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Wednesday, 31 July, 2002, 13:10 GMT 14:10 UK
Congestion charge to go ahead
London traffic
Ken Livingstone says the charges may cut traffic by 15%
Plans to charge motorists 5 to drive into central London will go ahead, a High Court judge has ruled.

Westminster Council lost its appeal on Wednesday against the controversial plans which are due to be introduced next February.

The council claimed congestion charges would push traffic out to surrounding areas, increasing air pollution and breaching residents' human rights by adversely affecting the quality of city life.

Mayor Ken Livingstone was accused by Westminster and two other councils of wrongly failing to carry out a full and efficient consultation.


Congestion charging will not reduce commercial vehicle operations in London by a single vehicle and will just put up costs

Freight Transport Association

It was hoped Mr Justice Maurice Kay would rule the mayor's decision was flawed and that he should have held a public inquiry and environmental assessment.

But the judge dismissed the appeal and now cities all over the UK will watch with interest to see if the scheme works before introducing anything similar elsewhere.

Mr Livingstone welcomed the court's ruling: "We are happy that our entire approach to the introduction of congestion charging, which has involved an unprecedented level of consultation, has been vindicated.

"We now look forward to being free to proceed with addressing the problems of congestion in London without the distraction of legal proceedings."

Impact on business

Councillor Kit Malthouse, deputy leader of Westminster Council, said: "We are deeply disappointed with this ruling.

"We brought this case along with a number of other bodies based on good legal advice and because congestion charging will have a substantial impact on our businesses and residents.

"We still believe that a major scheme of this nature should not be implemented without more effective scrutiny and we question whether Britain's first congestion charge should be introduced in a complex city such as London."

The Freight Transport Association said: "We are very disappointed as we were hoping this action would have given the Mayor time to reflect on the whole scheme.

"Congestion charging will not reduce commercial vehicle operations in London by a single vehicle and will just put up costs."

But Stephen Joseph, of Transport 2000, said: "Transport 2000 is a long-standing supporter of congestion charging as a measure which will reduce traffic and bring substantial environmental benefits in central London.

"It's important to get on with it, not to find excuses for further inaction."

Public transport

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".

Mr Livingstone says he has discharged his legal responsibilities in "a rigorous and conscientious manner" with wide consultations, exhibitions and public meetings.

The multi-million pound scheme is aimed at making more people use public transport and raise 100m to be ploughed back in to London transport.

Under the scheme motorists will be charged for driving in parts of Camden, Islington, Southwark, Lambeth, the City of Westminster and the City of London between 0700 and 1830BST from Monday to Friday.

Payment will probably be made available through telephone, the internet, and shops.

Fines

About 230 cameras will be used to take pictures of number plates, which will then be checked with a central database to see if the fee has been paid.

There will be discounts for residents and exemptions for certain professions.

Anyone who is caught not paying will be fined up to 120.

London, where the average traffic speed is less than 10 mph (16 km/h), would be the first UK city to introduce the charge.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Tom Heap
"If it works in London it may soon come to a city centre near you"
Mayor Ken Livingstone
"Their case was always broadly political"
Kit Malthouse of Westminster Council
"We'll be applying for leave to appeal"

Click here to go to BBC London Online

Talking PointTALKING POINT
Traffic charges
Should motorists be forced to pay up?
Links to more England stories are at the foot of the page.


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