even more traffic gridlock in London

Edmund King
RAC Foundation
London's scheme could pave the way for other authorities to bring in congestion schemes with Bristol, Leicester and Edinburgh watching closely.

Greater Manchester, Nottingham, Cambridge, Derby, Durham and Birmingham have all shown an interest in finding ways to tackle congestion.

Mr Livingstone also confirmed Transport for London would be taking the government to court later in July over ministers' plans to push through a part-privatisation (PPP) of the Underground.

Congestion charges

The congestion charge will apply on weekdays between 7am and 7pm and will be enforced by digital cameras able to read number plates.

Local residents will be given a 90% reduction while the disabled, the emergency services, motorcyclists, minicabs, school buses and public transport will all be exempt.

Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone hopes to get the charges in place by 2003
Responding to criticisms that penalties were being inflicted on motorists before improvements in public transport had been delivered, the mayor said a flat-rate 70p bus fare would be introduced at the same time as congestion charging came into force.

He also promised a year-on-year rise in bus capacity and major improvements to bus routes and bus lane enforcement.

Drivers will pay the charges on the day or in advance through garages, newsagents and shops, by post, telephone, or the internet. Evaders face a 100 fine.

Peak times

Around a million people work in central London, about one in seven of whom commutes by car.

At peak times it is estimated more than 50,000 vehicles an hour enter the city centre.

The scheme aims to raise around 200m a year, much of which will be ploughed back into improving transport in the capital.

Vince Christie, of the Local Government Association, said London's proposals were the "biggest and most complex" of any suggested in Britain, and could act as an "interesting example" for others.

Electronic tolling

In Derbyshire, a scheme is in place to tackle tourism congestion generated by the popularity of the Peak District.

In Durham, there is a scheme to try to ease traffic near the city centre.

Bristol is proposing electronic tolling at 14 points around its city centre.

Birmingham City Council is understood to favour congestion charging over an earlier idea of charging motorists who park at work 5 a day.

'Unworkable and unfair'

But shadow transport minister Bernard Jenkin said London's congestion charge was "untested, unpopular, unworkable and unfair".

He remained sceptical about whether it would reduce pollution, and added "improvements in public transport must come first".

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, warned of the potential risks involved.

He said: "There is a real danger that the mayor will cause even more traffic gridlock in London, with motorists taking alternative routes to avoid the charging area if viable alternatives are not improved."

Tube's uncertain future

The government and the mayor are still in dispute over the management structure and the involvement of private companies in re-developing the London's crumbling Tube network.

In his strategy, Mr Livingstone proposes extensions for the East London Line by 2006, improvements in the Thameslink rail service by 2008 and Crossrail links across the capital by 2011.

He also proposes to limit fare rises to the rate of inflation.

The mayor also acknowledges that his 10-year plan is dependent on increased funding from the government, around 300m a year in the mid-term.

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See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK
Q&A: Congestion charges
28 Jul 00 | UK
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Congestion charging faces jam
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Mixed response to transport plans
20 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Huge cash boost for road and rail
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