Tag Archives: Congestion Charging

Congestion Charging

I’m not a believer in congestion charging, not through some Clarksonesq desire to have speed and powah in our city centres, nor through some malcontent desire to screw authority – no, no. I just don’t think it works. When it was introduced in 2003 it worked for about a month after which congestion slowly crept back to just where it was before; some might argue even that it’s worse now than it was then. Every attempt to curb this failure, whether it be draconian spy cars, above inflation price increases, heavy handed debt recovery firms or unwarranted extensions to the central zone have all failed, miserably.

Which brings me neatly to my point. Presently the Greater London Authority is locked in a series of expensive legal battles with embassies from some of the world’s largest economies: America, Russia and others aren’t paying the Congestion Charge and in the process they’re racking up hundreds of thousands of pounds of fines and the GLA is allegedly losing hundreds of thousands of pounds in revenue because diplomatic cars are dodging the zone charge.

The embassies claim that they’re immune from Congestion Charging, it is after all an environmental and infrastructure tax – which under international agreements they’re exempt from paying. Except that the GLA are claiming it’s a service charge and not a tax: which raises an interesting point for anyone that pays the charge. Can you ask for a refund if you encounter congestion during the day? Clearly if it’s a service being provided then it should have some form of service level agreement? And if it’s a service, then that means that we’re customers – so surely if the service fails to meet the customers expectations then we, as empowered customers – and just look at the number of trading rules that customers can call upon in for protection – should be able to ask for a refund? Sue for breach of contract, or bring the GLA kicking and screaming in front of trading standards for failing to advertising the service honestly?

Think about it – they can’t change their tune now: they’ve wasted too much of our money  trying to recoup money from foreign governments claiming it’s a service charge, so let’s start treating it as such.

Congestion Charging

So there wasn’t a major system meltdown, there wasn’t gridlock, there wasn’t even congestion and we all sat surprised watching the congestion charge work: even the Mayor didn’t seem to expect the damn thing to work, but contrary to all the doubts it performed rather well, this is twice in one week that I’ve been impressed by something ken Livingston has done. The first was his support for the anti-war march, and the second seems to be (although the jury is still out) his conviction that congestion charging would work.

In many ways I think it’s a good idea, I still have my doubts, and it’s definitely not the way I would have gone about it, but if it works then I suppose you have to give him credit. I don’t own a car, I have no need for one: and I don’t see me getting one any time in the near future on the principle that I simply wouldn’t have any use for it, I get my shopping delivered online, I live seconds away from Notting Hill Gate, I’ve got Kensington High Street within spitting distance, and If I’m really pushed I could walk to Marble Arch in 15 minutes. I’ve got the tube seconds away from the house, and I’ve got 4 major bus routes that pass by the house… So I really don’t need or want a car; there’s a part of me that thinks I should get some tax breaks for not owning a car and doing my bit for the environment, let’s face it: people get tax breaks for less worthy reasons than that don’t they?

The big question will be if it works – if in a years time traffic is back to how it was then we should be questioning whether or not to scrap it and look for better solutions.