Friday, April 18, 2008

C-charge has not cut jams, admits TfL chief

According to today's Evening Standard, Transport for London's Michèle Dix - managing director of planning - has admitted that congestion in central London is back at levels last seen before the C-charge came into effect.

Speaking at a transport conference in London, she admitted that congestion has now returned to how it was before the controversial road-charging scheme was introduced.

But it seems she stopped short of apologising to car users for the vast cost of the failed scheme.

Confirming the conclusion of an earlier study by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, Transport for London said the freed road space created by the 21% drop in traffic levels had been taken up by other road users, making congestion worse.

This is the first time TfL itself has publicly admitted to such a sharp rise in congestion in central London.

Ms Dix also revealed the extent to which public opposition to road tolls had made TfL think twice about extending the congestion charge zone to the capital's outer boroughs.

A petition on the Prime Minister's website calling for national roadpricing plans to be axed attracted a record-breaking 1.8 million signatories.

"It made government turn off charging, which has made it difficult for us," Ms Dix told the conference.

"If road-user charging was to be extended, we would have to make it more acceptable. We would have to improve public transport" she said.

Her admission serves as a major warning for any city considering introducing similar road-charging schemes - particularly those whose public transport system is thought to be less effective than London's.

The news also supports an Evening Standard survey conducted in February, and Department for Transport figures released last year, revealing that morning rush-hour traffic speeds had fallen to 9.3mph, below the 9.9mph recorded before the C-charge was introduced.

Paul Watters of the AA said: "It had become increasingly clear that benefits originally delivered by the charge were being eroded.

"Last year, TfL's own monitoring report said the initial 30% improvement in congestion had slipped to just 8% - now it seems even that gain may have gone."

Gordon Taylor of West London Residents' Association accused TfL management of "complete failure".

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