Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Tuesday, 17 July, 2001, 08:03 GMT 09:03 UK
Are congestion charges the answer to gridlock?

A central plank of the new transport strategy for London is a 5 daily charge for motorists coming into the city at peak times.

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, hopes that this will reduce traffic in town by 15% and raise up to 200m a year, most of which will be used to improve public transport.

But critics of the scheme say it is unworkable and unfair. They also claim it will probably lead to more congestion as people try to avoid the charging areas.

Do you drive into central London? Would such a charge deter you? Do you live in a city that already has them? Do they work?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Whilst I applaud the Mayor for his ideals, I have to live in the real world

Kate, UK
No one appears to have mentioned one particular sector of society who will be affected. The small business community. My husband and I run a successful office refurbishment company and at least two of our vehicles are in the capital every day often popping in and out of the proposed area - is that one charge or a multitude? Obviously we cannot run the business using public transport so we will have no choice but to give in and pay up. Ultimately the charges would have to be passed on and we would not be alone in doing this. The price of all goods and services will eventually rise. Whilst I applaud the Mayor for his ideals, I unfortunately have to live in the real world.
Kate, UK

I work in London and have two main points: 1. rush hour travel on trains or tubes is already a claustrophobic nightmare. If this is really meant to get cars off the road, where are the ex-drivers meant to go? I do use public transport and, if I didn't think this was a cynical ploy more to do with raking in cash than reducing congestion, I would be very worried about dangerous overcrowding. 2. My (non- lucrative public sector) job often involves very early, very late, night and weekend shifts. Public transport doesn't feel safe for a woman at those times - and isn't reliable outside ordinary working hours anyway. My boss isn't going to pay for me to drive in - but I don't have any other choice, so I (and all others who work unsocial hours) will be penalised. Thanks, Ken.

Richard is mistaken if he thinks buses are clean. They are far worse than cars, have a high axle weight so cause far more damage to roads (about 5000 times more damage) and in the UK carry on average the same number of passengers as less than six cars.
Keith, UK

Already I hear talk of obscured or false number plates and non-registered cars

Lawrence Spiller, UK
Automatic Congestion Charging, like the increasing number of camera speed traps, is dependent on people having and displaying a car registration plate. Already among friends who are totally law abiding, I hear talk of obscured or false number plates and non-registered cars. Clearly relatively few false plates will enable the rest of us to claim we have been falsely charged. How can this be overcome? I think the continued misuse of number plates in this way will undermine their reliability when they are really needed - when there has been a theft, robbery or accident.

I can see a big investment in congestion charging technology going to waste as collecting the charges will be impossible without a very heavy, expensive and unacceptable intervention by the Police.
Lawrence Spiller, UK

Theoretically, city tolls are probably the best way to clear the cities of automobiles. Unfortunately, there are still far too many firms, particularly in London, that will pay the charges for their employees, in the same way as they currently provide free parking in their office car parks. It's time action was taken against the company car providers as well as the private motorist.
Scott Whitehead, Germany

There are people who, no matter how good the public transport system, need to drive into the city. Imagine if you were a builder, you'd have a van full of tools you need to use for your job. It is impossible for you to carry all your tools plus Mrs Jones's new sink, Mr Smith's new front door and the new gas fire that you had to pick up from the merchants for the mother-in-law. Add to that the fact you may need to go into the city 3,4 or even 5 times a day. That's up to 25 a day times the 5, 6, or 7 days a week you work. It comes to a cost of up to 175 per week which equates to a staggering 9100 a year, where would that money come from, by charging the customer extra?

