Scrapping the Congestion Charge West London Extension
I try to avoid anything too political on this blog. And sometimes fail. However the recent news that the West London Extension to the Congestion Charge will (subject to legal hurdles) end, is interesting.
It’s interesting because I think it shows an interesting comparison of styles. The former Mayor of London was not afraid to introduce things that go against the “popular opinion”. The current Mayor of London is now scrapping one of those things because of “popular opinion”.
I say “popular opinion” in relation to the Congestion Charge because actually 40% of the population of Greater London have no car, and therefore do not pay the Congestion Charge. This is a sizeable minority of the population. In fact, according to the 2001 census, once you get into inner London (which covers the Congestion Charging Zones), over 50% of the population don’t have a car – a staggering proportion when you think about it. (The reason for the London figures are, of course, due to London having the best public transport system in the UK – in the rest of England, the figure is a mere 27%)
Of the public vote, one can therefore reasonably hypothesise that the majority of people who filled in the Congestion Charge public consultation, were those in the 60% that had a car. Although that said, as a non-car owner, I also took part in the consultation.
I don’t know much about the West London Extension and the impacts it has had. I only know about the original Central London zone, because I worked in Holborn at the time and saw what happened. And I remember two distinct results of it’s introduction:
- Suddenly the buses on Kingsway, going towards Euston in rush hour, moved. Quickly. Prior to the introduction of the Congestion Charge, it would take about 30 minutes to travel the half mile from outside Bush House, to Holborn Station – the buses just crawled. After the introduction, they did the journey in a matter of minutes, and still seem to do so,
- In the height of summer, I no longer left Holborn station having to reach for my asthma inhaler. Prior to this, several times a year, I would step off the tube and be instantly hit by so much air pollution that I couldn’t breathe. Afterwards, that never happened to be once.
Like many I came to the firm conclusion that big cities and cars just don’t go together well – there’s too many people for them to work logistically together. And we as a nation need to get out of them – they’re almost an obsession. What we really need is a government (of any hue – because lets face it, few political parties ever want to take on the motoring lobby) that’s prepared to take that bull by the horns – and that’s going to require politicians to go with the unpopular, rather than the popular…