Congestion Charge ‘has cost drivers £2.6bn in decade but failed to cut traffic jams’

Clogged up: the congestion charge has failed to improve driving in central London, the AA has claimed (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty)
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The congestion charge has “sucked” about £2.6 billion from drivers in its first decade while failing to cut congestion, the AA claimed today.

It said 57 per cent of the cash paid by motorists had been eaten up in administration charges, but speeds had failed to rise above those of a “horse and cart”. Transport for London hit back, saying it had raised £1.2 billion to improve public transport, including £960 million on a better bus service.

The weekday charge was introduced by Ken Livingstone on February 17, 2003, at £5. It now stands at £10.

Research by the AA found that despite traffic volumes falling within the zone, speeds became slower over the decade, as a result of road space being turned into bus lanes, cycle and pedestrian safety measures, and roadworks.

It said that roads were now so clogged, emissions of PM10 soot particles from car tyres and brakes were greater than from exhausts because of the amount of starting and stopping. AA president Edmund King said: “Drivers have paid a heavy price for slower journeys over the last decade. Some have argued that without charging, traffic speeds would have been even worse. But speeds in central London have remained fairly constant since the days of the horse and cart some 100 years ago.”

The charge has raised £102 million for roads and bridges, £70 million for road safety, £51 million for local transport schemes and £36 million for environmental schemes. But income has fallen £60 million a year since Boris Johnson axed the zone’s western extension.

Nick Fairholme, TfL’s director of congestion charging, said: “Over the last decade the charge has reduced congestion, which had reached endemic levels, lowering the number of vehicles entering the zone by 60,000 a day.”

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