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The BBC's Carolyn Quinn
"London drivers are already weighing up the consequences"
 real 56k

Friday, 28 July, 2000, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
London drivers face car tax

The centre of London either side of the Thames would be affected
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone wants to charge drivers 5 a day to enter the centre of the capital - or face a 100 fine.

Disabled motorists and emergency vehicles would be exempt from the charges but lorry drivers could be forced to pay up to 15 if Mr Livingstone's proposals are approved.

It won't reduce congestion, it will create chaos and be easily evaded

Shadow transport minister Bernard Jenkin

The scheme, released for public consultation on Friday, could raise over 200m towards improvements in London's public transport system.

The government's Road Charging Options for London report suggests such a scheme would reduce traffic by around 12%.

But the Tory party believes the proposals would bring chaos and would punish families and small businesses.

Congestion consultation

Mr Livingstone is asking for the views of 300 key groups in the capital including London boroughs, the capital's MPs and MEPs, the business sector, bus operators, taxi and motoring groups.

He also used the internet to appeal for feedback from ordinary Londoners on the so-called "congestion charge" which could be in place in less than three years.
Ken Livingstone
Ken Livingstone hopes to raise 200m to improve London transport

Central London residents would pay less if the 7am to 7pm weekday scheme is introduced.

Mr Livingstone's initial proposal is for a charging zone north and south of the Thames bounded by Marylebone Road, Euston Road, Pentonville Road, Tower Bridge, Elephant and Castle, Vauxhall Bridge and Hyde Park Corner.

"A city the size of London can only function efficiently on the basis of a fast, safe and efficient public transport system," he said.

Under-investment

"But under-investment in transport by central governments has plunged London into a vicious circle of an over-crowded Tube, unreliable and slow buses and grossly congested roads."

Drivers would pay the charge on the day or in advance through local garages, newsagents and shops, by post or telephone or over the internet.

Shadow transport minister Bernard Jenkin said the scheme would be "ineffective, unfair and unworkable".

"It won't reduce congestion, it will create chaos and be easily evaded," he said.

"It will be deeply unfair on those people who have to use their cars regularly in an out of the congestion tax area."

Wandsworth warning

He called on Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott to veto any such scheme and live up to Labour's promise that there would be no congestion taxes in the Mayor's first term.

But a spokesman for the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions said it was a matter for the Mayor.

The power for Mr Livingstone to establish the scheme is enshrined in the Greater London Authority Act of last year.

Business leaders were receptive to the scheme but Wandsworth Council warned the scheme could cost 1,800 a year to anyone whose livelihood depends on taking their car into central London.

Council leader Edward Lister said the plans could create "a new Berlin wall cutting the borough in half and dividing communities".

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Mayor challenges transport bosses
20 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Livingstone's 'big tent' cabinet meets
23 May 00 | UK Politics
Labour MP joins Livingstone's team
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