Transport for London is set to consult on proposed increases to the congestion charge, that would see prices rise from £10 to £11.50 for a single use, or from £9 to £10.50 for regular users that pay by Direct Debit. Critics of the proposed changes, which includes motorist group the AA and groups like the Freight Transport Association, say that the increase proves that the congestion charge is a tax on drivers, and that it will negatively impact Londoners.
The Congestion Charge was first introduced in February 2003 and is one of the largest congestion charge zones in the world. The charge is meant to reduce the level of congestion, but figures suggest that drivers continue to use the roads and that the government is essentially using it as a means of unfairly levying additional taxes on drivers.
There have been a number of complaints levied against the charge in the past. Although road safety has improved slightly, the outskirts of London have seen parking problems increase. As commuters look for a way to beat the congestion charge, they are taking to parking outside the centre and then travelling in via public transport or on foot. Controlled parking zones were introduced, but these have also had a negative effect on local residents.
Fleet managers and businesses that rely on the haulage of freight through the city have levelled their complaints against the existing system and the proposed changes. Chief among these complaints is that the increase of £9 to £10.50 for regular users means a 17% increase compared to the 15% increase for one-off users. They say that this effectively penalises freight companies, that have no viable public transport alternative, and that the additional charges will need to be passed on to consumers and other businesses.
There is a 10 week consultation on the proposed changes, and on the 14th March, the findings will be presented to the Mayor of London. The Freight Transport Association has said that it will be pushing for exemptions for its members, or for reductions in the price that they have to pay, because without their members, the city would grind to a halt.