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Saturday, 3 August, 2002, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Should motorists pay congestion charges?
Plans to charge motorists £5 a day to drive into central London have been upheld by the High Court.
The decision marks a victory for Mayor Ken Livingstone's controversial plans which are due to be introduced next February.
Westminster council had challenged the Mayor's plans saying the charges will push traffic out to surrounding areas, increasing air pollution and breaching residents' human rights.
Mr Livingstone and Transport for London (TfL) say congestion costs businesses £2m a week and the charge will reduce traffic by between 10 and 15% to "summer school holiday levels".
Are the congestion charges fair? Are they a good way of reducing traffic jams in central London? Or do they simply represent another tax on motorists? How will the charges affect you?
David Wrede, Scotland Ex-Londoner
Yes, anything that starts to get motorists paying for the cost of congestion and pollution and health problems they cause is a good idea. Going by car has been much cheaper than other forms of transport for too long. Increasing the cost will hopefully mean some make more sensible travel choices.
There is one quite blunt message for Mr Livingstone and any other politician who thinks they can take even more money off the motorist. Start listening and stop dictating. Do not even consider congestion charging until you can offer viable transport alternatives.
Otherwise if you have to be told at the ballot box, you may lose your cushy little jobs!!!
I'd suggest that all car drivers are made to take a walk though central London and feel the pain of breathing in the nitrous oxides and ozone that is caused by their cars. Five pounds is nothing compared to those who have to put up with constant asthma attacks and other respiratory diseases simply because people cannot be bothered to get off their backsides.
Phil, London, UK.
I have used public transport for years and never found the need for a car, but, having struggled on and persevered with a declining public service, timetable delays, dirty overcrowded buses for which I am charged steadily more and more, I have bought a car and am currently taking driving lessons. To drive in and out of work is, ironically, more comfortable, cheaper and quicker than getting the bus. Using the car will save me time, money and I will no longer be inconvenienced by the vagaries of public transport. Well done all those responsible for public transport. Through a complete lack of concern for your customers, you've managed drive a public transport advocate off the bus and contributed to yet another car on our congested roads!
Should the motorist pay yet again? No! How many times are you going to have to pay for the same activity? It is another tax. The revenue from petrol is something the government can't do without. This is why they want the public to keep on driving, but invent new ways of extracting even more money from the poor motorist - £5 at the moment and pretty soon it'll be £10.
Yes, it's another tax on motorists and using the proceeds to improve public transport is not the answer. It's not a question of more money, the system is broken and needs to be better run. We pay enough already, leave the motorists alone.
I'm totally for congestion charging, so long as it penalises those who selfishly use their cars/vans/lorries. However, I can't see how the proposals can be rigorously enforced - 230 cameras taking photos of number plates sounds highly unreliable. Some sort of wireless credit deducting gizmo is needed, like the Dart-tag. That way traffic wardens should also be able to easily spot violators - though how you deal with occasional out of town visitors I'm not sure - special ticket machines at border crossings I suppose.
But if a way could be found to charge single occupancy vehicles then we would really be getting somewhere.
As a business owner with two vehicles in London 5 days a week, this is yet another charge that we have to bear. In order to stay competitive you cannot add the price to the jobs or the customers will go elsewhere. Does this government want to see business in England totally on its knees before it realises the problems it causes?
I think that it's a good idea, and should
be implemented in cities that have
the same traffic problems (Bristol
leaps to mind)
But what I think Ken should have done
is propose a tiered toll system, dependant
on the number of occupants in the car.
This would certainly encourage car-pooling
The answer in many East Asian countries is to only allow the small city cars. I have one such model, the Daewoo Matiz, which only has 3 cylinders, does at least 45 mph in towns and can be parked anywhere. There are several other models on the market by other manufacturers such as Fiat. If only these type of cars were allowed congestion and pollution would drop by 50% at a stroke. Why not try the city car method first ?
If Ken Livingstone had an ounce of honesty in him, he would simply ban cars altogether from Central London. By charging motorists, it is implicit in his argument that cars are necessary to raise the capital he needs to improve public transport. If all car drivers simply stopped going into London, where will all his money come from? It's a disingenuous scheme, to say the least.
Andy Harrison, UK
There is no doubt in my mind that since TFL took over London's roads, traffic congestion has got worse. At the moment London is a nightmare of road-works. I have already moved my business out of the city and will avoid going there in future. Unfortunately for my clients in London I will be passing on any road congestion charges incurred. Public transport will never be able to replace commercial vehicles.
Having spent 2.5 hours travelling from Southampton to Waterloo, on a stiflingly hot train with no air conditioning, I would think of the charge as value for money compared to the inefficient, slow, overcrowded, dirty and expensive public transport we're offered as an alternative.
It's time drivers were charged for the true cost of motoring including pollution, health, congestion etc - not just in London, but everywhere else in the country.
I must say, I am looking forward to getting even more squashed on the already overcrowded train I travel to work on!