So to anybody who thinks this city toll would be a good idea just remember that when your builder is charging you an extra 5 a day for having to drive into the city to do your new extension, or replace that antiquated gas fire in your front lounge!
Paul Eden, UK

I would be only too happy to pay 5 a go if I knew that the money was being ring-fenced for public transport improvements

Peter Barber, England
I've moved out of London, but I would be only too happy to pay 5 a go if I knew that the money was being ring-fenced for public transport improvements. But what would really solve the congestion problem (assuming current levels of travel demand) would be a segregated and CONTINUOUS bus lane network on ALL major roads across Greater London. This could probably be provided for a fraction of the cost of the Jubilee Line extension, and with greater passenger capacity. (An improved London cycle network would be very nice, too). But this must be done before introducing charges, so the Government should provide the money up front with a plan for repaying the extra from the revenues. Keep up the good work, Ken!
Peter Barber, England

I think the mayor is right in wanting to cut pollution and traffic chaos, but this is half the issue. Provide a clean, reliable and efficient public transport system and 50% of cars will be off the road tomorrow. Apply a congestion toll and you are again infringing on the liberties of people to chose the means of transport that advance their interests. The reasons behind London gridlocks is the continued failure of governments, mayors and the lot to provide a well funded, conveniently priced public transport to serve Londoners and non-Londoners. In short the charge will exacerbate the problem of traffic and pollution.
Mohamed Chebaro

Isn't it funny that socialists, who say they support the little man, the people on lower incomes, seem to think that the answer to all problems is to put a tax on them, thus hitting the very people they claim to support.
David, Spain

I live in a street in Tower Hamlets less than 200 metres from the boundary of the zone. The increased traffic passing my kids' primary school so as to avoid the charging zone is going to be really dangerous for my kids and the others at our school. The Highway is already one of London's most dangerous roads and traffic levels towards Tower Bridge are likely to soar. The zone should be extended to encompass most of Tower Hamlets at least as far as the Blackwall Tunnel otherwise our streets are going to become some of London's largest car parks.
Danny, London

I'm with Ken

Martyn Williams, UK
I live and work in London, and although I usually use buses and tubes, I do drive in occasionally. But I'd rather pay the occasional charge when I do have to drive, and not get stuck in endless traffic jams, than have the "freedom" to drive in as long I as was prepared to sit sweltering in queues for hours. So I'm with Ken.
Martyn Williams, London, UK

Do we want less congestion? Yes. Are cities better places to be without cars in every available nook and cranny? Yes. Will people leave their cars behind voluntarily? No. We may not like the thought of paying for the luxury of taking a car into someone else's environment, but I can't think of a better way of doing it. Let's stop bitching about the thing, bite the bullet and start making motorists pay for their unwanted intrusion into the lives of city dwellers.
Neil Kermode, UK

I don't care how much they charge as long as it gets rid of the ever-present queue of cars along Newgate to St Paul's. I nearly choke to death on all the car fumes along there every day, and wince every time I see a poor cyclist trying to squeeze through his/her cycle lane that a kindly driver has veered into because they can see a two inch gap 100 yards up the road!
Nat, UK

Once I got my scooter, my journey to work dropped to 25 minutes

Sixy, England
A year ago, I traded in my car for a scooter. I always used the tube into work, a one-hour journey, and my car at nights and weekends. Not only was it sitting there costing me while it was unused, but sometimes I'd not use it for fear of not being able to park when I returned. Once I got my scooter, my journey to work dropped to 25 minutes, and I use it all the time. 8 per week for petrol also puts a gloss on the situation. Well done Ken for exempting bikes, but a simple charge will not sort out the problem. Where has all the money gone?
Sixy, London, England

It's a good, but half-baked idea. Ken should have gone further by extending the boundary to all inner London boroughs or even further out. As it stands the perimeter will be gridlocked. The real problem is Home Counties commuters driving in where they have a real alternative - the train.
P Williams, London

Has Ken travelled by train from St Albans to King's Cross recently at peak times? I recommend he do so, toilets overflowing down the corridor, no seats available no air conditioning in summer. Let him put the charge up to 10.00, it's still cheaper to travel by private car than rail, even if the car is a gas-guzzler, and it's a damn sight more comfortable.
Richard, UK

I support the congestion charges

Frank, UK
A few points spring to mind: It seems to be fashionable to slag off the public transport system, but the system's not the problem - it's the sheer number of people coming into London. I get the train into Waterloo and use the tube and a bus every day. It's always packed, it's no fun, but what do people expect? The frequency of trains and tubes are excellent, and delays are very occasional. Any measure that reduces the number of cars in the capital will automatically make buses and taxis more efficient, regardless of the funding issue. I support the congestion charges, but London needs to consider this: if you squeeze people out of one area, they appear somewhere else. There is very little room for overspill, except using more motorbikes, cycles and possibly more buses.
Frank, UK

