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EDITIONS
Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 12:24 GMT
Ken gloats at scheme sceptics
Ken Livingstone
The mayor basked in the glow of early success

On the morning after the day before, Ken Livingstone was in fine form as he revelled in the success of the central London congestion charge.

Instead of waking with a hangover amid a sea of raging headlines, he was positively crowing as statistic after statistic seemed to back up his political judgment in implementing the 5 charge.

The number of cars in the zone fell 25% from 250,000 to 190,000 on Monday and traffic speeds rose from 10 to 20 mph.

It seems Steve Norris cannot rat on his promise to abolish it

Ken Livingstone
London Mayor
An estimated 10,000 people will face penalty notices after being caught on camera, a figure which Mr Livingstone described as "manageable".

Mr Livingstone, addressing an audience of cynical reporters at City Hall on the banks of the Thames, clearly enjoyed the fact that his Tory opponent in next year's mayoral election - Steve Norris - had nailed his colours to the mast of scrapping the congestion charge.

Mr Norris, so certain the "Kengestion" charge would be an unpopular failure that he promised to scrap it, now finds himself in a conundrum.

Mr Livingstone said: "It seems Steve Norris cannot rat on his promise to abolish it without coming under fire from the Tories."

Editors challenged

Mr Livingstone said there would therefore be a clear choice at the election between pro and anti-congestion charge candidates.

In fact, Mr Livingstone went further and promised to extend the scheme west as far as the boundary with Hammersmith and Fulham if he was re-elected.

The mayor also gloated at the probable discomfort of many newspaper editors who had declared their opposition to the charge.

He asked the journalists: "Does anyone wish to announce their editor's surrender?"

Roger Wooley from Kent pays at a self-service point in Westminster
An estimated 100,000 drivers paid the fee on Monday
The man dubbed Red Ken sported a sober black business suit and snazzy blue tie on Tuesday morning and was at his most pragmatic as he stressed the benefits to the business community.

He delighted in the fact that London's congestion charge would have got widespread coverage on news channels globally on what was a slow news day.

He said: "People will see that London is giving the lead. This is the exact sort of city where you want to relocate...and it has a really engaging character as mayor."

Asked if London would become a role model, Mr Livingstone said the Mayor of Milan had told him he planned to introduce congestion charging if it worked in London and several US cities also plan following suit "but only if I win re-election".

White van man

He also showed his political nous by stressing the benefits to what he called "white van man" and added: "The business community calculates that someone recoups the 5 if they get 17 minutes extra work by not being in a traffic jam.

"If 'white van man' can get one or two more deliveries done in a day then he will be happy."

Smithfield workers protest
On Monday, City Hall was the scene of protests
After the press conference, the Daily Telegraph's transport correspondent, Paul Marston, said: "Ken had a very good day yesterday, it went much better than he could have expected which was why he was beside himself with joy today."

He said Steve Norris' position on the charge "now doesn't look the greatest political judgement ever."

But Mr Marston said traffic levels would no doubt go up next week when Londoner's half-term holidays ended and he said motorists were not yet convinced.

"It doesn't take much for gridlock to develop in London and if you are stuck in a jam and paying 5 for it you will not be best pleased," he said.

Congestion

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 VOTE RESULTS
Do you agree with congestion charges?

Yes
 63.39% 

No
 36.61% 

49889 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

11 Feb 03 | Politics
17 Feb 03 | England
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