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.