It's a good, but half-baked idea. Ken should have gone further by extending the boundary to all inner London boroughs or even further out. As it stands the perimeter will be gridlocked. The real problem is Home Counties commuters driving in where they have a real alternative - the train.
P Williams, London

Andrew Howlett is ignorant to think that buses are 100 times more polluting than cars: modern diesel catalysts are extremely efficient. He also forgets that he should be comparing the emissions of just one bus with around SEVENTY cars, once the typical number of passengers is taken into account!
Richard G,UK

I'm fed up of standing on a full bus waiting for the four people in four cars ahead of me. London is no longer a place for cars, why should those of us using public transport have to put up with them?
J Elphick, UK

The low paid and public sector workers will be forced out of London

Julie Bagshore, London
As a nurse I need to get to work late and early. There are no tubes or buses that are safe for a single women to travel on, nor does a journey that takes half an hour by road, but TWO hours by public transport offer a viable alternative. This tax will be paid by the large private firms and MPs whilst the low paid and public sector workers will be forced out of London worsening the crisis in these areas.
Julie Bagshore, London

If congestion charging is such a great idea, why not apply it to public transport? After all, trains and tubes are overcrowded, so by the same logic the problem can be solved by raising the fares to the point where the poor are priced off the system and all trains run around half empty. After all, by Ken's logic, poor people's journeys cannot possibly be necessary. If the same principle doesn't apply, why not?
M. Freeman, UK

People seem to think cars are the problem. There are too many people living in London. Britain is full to bursting. This is just the tip of the iceberg. I'm glad I moved to Auckland!!
James Wilsey, New Zealand

I'm not opposed to this idea in principle, but surely we need to get the public transport infrastructure right first. London's train and tube network is already dangerously overcrowded during the rush hour. It seems to make no sense whatsoever to force people off the roads and onto public transport without investing first to ensure that the system can cope with the added demand. Otherwise we run a real risk of a Hillsborough-style disaster in some overcrowded underground station.
Andy Dawson, UK

The traffic problem is the effect not the cause. It is the overpopulation of business and people in the South East of England that is the cause. Give the regions a chance, invest in decent ICT and transport links outside London, equalise the playing fields throughout the UK and business may see less necessity to congregate in one area. That will improve the lifestyle for those remaining in London and spread the wealth to other parts of the country.
Gerry, Scotland

Why should motorists be the one group of people who expect to have a valuable resource made available to them cheaply?

Graham Nalty, UK
When the full costs are taken into account we would see that what we pay in fuel tax and other taxes would fall far short of the actual amount that it costs to provide our roads. Why should motorists be the one group of people who expect to have a valuable resource made available to them cheaply?
Graham Nalty, UK

I had the misfortune to work in London some years ago. Travelling in on the train I heard a litany of complaints from regular commuters. Asked why they worked in central London, or why their office could not be relocated to the suburbs, most replied indignantly that their "company's status would suffer if they moved out!".
Peter Nixon, England/ USA

I assume that MPs will be excluded or will get a(nother) pay rise to compensate them
Robert, UK

I have stopped driving into London. I take the 9:30am train into the city and work a bit later, it is much less stressful. Trains are not crowded, and fares cheaper. Staggered working hours is the answer to cut congestion both on the roads and public transport system. People in London don't need a car. It is far cheaper to use a taxi or hire a car at weekends, if needed!
Roland, UK

May I suggest that the people complaining about the congestion in London spend a day 'out West'. It has been proved that Bristol has the slowest traffic outside of central London, in the UK. We don't have an underground or a half-decent rail network and the bus system is a virtual monopoly run, it seems, solely for the shareholders of FirstGroup plc (yet another legacy of the Thatcher years). For at least the last 20 years, a tram system has been mooted without ever getting from the discussion stage. I would support congestion charging here, provided there was an alternative proper public transport system in place which would not mean shelling out 1.75 for a six mile journey that can take around an hour in the morning, often standing all the way!!
Gary M, Bristol, UK

A brilliant idea, use the money to improve the public transport system. The only problem I can see is the profiteering by the privately owned transport companies with their latest subsidies. Obviously, the next step should be the nationalisation of the transport system. Over to you Tony!
Nigel Tregoning, Falmouth, Cornwall, UK

Get rid of the oversized HGVs in town while you're at it

Silke Bernau, London
Well done Ken! I just can't see what the fuss is about. If you don't want to drive into central London, then take the Tube. That costs the price of a ticket, so why not a "fare" for cars to level the playing field?

