Friday, 10 October 2008

Pressure rises on Boris to cut Western Extension

The Liberal Democrats today warned Boris Johnson against implementing any of his 'half baked' alternatives to scrapping the Western extension of the Congestion Charge.

Their City Hall transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said this morning:

"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.”

Among the alternatives put forward by the Mayor were that people living within the zone could be exempted from the charge and that a charge-free period could be introduced for the middle of the day. 

The Liberal Democrats objections to keeping the extension are that:

"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."

Today's intervention comes after Boris's own party urged him to scrap the extension and after his one-time cheerleader Andrew Gilligan labeled the decision his 'first big test'

However, with the news that the GLA group may lose up to £70 million pounds to a failed Icelandic bank and with big shortfalls in his budget still unaccounted for, the loss of the western extension revenue would be a bitter pill to take.

Increasing congestion in the capital at a time when London risks receiving unlimited fines for it's poor air quality would also not be well timed. 

Nor would allowing more traffic into the West End, at the same time as Boris is actually increasing the amount of road space taken up by the city's buses.

Scrapping the extension would fulfill an election promise for sure and endear him to the hearts of all those who oppose the charge.

But at the same time does Boris really want to go down as the Mayor who reversed the shift of Londoners from cars to public transport just as times are getting tough?

This is a big test for Boris Johnson. How will he fare?

-Update- Tower Hamlets consider own congestion zone.


Paul said...

Boris can afford not to scrap the extension. the Clarkson brigade are going to vote for him no matter what. Where else are they going to go? He will just fudge the issue and say it is what the consultation found and that *unlike Ken* he listened to the voters.

The Troll said...

I'm not so sure. He could just as easily say "oh well I was in favour of modifying the charge but there was a large bloc of people who wanted to scrap it and in these hard times I want to do the right thing and take the cost of the charge off of small businesses".

The spin is possible either way in the short term, but in the long term it will make a huge difference to how both London and Boris is seen. This is big stuff.

Jonathan said...

London Chamber of Commerce are shouting for the WEZ to be scrapped as well so if Red Boris doesn't listen he runs the risk of being branded "anti-business".

Anonymous said...

As TfL itself admits, the western extension hasn't reduced congestion, hasn't reduced the frequency of travel by car, and hasn't improved air quality - and the revenue loss from scrapping it would be minimal. Scrapping it would also have the merit of keeping Boris's pledge from that great big consultation, not six months ago, known as a mayoral election.

The Troll said...

Johnathan- Well as usual he's tried to have it both ways with that one. On the one hand he is appointing a business advisory panel, and on the other hand he is opposing the expansion of Heathrow. He is for the people and against business for that airport but against the people and for business for City Airport. Is he Red Boris, blue Boris or Green Boris? I'm not sure even he knows.

anonymous- he did pledge to scrap the charge originally but then only pledged to have a consultation nearer the election when things got difficult for him . He has now made it clear that he only favours amending the charge, or does he? Does anyone know? Should he consult himself?

Chris said...

"should he consult himself?"

I wouldn't if I was him. He'd never get anything done.

"the western extension hasn't reduced congestion"

This is a bit disingenuous. As even Gilligan admits there are now 30,000 fewer cars in the zone than before. Would letting them back in improve congestion do you think?

The Troll said...

"as even Gilligan admits''

I think that was Gilligan.

angelneptunestar said...

You all just enjoy moaning like a bunch of old grandmas.

"should he consult himself?"

I wouldn't if I was him. He'd never get anything done."

You have all just spent hours blaming him for acting quicly, without consulting anyone.
whatever he does, according to you lot, it is the wrong thing.

The Troll said...

This is probably a silly question, but I will give it a shot anyway:

Have you got anything to say about the western extension of the congestion charge?


angelneptunestar said...

Adam, you know me, so you know I f.... haven't.

prj45 said...

I love the Tower Hamlets move.

Let's see Boris (i.e. Kuvleer) attack that whilst at the same time saying local authorities should have more power to do what they want.

angelneptunestar said...

I don't love the Tower Hamlets move, it would be too many people deciding to have congestion charges.