The Liberal Democrat group at the London Assembly has demanded Mayor Boris Johnson scraps the western extension of the Congestion Charge zone.
In his consultation exercise the Mayor suggested three options for the future of the western extension in Kensington and Chelsea and the GLA Liberal Democrats have now responded.
Caroline Pidgeon AM, the Liberal Democrats’ transport spokesperson at the London Assembly, says: “We opposed the western extension when Ken Livingstone brought it in against local people’s wishes. It has harmed local business and market traders and caused a rise in congestion in central London.
“We support the idea of making the charge easier to pay in the Central Zone, but none of the other half-baked options suggested by Mayor Johnson are feasible.
“Boris Johnson must stick to his election pledge to scrap the western extension, and not play around with half measures.”
One of the main reasons for the Liberal Democrats’ objections to the plans to extend the charging zone is the effect it would have on Portobello Market, an area of unique significance to the people of west London.
Liberal Democrats in Kensington and Chelsea have seen the Congestion Charge having a large, adverse effect on the market and say this will continue until the western extension is scrapped. Caroline says: “Portobello Market depends on people coming to the area and plainly no-one’s going to drive there if they’re going to be charged £8 to spend a fiver on fruit and veg.
“Add to this the element of competition the market will have to contend with when the Westfield shopping centre opens and it’s clear an entire way of life in this vibrant neighbourhood is at risk of dying off.”
The Liberal Democrats’ opposition to the extension are as follows:
- The 90% residents’ discount to the charge, given to a very large number of residents in the western zone, actually encouraged them to drive their cars into central London for a mere 80p per day. This was made worse by not allowing residents to pay for a single day but requiring them to “buy” a whole week, thus incentivising them to drive more.
- The choice of the Kensington and Chelsea area as an extension to the original scheme was arbitrary and based on the limitations of the existing technology. There were other areas within Greater London more in need of action against congestion.
- Consultations and opinion surveys made it clear that a majority of those living in the area in and around the Western extension were opposed to the proposal.
The Liberal Democrat group has suggested to the Mayor an alternative for reducing congestion in Greater London in the form of a ‘Tag and Beacon’ or satellite system as has been successfully trialled by TfL in Southwark – and has been operating efficiently and successfully in Oslo, Stockholm and Singapore for a number of years.
Caroline says: “This technology, as well as enabling a convenient, automatic way of paying the charge, would also allow TfL to identify congestion “hotspots” throughout London.
“Dealing with congestion in London isn’t just a matter of road pricing or congestion charging – we need to change people’s attitudes and get them to think in new ways, for example the Cross River Tram scheme which I’m pushing hard for.
“I hope the Mayor takes heed of our advice and I look forward to seeing the extension of the Congestion Charge zone scrapped.”