Monday’s launch of the western extension to the London congestion charge scheme will inevitably result in a substantial cost increase to London industry, and to those companies supplying the capital, all with no resultant benefits. The Freight Transport Association continues to call for essential goods vehicles to be excluded from the scheme.
FTA estimates that since the scheme was launched in February 2003 the costs of the charge itself, and of the administration required to make the payments, has run into hundreds of millions of pounds. The benefits of operating in a marginally decongested environment, and slight increases in speed levels, have been insignificant and in no way compensatory to the costs. From a practical point of view vehicle operators have been unable to capitalise on the minimal reductions in journey times.
FTA’s Head of Policy for London, Gordon Telling says, ‘The delivery of goods and services to London is an absolutely essential ingredient in the operation of the capital. Goods vehicles come into the charge zone because they have no choice. Shops, offices, restaurants, pubs and every other commercial establishment all have to be served. Without the goods vehicle they could not function and nor could London. There are no alternatives – you cannot deliver goods on the bus or on the tube.
‘Over the last four years London industry has had to suffer the increased costs of paying the congestion charge, all in the course of going about its essential work. Now the price goes up even further as the catchment zone widens.
‘Commercial vehicles are the lifeblood of London and should have been excluded from the scheme from the very beginning in the same way as buses and taxis – why is it that the movement of those essential vehicles to transport people is recognised whilst the movement of vans and lorries, obviously equally essential to transport goods, is not?’
FTA forecasts that the western extension will fail to improve journey times and will result in increased operating costs which will have to be paid for, to the disbenefit of Londoners.