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11/27/2008
UK: London Mayor Scales Back Congestion Charge
Public opinion in London, UK overwhelmingly demanded removal of the congestion tax Western Extension.

Boris Johnson
London Mayor Boris Johnson announced today that he would keep his election promise and scale back the congestion charge that his predecessor imposed on the western end of the UK capital city. Johnson surveyed residents living in the "Western Extension" areas of Chelsea, Kensington and Westminster, two-thirds of whom wanted the tax eliminated. An even greater 86 percent of businesses surveyed wanted to get rid of congestion pricing.

"Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that that they would like the scheme scrapped," Johnson said in a statement. "As a mayor that keeps his promises I am instructing Transport for London to begin work on the process of a formal consultation on the removal of the Western Extension."

Johnson emphasized that he was taking a new approach to reducing congestion in the city. His "Way to Go" plan released last month (read plan) detailed a number of specific initiatives designed to undo the deliberate anti-car policies of former Mayor Ken Livingstone who first introduced congestion pricing in 2003.

"Transport for London is working on a series of measures aimed at easing congestion and smoothing traffic flow, which include rephasing traffic signals and cracking down hard on the chaos caused by badly-planned road works," Johnson said. "They are also setting up a task force with external experts to review further ways in which traffic flows can be smoothed."

A total of 28,000 London residents responded to the Transport for London survey over a period of five weeks. Only 19 percent of those surveyed voted to keep the congestion charge as-is. The National Alliance Against Tolls praised the new mayor's willingness to take public opinion into account.

"If Londoners had ever been given the choice, the London 'Con' would never have taken place," the group said in a statement. "It may have reduced the number of vehicles in the London charge zone, but it failed to improve the speed of traffic and the officials have not been able to detect the slightest improvement in air quality. This ineffective scheme has come at a great cost... It is a pity that they will apparently have to wait till Spring 2010 before the charge is gone."

The tolling stations cannot be removed until 2010 because of a number of legal procedures that must first be taken to undo the western zone created in February 2007. Shortly before voters removed Ken Livingstone from office, the former mayor signed a long-term contract with IBM preventing total elimination of the congestion charge without a massive early termination fee to that company. Johnson earlier had killed Livinstone's plan to charge motorists with family vehicles and sports cars £25 (US $39) to enter the city.



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