The inevitable complaints that public transport should be upgraded first is a delaying tactic and the perfect excuse to do nothing while the chicken-and-egg debate rages. And get rid of the oversized HGVs in town while you're at it.
Silke Bernau, London

It's just another tax on motorists. If Ken Livingstone really wanted to keep cars out of the city, he would ban them. But as he knows that most drivers will find the money from somewhere, he rubs his hands with glee. Secondly, if people give up their cars and use buses instead, air quality in London will get worse, not better, as buses are 100 times more polluting than the modern car. Sheer stupidity.
Andrew Howlett, England

I hope those of you who voted for Ken Livingstone will be happy to pay without complaint. His policies were clear on this matter - I certainly didn't vote for him! Fairness has nothing to do with transport in London if it did residents would get residents permits free. I guess the Government wishes to just add another tax.
Graham, London

The solution to gridlock is decent public transport. Will somebody in government please wake up and do something!
Neil, Wales

I have no sympathy for the majority of motorists who are moaning about this charge

John Roberts, UK
I have no sympathy for the majority of motorists who are moaning about this charge. Quite frankly, they don't have a right to drive around central London and doing so is completely anti-social. More power to the people who are community-spirited enough to use the alternatives.
John Roberts, UK

This is a good idea but next the daily price should go up by 5 each year and at the 10-year point all cars and motorbikes should be banned from the city. All the revenue during this period, which I am sure will be vast, must be poured into providing more and QUALITY public transport. Why not build a mono rail as they have in Sydney and let's do something rather than just talking.
Peter, UK

One segment of the population has been left out of this debate - working women with children. My boss already has to get up exceptionally early to ensure her two children get to school - one of whom she feels is safest if she is able to drive her there - before she drives to work. In order to achieve the same using public transport, she would have to take a bus to the school and then an extremely circuitous route on one bus or use a train and bus to reach her destination. Provision of a safe alternative to the school-run must be considered as part of the overall scheme.
Graeme Payne, UK

Please don't stop people driving into the city

Suzie Wensley, UK
What a great idea, let's send more people on to the underground where the pollution is worse than on the streets! Please don't stop people driving into the city - there are more than enough people trying to squeeze on to my tube train as it is each morning!
Suzie Wensley, UK

Stop penalising motorists, Ken, admit they give you huge revenues already. Concentrate instead on making travel easier for cars, but create a public transport infrastructure which gives drivers a sensible, viable alternative. At the moment public transport is even more gridlocked, smelly, inefficient .....
Mike Wattam, UK

I think that this is a good idea, but the pricing of public transport should be made a lot cheaper to encourage people to use it.
Joanna, Spain (ex UK)

It could be a good plan. However, how does 5 differentiate the people who have a genuine need to drive into London from the people who could take public transport? Doesn't it just differentiate the rich commuters, who can easily afford this charge, from the less wealthy travellers?
Marije, UK

I think cars should be banned altogether from central London

Biff Scholey, UK
I think cars should be banned altogether from central London, with access only allowed to taxis, buses, bikes, delivery vans and emergency vehicles. Other cities have managed it.
Biff Scholey, UK

Any congestion charging, anywhere, is an admission that the people in charge of that city's roads have totally failed to organise the traffic intelligently. It may also just be an easy way of getting more funds. But it must be realised that by doing it they are markedly reducing the efficiency of that city, because the car/truck are far and away the most efficient and quickest means of transport.
Peter Spinney, UK

