A resounding thumbs-down for c-charge extension


Local residents and traders are calling on London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, to scrap the western extension of the congestion charge zone, which has been described by one council in the area as “west London’s Berlin Wall”, separating businesses from their customers and residents from essential services.


[UKPRwire, Thu Nov 27 2008] Local residents and traders are calling on London’s mayor, Boris Johnson, to scrap the western extension of the congestion charge zone, which has been described by one council in the area as “west London’s Berlin Wall”, separating businesses from their customers and residents from essential services.

Launched in February 2007 at a cost of £123 million, the western extension has come under renewed fire from neighbouring councils. Hammersmith and Fulham, which lies outside the zone, has been in the forefront of protests against the western extension, saying that it has not reduced congestion in west London and has only made life more difficult for residents needing to make local journeys by car or access vital services. Also, it has proved damaging to local traders who have found themselves cut off from their customers. Westminster council lodged the same complaints, saying that the scheme had made no impact on the pollution and congestion problems of central London. Kensington and Chelsea, however, registered some favourable views, as residents of that borough get a 90% discount on the £8-a-time charge and can drive into central London for free.

Boris Johnson has promised to abide by the outcome of the residents’ consultation – expected this Friday – though there are concerns that he might try to get around the result and keep the scheme in some form. To scrap it completely would mean losing some £40 million a year of revenue, which could mean having to cut back on other transport projects for the capital that need funding.

Keeping the extension ‘in some form’ could involve compromise measures, such as giving residents a 100% discount, enforcing the charge only at certain hours of the day, or introducing easier payment options. But in the face of such strong opposition to the scheme from residents, who are calling for its complete abolition rather than partial dismantling, the mayor will not have much room for manoeuvre. If he does go ahead with scrapping it, the earliest that could be done would be the middle of 2010.

After being in operation for almost two years, it is clear that for the great majority of residents the c-charge extension has been a resounding failure – and, as the leader of Hammersmith and Fulham council Stephen Greenhaigh remarked, “To make matters worse congestion in London is back to square one.” It appears that once again Londoners have been let down by an ineffective, costly and ultimately doomed transport scheme.





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