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London congestion charge needs ‘radical overhaul’ to keep city moving

A radical overhaul of congestion charging in London is needed if the capital’s roads are not to become increasingly clogged and unmanageable, according to a new report.

However, research undertaken by YouGov for Jams Today, Jams Tomorrow shows that, while the vast majority of Londoners expect congestion to get worse (79%), they are heavily divided in terms of solutions.

The most popular solution, with just 29% support, was a higher congestion charge during rush hour.

The study, by business group London First, assesses different options for easing congestion and draws on international examples of successful charging regimes.

It concludes the most effective solution would be a system where charges vary according to those roads and times of day where congestion is worst.

With London growing by 100,000 people a year and already responsible for 20% of total UK traffic congestion, the report says Londoners and London government have to accept the reality of new charges.

The alternative is to face ever greater congestion, more unpredictable journey times, and increased delays on deliveries, it argues.

It sets out five conditions for creating a new scheme:

  • any future scheme should be better targeted than London’s existing one, where costs vary more based on those roads and times of day where congestion is worst;
  • any scheme must be able to demonstrate that it reduces congestion, benefits bus passengers and cyclists, and supports the creation of better quality public spaces;
  • those who pay the charge must themselves see some sustained benefits in the form of more predictable and reliable journeys for people and goods;
  • all net revenues from any scheme should be reinvested in transport in the capital, with road users who pay the charge seeing at least some of the benefits, whether through investment in roads infrastructure and network management, or through offsetting reductions in existing taxes and charges;
  • targeted discounts or exemptions where these may be justified for particular groups of users.

The YouGov poll of 1,055 Londoners undertaken for the report found:

  • Nearly four out of five Londoners polled thought that congestion would increase either a lot (40%) or a little (38%) over the next five years
  • While only a small minority of people (8%) said they would support no new measures to cut congestion, no single measure commanded more than 29% support
  • The most popular solution, backed by 29% of respondents, was a higher congestion charge during rush hour
  • Respondents were split down the middle in terms of whether they should pay a toll to fund new bridges/tunnels in East London across the Thames to ease congestion (46% support, 43% oppose)
  • There are strong objections to crossings near proposed bridges/tunnels that are currently free for motorists – such as the Blackwall Tunnel – also being subject to a toll to avoid potential delays caused by people switching to toll-free options close by (32% support, 54% oppose)

Baroness Jo Valentine, Chief Executive of London First, said that without radical intervention over and above current plans, congestion will only get worse and risks bringing the capital to a standstill.

“This is bad news for London’s competitiveness and for Londoners’ overall quality of life,” she said.

“We need a far cleverer congestion charging regime where costs vary more based on those roads and times of day where congestion is worst.

“The sooner Londoners and London government come to terms with this reality and we start working up a solution the better.”



Original polling:

All polling figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 1,055 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 1st – 3rd July 2014.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all London adults (aged 18+). The full results are available on request.

Some key London congestion stats:

  • Each day London’s road network caters for nearly 10 million car trips, more than four million bus trips, 500,000 cycle trips and 300,000 taxi or minicab trips.
  • It carries 80% of passenger journeys and 90% of freight movements. The road network also accounts for some 80% of London’s public space.
  • London has around 20% of the UK’s traffic congestion
  • Across London between 1980/82 and 2006/09, average weekday traffic speeds fell by 18% in the AM peak, by 14% in the inter peak and by 12% in the PM peak
  • Current average traffic speeds in central London are around 14kph, in inner London around 20kph and those in outer London vary between 30 and 35kph.

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