There is no doubt that something must be done about the congestion problem, but I think a 5 flat-rate fee is too simplistic. There should be a system which progressively allows cars with one or more passengers a discount, and also cars with large engine sizes (e.g. over 3L) should have to pay a premium. I'm sure most Londoners will tell you the proportion of traffic made up by fat-cat executives in their 7-series BMWs and S-class Mercedes is quite staggering. Having said that, the system will be unworkable without a FAR better public transport system.
Van Dieu, London, UK

If motorists are unhappy in the UK, they should try the ultimate "poll tax" as we have in France. Sure, tax on fuel is lower and there's no road tax, however travelling on the motorways is just silly. Travelling from my home in Lyon to Calais costs about 60.00 in motorway charges. No wonder the motorways are empty.
G. Noble, France

If everyone gets out of their cars where on earth is Ken going to put them?

Richard How, UK
So we are going to charge people for going into the centre of London. All that's going to happen is they will drive as far as they can and then take public transport so outer London becomes gridlocked. I have both driven to central London and travelled by train. In the rush hour the roads are full to bursting, but so are the trains and buses and tubes. So if everyone gets out of their cars where on earth is Ken going to put them? On the roof of trains, buses and tubes maybe?
Richard How, UK

It would be great to get all the plebs off the street so my Mercedes limousine can get through clearly. Seriously though, perhaps if it were coupled with 5 back every time I took the tube and had to travel in searing heat on a train so crowded I could barely move (literally) then it wouldn't be so bad. You can't expect people to leave their cars and take public transport when public transport struggles to cope with the people that already use it.
John B, UK

If it looks like a tax and costs the same as a tax, it's a tax. And those of you thinking that this won't effect me, maybe because you don't drive, are wrong. Every newspaper, banana and Mars bar sold in the capital will now have a small percentage of this tax applied to it. Of course the big test will be how much of this tax is redirected to the roads, rail etc.
Roy Chapman, UK

These charges are desperately needed and long overdue. If the volume of traffic coming into central London can be dramatically reduced and given the appropriate reinvestment, commuters could be moved around at street level in buses at a fraction of the cost of the renovation required to the tube infrastructure. As a concession to those who have a genuine need to drive in the exclusion zones, perhaps there could be a sliding toll based on engine capacity?
Jon, London

In Zurich, where I live, congestion is mastered by the combination of an efficient, fast and integrated public transport system and attractive park and ride facilities. Taxis are also good and fairly cheap. There is no road pricing system, and I do not think such a system would work as it would only spark opposition against traffic control measures. Rather, car parking facilities are intentionally restricted. People who genuinely have no alternative to their car due to disabilities, occupational reasons etc, have free or low-cost car parking.
Andy, Switzerland (ex UK)

Why not offer incentives to companies to work outside the hours of 9-5?

Tony, UK
This is just another way of raising money (i.e. tax). What Ken Livingstone should be doing is trying to find ways of changing the working culture in the city. Why not stop any HGVs or vans entering the central area between working hours - forcing deliveries to take place when the roads are clearer? As London's financial markets operate in a global economy, why not offer incentives to companies to work outside the hours of 9-5, so fewer people are forced onto the transport systems all at exactly the same time? Foster a 24-hour culture for the city, rather than the 12 hour one at present (and yes, that includes extending the licensing laws!)
Tony, UK

Well done Ken!
Roger Wilson, UK

As usual the motorist is the soft touch. Provided congestion is tackled from an emissions perspective, it's an idea but nothing more. But as long as the British Government and media continues to lie to the public about environmental issues, such a tax is utterly unsustainable. I would far rather sit in traffic with my engine running for an hour than use a bus, where one has to remove half eaten sandwiches, chewing gum and cigarette ends from the seats.
Jon, UK

Way to go, Ken. If you can make public transport reliable and practical for everyone who needs it within 30 months I'll eat my crash helmet. At least you've had the sense to leave motorbikes out of it - they take up virtually no space and are far less polluting than cars. Oh, and hardly any bikes are 2-strokes any more.
Simon Bradley, London, UK

Most politicians in charge of our lives seem to be more interested in punishing motorists than making it easier for people to get to work

