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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 February 2004, 22:33 GMT
Congestion charging 'a success'
Congestion charge signs
The congestion charge has cut traffic
London's mayor Ken Livingstone has declared the traffic congestion charge scheme a success, on the day of its first anniversary.

He said that traffic had been cut by 18% and delays were down 30%.

The 5 charge toll was introduced for people driving throughout an eight-square-mile zone of central London.

London Chamber of Commerce has called for an end to charges at non-peak times to help retailers, but Mr Livingstone

denied trade had suffered.

Mr Livingstone also said that the city's bus system had "improved dramatically" with 29,000 more people using the service.

Traffic delays inside the charging zone remain 30% lower than before charging was introduced
Estimates of changes in traffic levels show a reduction of 18% in traffic entering the zone during charging hours
There has been an increase of 29,000 bus passengers entering the zone during the morning peak period
Congestion charging contributes 50m to London's economy, mainly through quicker and more reliable journeys for road and bus users
There remains no evidence of any significant adverse traffic impacts from the charge
The number of penalty charges issued average 165,000 per month
There are about 110,000 charge-zone payments per day
There are 65,000 fewer car trips into or through the charging zone each day
Taxi, bus and coach movements have increased by 20%

Mr Livingstone said: "Congestion charging was a radical solution to a long-standing problem.

"London's roads were clogged with slow-moving traffic and congestion was costing business 2m a week.

"This is the only thing that I have done or been associated with in 33 years of public life that has turned out better than I thought it would.

"Despite the dire predictions before the launch of the scheme, congestion charging has proved a success and that is why nearly 75% of Londoners now support the scheme - because it works."

The London Chamber of Commerce said the mayor should introduce a pause to the charge during less busy periods.

Colin Stanbridge, chief executive of the London Chamber, said: "Something needs to be done to end the anomaly of motorists paying a congestion charge at times when there is little or no congestion.

"The principal effect of the charge at these times is to deter shoppers from driving into the centre of town.

"In our most recent report, we found that 68% of retail businesses said the scheme would be improved by the introduction of a charge-free window during the day."

It had been expected the charge would raise 180m for public transport, but it is well short of that estimate.

Instead officials expect to get 68m this year and between 80m and 90m next year.

Zone widening

"We never expected to make a quid out of this," Mr Livingstone said.

There have also been problems with the performance of Capita, the private contractor running the scheme for TfL.

However, the mayor has said Capita is now meeting all of its targets.

Mr Livingstone has already said the zone could double in size if he is re-elected as mayor later this year.

Steve Norris, the Conservative London mayoral candidate, said: "The only person who thinks this scheme is not hurting business is Ken Livingstone.

"Congestion charging is doing real damage."

Liberal Democrat mayoral candidate Simon Hughes said: "It is now time for a fresh direction to get congestion charging working for Londoners rather than against them; to improve their lives rather than make them a misery; to encourage shoppers back to London streets and to stop law-abiding motorists from being unnecessarily fined by Capita."


Your comments

The implementation of a charge was introduced without thought to the overall impact
D Little, London

The charge has worked in so much as traffic flow is improved, within the area; however congestion remains unchanged as I commute in. I note however that councils that have so long relied on parking charges to supplement their income, as apposed to controlling parking have recently increased their charges, presumably in an attempt to claw back fees. The implementation of a charge was introduced without thought to the overall impact.
D Little, London

The biggest problem is the unfair application of the fines. Can anyone think of any charge that increases by 1500% within 24 hours? After all if you are caught without a tube ticket the fine is 10.
Markos, London

Well done, Ken, a politician sticking to his guns and getting things done. Admits any mistakes, listens to the people, works for all and deserves re-election.
Ken Elmes, London, UK

Frankly I'm no great fan of Ken Livingstone but on this one I'm with him. This is the kind of radical, fundamental, bad habit-changing measure that we should praise politicians for. We'll never all agree so he's used power to make it happen. Now get on to waste reduction and recycling please Ken.
Roger Harvey, London, England

I think Ken Livingstone should be given credit for sticking to the plan
James Sindin, London
Given the widespread newspaper condemnation of this before the charge was brought in I think Ken Livingstone should be given credit for sticking to the plan and doing something to try and make a change. It's still early days, but the signs are good, and noticeably the anti-congestion charge crowd have been relatively quieter recently.
James Sindin, London

I wholeheartedly disagree with the congestion charge. It only serves the purpose of the rich who can afford to drive their large gas-guzzling cars freely around the zone whilst the rest of us have to suffer on now even more crowded public transport. The charge has failed as it has not produced enough revenue for re-investment into public transport - hence the huge hikes in fares this year on top of the overcrowding.
Janet, London

The charge is great. I can now get around London far quicker than beforehand. The buses are much improved as well. It's just a shame that the government won't pay for Crossrail so that the Underground isn't so packed. At least Ken had the guts to do something this ambitious.
Tony, London, UK

The mayor needs to address the public transport problems we have in this city before it reaches crisis proportions
Katy Evans, London
I think the congestion charge was brought in before appropriate provision had been made on public transport. I have always been a pedestrian and have found that travelling by bus and tube in London now is even more unbearable. The mayor needs to address the public transport problems we have in this city before it reaches crisis proportions.
Katy Evans, London

If the GLA was disbanded then think of how much more money local authorities would have and Londoners could save. This would mean another tier of administration less and one less talking shop. Local authorities could then be responsible for congestion charging in their own boroughs depending upon local circumstances.
Tony, Hayes, UK

The congestion charge cannot be working. The only effects overall must be negative. It is wrong to fetter the liberty of people. It is also economically harmful overall.
Shaun Grimes, London

The congestion charge should be scrapped as Londoners are paying to use roads twice i.e. road tax and the congestion charge. If the congestion charge is going to stay then road tax should be scrapped and there should be a pay-as-you-go system in its place. If you include council tax then London motorists are paying three times to use London roads.
Anita Sterling, London, UK

If the scheme has only brought in a third of its expected revenue then the target for reduced car numbers must have been only 5%. Surely as it is now 16% it should be praised as being a runaway success by reducing car use by 300% of what was expected rather than moan than it didn't bring in enough money. After all, it is a congestion charge, not a car tax isn't it?
Stuart Walsh, London, UK

Why not reduce the hours and increase the tax for 4x4 cars. They are what causes all the problems.
Vera Peebles, London

Hope they begin bringing the charge into more cities. Maybe people will then start looking closer to home when they look for work.
Ceejay, Cannock, UK

The BBC's Tom Symonds
"London's mayor believes the Congestion Charge has changed attitudes"

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