Ian Ross, England
I take it that no one been on the trains recently? I would like a few people to tell me how those who give up their cars will be able to fit onto my train?
Camden tube station is very congested yet I don't see them charging tube users.
Some thing has to be done about our congested streets in London. I have never agreed with Ken's policies apart from this one. I am a car driver, and a pensioner, but if it is essential for me to go in the city by car I do not object. I always however go by public transport if possible, although I agree something has to be done to improve their service.
This should have been aimed purely at private motorists, otherwise it's not just road users who pay but everybody (including the pensioner, the single mother, the lowly paid etc), by way of increased costs in goods and services.
Phil Gray, Wilts UK
I used to be against it until Quentin Willson's 4x4 report convinced me. I also think that the use of millions of four to six-seat energy hungry vehicles every day occupied by typically just the driver is perverse and if they insist on doing it they should pay for it.
People that live within any proposed boundary that attracts a congestion charge should be exempt - are they?
At last. Now, finally, motorists will contribute towards the costs they impose on London's transport system. I look forward to the time when they will carry the full financial burden for their obsession with their 'right' to drive. It's not a right, but a privilege that should be paid for in full.
To Steve, UK
Congestion charging on trains is next - the SRA want to increase fares with the objective of reducing passenger traffic by 7%. Where the 7% is supposed to go is apparently not their concern. Yet another example of "joined up government".
As a safe engineer, I am often called into the city to carry out my work. I have to take my van for obvious reasons. This tax will have to be passed to my customers (who will doubtless quibble about it!) Vans and lorries which service and supply the city should be exempt, whilst ALL those who could use public transport should either do so or cough up the charge. Mind you, I have been known to take my tools on the train, it's a lot easier than trying to find a parking space near a job!
Public transport is a bit of a chicken and egg situation. People don't want to use it until it's been improved, and the government can't afford to improve it until more customers use it. Some sort of initiative is required to break this cycle, and whilst I'm not sure I necessarily agree with the approach Livingstone et al are taking, I welcome an attempt to solve this deadlock.
Cathy Harrison, England
Of course it would be better if public transport were improved first, but where exactly is Ken supposed to get the money to do that that central government has been unwilling/unable to find? As long as the money IS ploughed back into public transport then this is a good thing. Although I drive a car myself, I agree it's the only way forward as it'll force people to re-evaluate whether they really NEED to drive.
Mr Livingstone is to be congratulated for having the courage to do this. I only wish that governments in Canada would be brave enough to attack the "sacred cow" status of motor transport.
As a cyclist, I am in favour of the charges. Hopefully with less cars around, cycling in London will get rather safer.
Ken Wilson, UK
It was superb walking around central London during the recent Jubilee celebrations, with all the roads completely free of cars. Do the job properly Ken, and close the centre of London to all traffic (except for the disabled), instead of this con of just making way for wealthier people by squeezing out those who cannot afford the £5 charge.
I will still travel in every day by car and pay the congestion fee. It's better sitting in a traffic jam than standing in a sweltering tube.
So the fat cat bosses get to put it on their expense accounts and still drive their gas guzzlers into town while the rest of us, as ever, are penalised in favour of the rich. This scheme is like everything else Ken Livingstone has done throughout his mayoral career - a waste of time. It will just move the pollution from the city out to residential areas.
I notice that van and lorry drivers will be charged the same as car drivers with limited exemptions. As a van driver who provides a service to many inner city companies and individuals, I am going to have to pass on this cost to my customers. Surely those of us who service and supply goods in order to keep the city running, should be eligible to a discount or exemption?
Van drivers won't lose money, they could make more because they'll have less congestion to get through. Where is the money going to come from to improve public transport and how long do you want to wait? Should everyone in London be taxed through their council tax regardless of whether they drive or not? Of course not.
Sean Jauss, UK
If public transport was reliable, safe and available 24/7, the congestion would likely reduce on its own. As it is this is going to be just more costs on people going about their business, it will not encourage them onto the busses and trains.
Of course the charges are correct. I'd rather they were £100 a day to really discourage people from the perverse habit of sitting in traffic jams all day in London.
I feel so angry about this. Yes there is congestion in London and yes it needs to be dealt with but taxing people to drive into a city is appalling. I am amazed that Londoners haven't protested more about this taking away of (driving) civil liberties! It's our city, why should Red Ken sit in his ivory tower and tell us what we can and can't do, without even letting us have our say?
To Sophie, UK: You may remember that Ken Livingstone was elected by a huge majority of Londoners, after he made it perfectly clear that he intended to introduce congestion charging. I think you'll find we have had our say.
Jon Cooper, UK
We need to be aware that the boundary will create a new band of inflated and depressed property values. Those on the right side of the tracks would save at least £1300 per year.
The fundamental problem in inner London and most parts of the UK is that public transport does not meet the requirements of working people and should be made the cheaper option. This congestion charge has basically made traffic the problem of outer London boroughs.
Jenni, Bristol, England
Why not? We pay for everything else.
Surely the public services have got to be improved first to lure the passengers?
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