Hugh, UK
I have a better idea. Why not use some of the 40 billion a year that motorists have ALREADY pay in road, vehicle and petrol taxes to improve public transport? Then maybe more people might decide for themselves that they don't have to drive to work and the whole problem with congestion will go away. But I forget; most politicians in charge of our lives seem to be more interested in punishing motorists than making it easier for people to get to work. If that is their aim, then congestion charges are a great idea!
Hugh, UK

This is a ridiculous solution. I work in the city and travel in every day from Limehouse. Roadworks and contractors continually digging up the same piece of road is a major cause of congestion - the problem is not just the volume of traffic. Until there is a serious solution to this ill thought out building work on the roads London's traffic will be at a standstill. It's about time our mayor put his mind to sorting out the overdigging of the roads and addressed the issue of the appalling tubes and trains.
Susan Smith, England

Being both a cyclist and a driver in London I can appreciate both sides of the argument. I must say that having a levy on journeys into the city would mean less frivolous car journeys, thus reducing congestion and improving safety for cyclists. However, there must be investment in the public transport system before tolls are implemented - increasing the load on an already stretched network would be madness.
Peter, UK

I'm sick and tired of hearing motorists moaning on about how they are the long suffering victims of unfair discrimination. The simple reality is that we urgently need to reduce the levels of congestion in Central London. How else can this be achieved? A voluntary ban?
Ben, UK

It has certainly not worked in Singapore

Freddie Tan, Singapore
The congestion tax is not a panacea for solving traffic congestion. It has certainly not worked in Singapore although the authorities would like us to believe that it has. I have lost count of the number of occasions where I had to drive bumper to bumper past the entry point despite having to pay exorbitant rates. The end result is more road tax but no service.
Freddie Tan, Singapore

Perhaps all the people who think motorists should pay more than currently, could explain where billions of pounds of revenue raised from the car tax and 85% of the cost of each litre of fuel have been spent. Not on public transport renewal and very little on road improvements - so what do you think will happen to this 5/day surcharge? Improved public transport? Tube investment? Safer cycle ways? Rose-tinted glasses will be issued with every month's worth of car charges bought!
Peter Gallant, UK

I wholly agree with the charges - how is public transport going to improve if it doesn't have the money from this? Will the person who said 'stop giving Railtrack money' really find the trains more pleasant to travel on? Yes, I am a car driver in London. I have two classic cars, and I know it's a luxury to drive around town. If we insist on choking the city with fumes and congestion, why shouldn't we pay? Public transport isn't always ideal, but it's often much more convenient than the car - and quicker. Not all car owners are selfish; some of us do realise that it's not always appropriate to drive them.
Nigel Whitfield, UK

I can't begin to imagine where the car drivers are supposed to go

Paul Little, UK
I don't agree with the charges. I commute to London four days per week. I never use my car. Why should I? It doubles my journey time and is too unpredictable. Instead I use the train and tube and I walk. Due to massive overcrowding, my experience on the trains and tube is unpleasant enough. I can't begin to imagine where the car drivers are supposed to go. Our train stations, platforms and trains are far too small to handle the existing passenger numbers. Are we all supposed to work flexitime and travel "off peak"? This is not an integrated transport plan. It is just another revenue generator. It is also unworkable unless a method is found to monitor EVERY road in and out of London. That way there is no incentive to find a new route that doesn't incur a charge. This will destroy quality of life for the poor souls who live on one of these routes. Think again, Ken!
Paul Little, UK

The 5 charge doesn't go far enough: cars should be completely banned from areas of central London (at least during commuter time) unless drivers have a good reason to be allowed in. There is absolutely no excuse for driving to work in central London: admittedly, public transport isn't perfect, but it already conveys the majority of people to work - and you can always cycle. In addition, with no cars there could be far more and far quicker buses: at the moment, there is a Catch 22 with people unwilling to give up cars until public transport is improved, but public transport cannot be improved until there are fewer cars on the road.
AlexW, Oxford, UK

