Window on my world — 14 January 2011
Fare Trade

So the Western Extension Zone Congestion Charge has been abolished and from my cab I say not before time. The City and West End still retains this punitive toll which to enter the zone the charge has been raised considerably higher than inflation by a whopping 25 per cent. The original area covered, the City and West End, has a fairly low number of domestic dwellings, while the Western Extension considerably more homes than businesses are to be found.

But when the Western Extension Zone came into force residents of Chelsea and Fulham could drive their Chelsea Tractors throughout London by only paying this annual nominal charge. As a consequence the West End has slowly ground to a snail’s pace and all the benefits promised by Ken Livingstone when he bravely introduced the scheme were lost. Buses and cabs had fewer passengers as more people started using their own cars.

Now since Christmas, even with the best endeavours of the utility companies to produce the interminable road works, we seem to be able to drive again through the City unimpeded to the benefit of every professional driver who works in that area. The £50 million of annual revenue that Transport for London are expected to lose will soon so doubt be clawed back from the Citizens of London one way or another, but for me that’s a fair trade off to be able to drive again in London.

The Congestion Charge seems to have had another unexpected benefit; anecdotal evidence suggested by Sebastian Shakespeare, writing in the Evening Standard, has emerged from enforcing the Congestion Charge. He put forward his belief that there was a correlation between lower burglary rates and the introduction of the Congestion Charge in Chelsea and Fulham. Areas of London covered with enforcement cameras have seen a significant decrease in burglary being reported and in the City, where almost every street is covered, crime of this nature is almost non-existent, although some might argue the crooks are working inside the City banks and not outside.

At this rate Boris might get my vote in 2012, even though he has threatened to take my cab off the road due to its age, at least driving around London promises to be a more pleasant experience.

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Gibson

(2) Readers Comments

  1. The congestion charge is a perfect example of how politicians, when faced with a complex problem (in this case, traffic congestion in our capital city), only tinker with it and never apply the radical measures that would actually solve it.
     
    Applying the congestion charge was wrong in every way, strategically and morally. It was wrong morally because charges and taxes affect lower income groups disproportionately while leaving the well-off to continue as before: post-congestion charge, the chauffeur-driven limos are still parked on the yellow lines outside London’s major stores. Strategically it was wrong because charges always have an effect to start with and then this gradually fades away. It is wrong too because even though people like me always used public transport, we still pay the congestion charge – passed on in higher prices.

    If you want to keep private cars out of London then ban them and have done with it. Unfortunately of course, that would not feed the Mayor’s coffers with cash to waste on other stupid schemes, so the solution that works is avoided and a useless gesture substituted.
     
    London has always been congested. They worried about this back in Victorian times when vehicles were literally rated in horsepower, and they have worried about it ever since. There is no consensus, however, as everyone thinks only of himself and not of the larger picture. So tradespeople complain about reduction in trade, cabbies and other transport operators moan about the extra cost, selfish private motorists whinge about having to pay to take their unnecessary and unwanted cars into the city. Who stands up for the environment and for making our city a better and pleasanter place to live and work in? No one, it seems. All are too busy wringing their hands about their own narrow selfish concerns.
     
    I would like to see large areas of London pedestrianized, including the main shopping streets, and all non-essential vehicles banned, the ban to be enforced by permanent confiscation of any offending vehicle. Neither Boris nor Ken has the guts to do this or anything like it. With them in charge, the same dreary problems will continue to afflict us and in the meantime the selfish whining will go on and on.

    • I’m afraid your utopian view of how London should be will never be achieved.

What do you have to say for yourself?