Mayor seeks to raise congestion charge to £8
Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London has asked Transport for London to consult on increasing the congestion charge to £8 for private cars entering the centre of London.Commercial fleet vehicles would see their charges increase to £7.
The earliest the changes to the charge could come in would be next July and would be accompanied by new measures to remove the 'hassle' of paying the charge, including a 15% reduction for monthly and annual payments.
"The congestion charge has been an unprecedented success in dramatically reducing congestion, pollution and accidents. The reliability of bus services has been transformed by the fall in traffic. We need to maintain and build on this," Mr Livingstone said. "I am proposing one large increase in this Mayoral term to maintain the effectiveness of the charge and raise additional revenues to further reduce congestion as part of Transport for London's £10 billion, 5 year investment programme."
Other proposed changes include lowering the threshold for participation in the fleet scheme from 25 vehicles to 10, and including cars as well as commercial vehicles on the fleet scheme. Those paying monthly would receive three uncharged days per month, while those paying annually would receive 40 uncharged days per year. Late payment would be frozen at £10 and more petrol stations would be introduced where one could pay the charge.
Mr Livingstone said these measures could provide an additional 5-13% cut in congestion within the zone, an additional £50-60 million net revenue per annum, lower emissions, fewer accidents, an additional net London-wide transport benefits of some £20-60 million per annum, as well as quicker and more reliable journeys for drivers and bus passengers.
However, the plans have sparked an angry response from other assembly party members. Angie Bray, the Conservative party's congestion charge spokesperson in the London Assembly said: "The old Red-Ken has reared his ugly head again - breaking promises and raising taxes. But this time he has surpassed himself with a massive 60% increase, in one go. This rise will be bad for business, bad for key workers such as teachers who have to enter the zone, and bad for all hardworking Londoners who already pay too much tax."
In its first year the charge brought in £79.8 million, while in the past six months income from the scheme was £102.7 million. Last week it was revealed that approximately one third of that came from fines for non or late payments. The amount of traffic in London has fallen by 30% or 70,000 vehicles since the charge was introduced.
News of the rise in the congestion charge should not come as a surprise, however, as Mr Livingstone made it clear that he wanted an increase earlier this year, and said he would also look at ways to at least double the charge for 4x4 users (see related story).
By David Hopkins