Car drivers have been getting away with murder for years

Phin, UK
I think this is an excellent idea. The view of motorists that they are being treated as a 'cash cow' is ridiculous. Car drivers have been getting away with murder (literally in some cases) for years. They moan that public transport is poor and under funded and that they are always stuck in traffic but, as soon as the government proposes a plan that will tackle the congestion and the under funding in one go, they are the first to complain. The statement that companies and not individuals will bear the brunt of these charges is fair comment, however if they can afford to pay for this, then 'take the money and run' - as long as it is invested in public transport. Maybe the government should offer companies incentives to buy staff public transport travel rather than paying their congestion charges!
Phin, UK

I doubt if this will achieve much. The few people who do drive to work will either pay up, get their employers to pay, or commute to tube stations outside the exclusion zone (and clog these areas up a bit more). This is all about Red Ken being seen to do something. Apart from Ken, the only people who will be happy are those who will collect (and waste) the money and the leftie, sandal-wearing cyclists (who generally avoid the roads and cycle on the pavements anyway) who can have a good moan about city fat cats and people in cars.
Peter, UK

I'm all for these congestion charges. I only regret that the charge is not higher and extended to other regions of London. There is no need to drive into work in central London, public transport is adequate although in need of investment. I for one am fed up with the anti-social behaviour of the numerous car drivers who feel they have a right to poison our air with the exhaust fumes their cars spew forth.
Greg, UK

I have found a great solution to the problem - cycle to work!

Marcus, Sheffield, UK
I live in a major UK city that has severe traffic congestion and I have found a great solution to the problem - cycle to work! This charging fee should be introduced more readily around the UK to stop people being lazy and causing morning chaos and pollution. Oh yeah, and it is a LOT quicker to cycle!
Marcus, Sheffield, UK

I think that it's a great idea. Who wants to work in London any more anyway ?
Mike, Germany (ex-UK)

No, congestion charges are not the answer. They are a "poll tax on wheels". The well-off will hardly notice them, while people on modest incomes will be hit hard. If you need to travel daily into central London, it will cost you over 1100 a year - out of post-tax income! And gridlock will increase as drivers seek to avoid the charging area, and new development clusters on its edge where people can actually get to it without being fleeced. "Soak the motorist" is not the answer to our transport problems.
Peter, UK

This is an idea that is long overdue

John Wadsworth, England
This is an idea that is long overdue. Far too many commuters use their cars to get into or across central London. The vast majority of these cars only have one occupant. They restrict the movement of both buses and taxis, clogging bus lanes and contributing to the unreliability of public transport. It is high time that motorists (and I am one) started to contribute fully to the massive environmental cost of local and global pollution. It is time we lost our love affair with the car and took a more mature and responsible attitude to the environment. Well done, Ken!
John Wadsworth, England

Once again we see evidence that the long-suffering motorist is a government cash cow. I work in Cambridge (one of the cities to be included in the roll out programme) and I can see the tab being picked up by the employers rather than the employees. Where the high technology sector is trying to attract workers, the congestion surcharge will be paid by employers along with any proposed parking fees. It is bad enough being penalised and taxed to the hilt as motorists, now we will be penalised for going to work, too. There is no way that people will stop using their cars to get to work, not until trains are safe, frequent, affordable and reliable.
Angela, UK

No one in their right mind would use public transport as it is

Solomon Drury, UK
Since motorists already contribute to the road network via car tax, fuel duty and VAT, surely then they have paid enough and this is just an insult? No one in their right mind would use public transport as it is. And with continued government ownership for London transport, I doubt that will improve. Privatise the tube, stop subsidies to Railtrack, and improve the roads!!
Solomon Drury, UK

So, according to Toby Aldrich public transport is unhealthy and inefficient. I suppose he drives a car that runs on fresh air and always has five people travelling in it? Ken Livingstone should be saluted for having the courage to take this proposal forward. This nation has to realise that it cannot continue to enjoy the oil-driven free lunch to which it has become accustomed. There are significant social and environmental costs that are associated with motoring and these costs (pollution, injury etc) are more likely to affect the poor - the very people who are least likely to have a car. This charge is a step in the right direction towards drivers (myself included) paying the true costs of their dirty habit. If this funds a radical improvement in public transport then so much the better - then there will be no excuse not to use it.
Dave Whyte, UK

