Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Driven round the bend — at £1.50 a mile

Gridlocked trafficCongestion charging could play an important part in curbing urban congestion — and if the government paid more attention to issues such as privacy and rebalancing rather than increasing taxes, the country could have a more sophisticated discussion of the options. But there are some cogent objections that need to be dealt with first:

"When Labour came to power 10 years ago, John Prescott proclaimed: I will have failed if in five years time there are not many more people using public transport and far fewer journeys by car.' He has failed. Since that proclamation, the number of motor vehicles has increased by 7.5m…

"Congestion pricing is not the answer. It will simply disperse the problem into those parts of the country currently least congested, encouraging yet more sprawl and low-density, car-dependent land-use patterns. The on-street car parking in older urban areas has been full for some time. Overwhelmingly the extra cars each year must find parking spaces out of town." —Prof. John Adams, UCL

"As Britain does not have sufficient rail capacity to absorb the effects of a successful road-pricing policy, this indicates that the forthcoming comprehensive spending review should signal a long-term shift in transport policy, with motorway-widening and airport expansion supplanted by increased investment in our railways. If road pricing goes ahead, all revenues should be ring-fenced for public-transport investment." —Bob Crow, RMT

"Clever government advisers who never leave London admit to being in thrall to the success of the capital’s congestion charge. Innovative, brave, progressive . . . the superlatives fly. But London has fewer cars per head than anywhere else in the country: 345 per 1,000 population, compared with 473 for Great Britain as a whole. In the West Midlands, East of England, South East and South West it is more than 500. People outside London are far more dependent on their cars. You cannot extrapolate from a West London congestion charge to a universal one. Even in the Outer London areas to where it is being extended, it is facing far greater resistance than it did in the city centre: less public transport, you see, and not such bad congestion." —Alice Miles

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