Thursday, 27 November 2008

No Further Extensions to Boris's C-Charge U-Turns

Watching the London Right manoeuvre around the issue of the Western extension of the congestion charge has been an out and out pleasure. That pleasure has now unfortunately been brought to an end:

Only this week the Evening Standard desperately tried to convince it's readers that a full-scale scrapping of the zone would be 'a retrograde step' and only last night the Associate Editor of Autocar told us that the expected modification of the scheme was 'inevitable.'

Oh well, farewell to small pleasures. The extension is going and I will have to console myself by watching yet another acrobatic reversal of their position.

Boris, to his credit has been consistently inconsistent with this one. 

First we were told that he would scrap the extension, then we were told that there would be a consultation, then we were told that he preferred a modification of the scheme and now we are being told that it will go after all.

If I was being charitable I would say that he had initially been for scrapping the extension, before becoming convinced it was the wrong move to make, before finally (and wait for this line) relenting to the will of the public (unlike his predecessor don't you know).

If I was being less charitable I would say that for twelve months he has said whatever the person he happened to be talking to at the time wanted to hear, before at the last moment hiding behind the result of a public consultation.

Boris will be putting his arm around traders at Portobello Market later on, before being carried down Kensington High Street on the shoulders of Kit Malthouse and Stephen Greenhalgh. Bring your Porsche.

-Updates and Links-


Liberal Democrats (press release) said...

Commenting on the news that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is to scrap the western extension of the Congestion Charge zone, Liberal Democrat London Assembly Member and Transport spokesperson Caroline Pidgeon said:

"It is good that that this ill-conceived idea will be abandoned. The western extension of the Congestion Charge zone encouraged thousands of residents to drive into central London, putting the original scheme at risk.

"However this now gives the Mayor and Transport for London the freedom, and money, to explore with London's boroughs a more sophisticated system of road pricing, and the Mayor should direct TfL to use the latest technology to target local congestion "hotspots" across greater London because there are many people, in all parts of the capital, who wish to see something done about traffic congestion in their local area."


Labour (press release) said...

Boris' "foolish" removal of Western extension will cost Londoners £70m

The Labour group on the London Assembly have criticised the Mayor's decision to scrap the Western extension of the congestion charge as foolish against the interests of Londoners.

Labour's transport spokesperson Val Shawcross said: "The rolling back of the congestion charge is a foolish and backward step by Boris Johnson. It will lose TfL £70 million a year that could have been spent on improving our public transport system and will increase traffic and air pollution in one of the dirtiest and noisiest areas of central London.

"London's environment as a whole will suffer and local residents will no longer enjoy having 30,000 fewer cars a day clogging up their streets. At a time when TfL's coffers are tight and the Mayor is scrapping major transport projects, they will now have the added costs of removing the cameras, changing road signs and removing street furniture, which cost £100 million to install.

"The Mayor has shown his true colours today - petrol blue. The decision to remove the Western extension of the Congestion Charging zone shows that Boris is not interested in making London cleaner or improving life for cyclists and public transport users. It is yet another move in favour of the private car at the expense of walking, cycling and public transport."


pastyface said...

will we see shots of toffs pulling down cameras ala saddam statue He is being seen as a true liberator for the ruling classes.

Quelle surprise.

God I hate the tories more and more each day and I never thought that possible

Green Party (press release) said...

Western Extension decision ‘will lead to more traffic and more pollution’

Responding to the Mayor’s announcement that the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge will be scrapped, Jenny Jones commented:

“The congestion charge has been an incredibly successful method of traffic reduction. Scrapping the Western Extension will almost certainly lead to a sharp rise in traffic, more congestion, more air pollution and more climate change emissions.”

“Abolition of the extension could lead to fare rises, as the Mayor struggles to cope with an estimated £70m annual drop in income. This would be a straightforward swap from motorists paying to bus and tube passengers paying.”

“This is bad news not only for pedestrians and cyclists, but also for anyone travelling in London and everyone who breathes London’s air.”

“The announcement comes only two days after the Mayor pledged to make London a ‘greener’ and more environmentally-friendly city. Boris’s environmental commitment now appears to be little more than a charade.”


The Troll said...

Pastyface- I'm sure the stone for Boris's statue is already being chiseled. Arise Sir Boris!

Tom said...

At first glance the poll Boris has based his decision on amounts to a straw poll ('informal public consultation' is the official line) and actually there's still a much more formal process still to do. What's interesting are the attitudinal survey results, which are markedly different, since 45% supported keeping it as is or with modifications, with 41% scrapping it, which, given that it's the scientific one, I'd trust more. Howevder, Boris is going with the results of the informal poll, which had more responses but I doubt would pass muster statistically as a poll (since only people with strong views would contribute, which biases it, unless there's some published weighting been done). I'd like to know what Boris's reasons for going with the least statistically valid findings are and whether he can back this up with some methodology. I suspect he's been hoist here - he allowed two different polling methods, which came back with wildly different answers. However, the one with most respondents had the strongest support for scrapping it, ignoring which is going to be hard to explain to a non-statistically minded public. Since he can't do anything until 2010, he's chosen the most headline grabbing option and tried to hide the complexity, knowing that it's sufficiently far down the road not to worry him for a while. He's dodged a difficult decision, in fact.

I think all he's proved is that the consultation method can skew the results to the point of disagreement. Need to examine the published documents though.

Mark Lee said...

Absolutely gutted. That £70m a year could have paid for a lot of the scrapped public transport schemes.

The Troll said...

Well it finally puts and end to any pretense that he is interested in increasing the provision and use of public transport in London. We will still get Crossrail if we're lucky and might get some other projects in the future if the Government of the day takes the initiative, but Boris will not be the man pushing for them. He has well and truly nailed his colours to the mast.

Chris said...

Are you sure that 'retrograde step' wasn't a compliment? This is the Evening Standard after all.

Anonymous said...

All of Boris's consultations seem to favour Tory voters. See his vote for a Park to get funding scheme. The people most likely and motivated to respond are the most affluent Tory voting types. That's why the scientific survey showed that Londoners favored keeping or modifying the zone whereas the straw poll showed support for scrapping it. Expect many more of these types of consultations in the future.

Tom said...

"All of Boris's consultations seem to favour Tory voters"

Funny that. You'd have thought more people would have spotted the word 'Conservative' next to his name on the ballot paper, really, but there you go.

Anonymous said...

This and scrapping the Thames Gateway Bridge are clear payback to those voters that won Boris the election.

Rightly or wrongly every administration, local, regional or national does something irrational and retrograde to reward its voters. Lets just hope that's the lot and does not herald a the wholesale neglect of public transport that the troll alludes to.

The Troll said...

Thames Gateway Bridge and the rest. Not to mention the eight years of above inflation fares increases yet to come. I had wondered where that money was intended to go, considering so many projects were being scrapped. Now we know.

prj45 said...

There was a piece on ITV news on the eve of the announcement with Johnson on Portobello Road describing the congestion charge as a "tax" but I'm sure I read something the other day where Johnson explicitly stated it wasn't a tax in relation to the USA's embassy refusing to pay it (because it chooses to view it as a tax).

Nice and consistent.

Tom said...

"I had wondered where that money was intended to go"

Yup - Boris can't be bothered to go and find money for the DLR and CRT (despite the latter having clear consultation support) but has no trouble finding money to plug the holes he's kicking in the budget. Since these holes appear every year from 2010, it won't take *that* long for the cost to add up to really quite a lot of decent transport investment. Instead it is literally being wasted in big heaping handfuls.