Why city tolls make London traffic worse

Published: 07 November 2007

Is the Congestion Charge fixing all London’s problems? Far from it, says Gavin Green

The focus of the original 2003 London Congestion Charge was sharp, never mind that it bludgeoned millions of motorists like a giant tax-collecting mallet. London traffic was unbearable. Something had to be done.

Alas, the focus of Mayor Ken Livingstone’s revised Congestion Charge, due next year, is now about as sharp as the eyes of Pete Doherty after a heavy night on the town. Ken’s new congestion charge is actually a pollution charge. A very different thing.

High emitting cars (over 225g/km) from next year will be charged £25 for a trip into London. Low carbon cars (under 120g/km) including many small hatches will be exempt. So all those people who can’t stand the crowds on tubes and buses will go back to crowding the roads. People who currently own a single sensible family vehicle will buy second cars (or third cars) to commute. So it’s out of the number 22 into the C2. What’s the eco sense in that? A friend of mine has just bought an electric congestion charge-free G-Wiz (make that an ex-friend) instead of using the tube. Neither London’s environment nor its aesthetics has benefited.

In a proper congestion charge, all cars – electric, hybrid, diesel, petrol, twin-cylinder or twelve-cylinder – should be treated the same. All cars create congestion.

Even the physical size of the vehicle doesn’t make that much difference. If it did, why did Ken and his Transport for London bosses replace the compact and comely Routemaster with those hideous German bendy-buses that terrorise cyclists and motorcyclists and have twice the congestion-increasing footprint?

By Gavin Green

Contributor-in-chief, former editor, anti-weight campaigner, voice of experience