June 02, 2003

Congestion Charging: A Survey

Patrick Crozier | London Congestion Charging

How is the Congestion Charge for you? That's the question. It's been up and running for over 3 months now so it should have settled down. So, we should be able to start drawing some conclusions.

I do mean you. I am not looking for opinions on whether the Charge is a good thing generally but what your personal experience (and those of friends and acquaintances) has been. I am coming round to the view that anecdotal evidence is often the best you can get - not least because it comes from people you can trust.

I also mean it in the broadest sense. This survey is not just for people who drive in Central London. It also for people who used to, people who never have but take the train/bus and people who don't live or work anywhere near Central London.

Just to kick things off here are my impressions:

I live in Teddington which is about 10 miles from the zone. I haven't owned a car for nearly two years and it was ages since the last time I drove into what has become the Central Zone. I occasionally take the train into Central London but that is almost always outside peak hours.

I cannot say I have noticed the slightest difference: either on my journeys by train or in terms of traffic in Teddington - not that I would be likely to notice. An acquaintance who drives into the Central Zone tells me that traffic levels are a lot lower and it is a lot easier to get around. Unfortunately, suppliers have started to add £5 to the cost of every delivery no matter how many deliveries they make in a day.

So, that's my two cents - what about you?

By the way, at least part of the impetus for this survey was a comment made by the David at City Comforts. He was wondering why Transport Blog had had nothing to say on the issue for over a month. Mainly, it has to be said, because the media have had nothing to say - but that is no reason not to generate some news of our own.

So, over to you.

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Comments

I live JUST on the central London side of Vauxhall Bridge Road, which is just outside the big C area

I don't drive, but often cross VhBrRd on foot on the way to the shops. Frankly I don't notice much change. I remember fearing that VhBrRd might become a pandemonic Inner Ring Road for cars and lorries crossing London and wanting to avoid the C charge, but this doesn't seem to have happened. Or if it has, the effect has been cancelled out by the disintentive to use cars along VhBrRd for any purpose which does involve going past a C.

That might explain the lack of comment here at Transport Blog about the Congestion Charge, and in the media in general. My news is: not a lot of news.

It could be, however, that the traffic has got rather speedier and lighter with the big C area, and I haven't noticed. Yes, I vaguely think that may have happened.

Speaking as a London pedestrian, the big changes for me are the new Thames footbridges (Millenium and Hungerford Bridge x2) and the pedestrianisation of Trafalgar Square, not so much for the specific consequences of each individual change, but because of the general sense I get that London is being cleared of cars for my benefit, and for the benefit of the tourist trade (which is not my benefit so much).

I know that some regard the C Charge as an anti-commercial horror story. Personally, on balance, I like it. My cousin's wife's brother is the Director (I think) of the National Gallery (top end of Traf' Squ'), and he was on TV a few days ago saying how happy he was you don't any longer have step out into a metallic maelstrom. I think I agree.

So there you go. My personal reaction to the Congestion Charge is to wander off and talk about something related, but somewhat different.

What I think of it politically, is that I think it is working, because others are talking about "learning from London" by which they mean learning how to introduce something similar, rather than not to do such a thing. But that is just the kind of comment you didn't ask for. So I'll stop.
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Posted by Brian Micklethwait on June 2, 2003

By chance the subject of the charge came up in a conversation I heard ealier today between my friend and a bike shop owner. I was interested in that they both agreed a major disincentive to going into London was that they'd have to work out how you actually paid the charge.

Unspoken but implied was the idea that they'd look silly asking now, after all this time.

Posted by Natalie Solent on June 3, 2003

I work in central London, and often have to get around the City to see various clients. There's no doubt in my mind that it has become easier and quicker to move around using taxis and buses since congestion charging started.

There's still quite a bit of traffic, but it's difficult to tell the difference between the huge numbers of cars we had before and the still quite high numbers we have now just from casual observation. The only way to get a feel for any difference is by comparing journeys.

Incidentally, you notice teams of people on traffic census duty at major junctions far more than was the case before. So presumably, TfL is doing some real statistical checking. It will be interesting to see if they publish the results.

Posted by Alan on June 3, 2003

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