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Country’s First Congestion Charge is a Year Old Tomorrow

Published September 30, 2003

The country’s first congestion charging scheme celebrates its first birthday tomorrow ( October 1 ).

And Durham County Council, which introduced the charge to reduce the flow of traffic into the narrow streets and confined spaces of Durham City’s historic peninsula, today released figures which confirm it has been, and continues to be, a resounding success.

The bollard-controlled, two pound charge - the first of its kind to be introduced in the UK - was launched in a blaze of national and international publicity twelve months ago as part of a package of measures to improve traffic management in the City centre.

It was aimed at reducing the flow of traffic through the town’s narrow streets by more than half and minimising the conflict between vehicles and pedestrians.

Prior to its introduction, around 3,000 vehicles a day used the sole public access road onto the City centre Peninsula on which there is the World Heritage Site of Durham Cathedral and Castle, together with businesses, a school, parts of Durham University and a small number of private homes.

However, the narrow street, built centuries ago to cater for nothing bigger than a horse and cart, was also used by up to 17,000 pedestrians a day, and conflict between the two was causing traffic congestion, environmental problems and road safety hazards, as well as detracting from the experience of the World Heritage Site.

The congestion charge, in force from 10am - 4pm Monday - Saturday, solved the problems at a stroke, and the volume of traffic entering the peninsula fell by 90 per cent within a week, far exceeding expectations.

Figures released today by the County Council show that even after a year, the impact of the scheme is just as significant.

A report monitoring the first year’s operation shows that :

• vehicular activity within the peninsula has steadied out at an 85 per cent reduction.

• 70 per cent of those interviewed think the charge is a good idea

• of the 240 vehicles a day leaving the peninsula between 10am and 4pm, 70 are paying the charge. The remainder are exempt.

• pedestrian activity has increased by ten per cent

• heavy and light goods vehicle activity during the restricted period has fallen by 50 per cent.

• 83 per cent of businesses on the peninsula have not found any need to alter their servicing arrangements.

County Council Leader Ken Manton said the figures spoke for themselves.

" It looked as though we were onto a winner within a day or two of introducing the congestion charge and the results of our longer term monitoring, coupled with the awards which the scheme has won, confirm it, " he added.

" The historic peninsula is now a much safer and more pleasant place for pedestrians and more attractive for tourists."

Coun Manton said an added bonus of the scheme had been the volume of national and international publicity it had brought the City.

" We are still getting newspapers, magazines and television crews from all over the country and mainland Europe coming here to report on what we are doing.

" Durham City has always been associated with the three Cs of Cathedral, Castle and St. Cuthbert. Now there’s a fourth . . for congestion charging."

( Ends )

Durham County Council
Press and Publicity Unit

Fraser Davie
Press and Publicity Officer
County Hall

Tel: 0191 383 3000
Direct Line: 0191 383 3373/3379/4465
Fax: 0191 383 4372

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