19 March 2008

Congestion Charge - 5 years on

16 February marked the fifth anniversary of London's Congestion Charge Central Zone. I remember vividly the weekend immediately before its introduction as I got caught up with the mass protest against the possibility of British troops invading Iraq, the demo culminating in Hyde Park. However, as I was forced to walk at a snail's pace through the streets of London, the red "C" symbols had been painted on the tarmac in readiness and signage had been erected.

Since then TfL have reported that traffic within the Central Zone has reduced by 21% and that congestion in the same area is down by 8% though this figure is since 1999/2000. The Congestion Charge is seen as a contributing factor to the Tube's record passenger-carrying figure, recently revealed as being in excess of a billion journeys during the last year. Since 14 February 2003 bus patronage has increased within the Central Zone by 45% to 1.9 billion journeys a year. Hot-on-the-heels of this figure is cycling, which has grown by 43% over the same period.

February also marks the first anniversary of the Western Extension to the Central Zone, which saw Kensington and Chelsea and parts of Victoria fall within the Congestion Charge Zone.

The Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has made no secret of the fact that he has always been in favour of introducing and extending the congestion zone. When he came to power in 2000 London suffered the worst congestion in Europe with a figure between £2-4 million being lost by industry as a direct result. The current Congestion Charge Zone forms part of TfL's comprehensive transport strategy, which was published in 2001.