Very glad to see that Ken Livingstone has excluded motorcycles from the charges. Modern motorcycles are clean, efficient vehicles especially if your journey is longer than a few miles. Paul and Mike, who say they should be taxed, should remember that you can get six motorcycles in the space of one car. Alongside the bicycle they make a big contribution to easing congestion in cities.
Patrick Bramman, England

It's social exclusion based on income taken one step nearer

Ron Levy, UK
Well done Ken, this should keep the less wealthy riff-raff off the roads in London, allowing space for the Mercs and BMWs of the more affluent! But seriously, for a (once) left-wing politician to come up with this is absurd - it's social exclusion based on income taken one step nearer. Why not have permit-only entry, and provide permits only to those whose income is over a certain level. It would at least be more honest.
Ron Levy, UK

No doubt many car drivers will be mailing in their anger and frustration at these proposals. Excellent! Now you know how those of us who walk, cycle or use the crumbling public transport system feel about you! Get used to schemes like this - there's a lot more to come before we can turn this ship around.
Ian Harris, UK

I personally think it's an excellent move. I live in an area surrounded by large roads to the west and would openly welcome any solution to cut traffic. The best I can remember was during the petrol problems last autumn, the roads were wonderfully clear and pollution was notably lower. You could walk down major roads in the middle of the day, roads that are normally filled with singularly occupied cars doing no more than 5 mph. Driving a car is not a right. People should pay for the privilege just as we do to ride in a taxi.
John Davies, London, UK

Not exactly what I would call a strategy really, more a case of fleecing the motorist yet again. It's a tired and well worn road to cheap money that will be misused once again. Here's a novel thought, maybe provide the motorist with a cheap reliable alternative and then perhaps there will be some justification on introducing a levy.
Steve, UK

Frankly 5.00 is not enough!

Mark, UK
Frankly 5.00 is not enough! It will simply disadvantage the poorer commuter while the city fat cats won't even notice... Given the problems getting motorists to pay parking fines this system won't be really successful until there are more punitive measures taken against defaulters.
Mark, UK

Excellent. However, I don't believe Ken has gone far enough. There should be a reverse tariff based on the number of people in the car. For example, driver only pays 15.00, driver + one passenger pays 10.00, driver + 2 pays 5.00 and driver + 3 pays zero. Car sharing should be encouraged. But why would motorbikes be exempt? Having said all that, Ken had better make sure public transport is up to scratch.
Paul Gant, England

Yes traffic is congested in central London, but the majority of it appears to be necessary - buses, taxis and delivery vans. Most people who work in central London wouldn't dream of driving into London. Parking charges are enough to put you off without the prospect of sitting in traffic for 2 hours or a congestion charge being levied. Maybe we should just accept that there are a vast number of people in London and to serve them all means congestion.

London is dirty and overcrowded. Although other public services are not at their best, the move is a good step. It will force people to be more considered when using their cars and reduce congestion. Well done Ken!!
Paul Miller, UK

Anyone who drives into central London is asking for trouble

Mike, UK
Anyone who drives into central London is asking for trouble, so charging them lots of money is a great idea. However, they also need to charge the same amount of money for motorbikes otherwise the air pollution will take a nosedive from all those two stroke engines.
Mike, UK

This would not deter me at all. What is more, I would be looking for my employers to pick up the tab. Well done for finding another way to raise yet more money to waste.......
David, UK

Although this presents issues about privileges for the better off, this is a good idea, but why set so low? With BIG city salaries surely this will just log as a business expense. Why not issue permits according to need.
Lynn Carter, Cornwall

Yet again, the stick is being used against motorists, without the commensurate improvements to public transport. I resent being forced onto unhealthy, inefficient, inadequate public transport. Make it better, and there would be no need for a congestion charge, which will create as many problems as it will solve. I live in Kennington (just outside of the exclusion zone). I am sure that the ripple effect will make lives worse rather than better. How am I supposed to be happy to catch a bus, when there will be massively increased congestion just outside of the charging zone?
Toby Aldrich, UK

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Livingstone unveils transport strategy
Internet links:

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

Links to more Talking Point stories