Published on 30 May 2012

Why not raise London's congestion charge to ease the Olympic jam?

When the first mayor for London introduced the congestion charge in the capital, there was an immediate cut in traffic.
Ever since, as the price has effectively dropped with inflation, it has ceased to provide congestion relief – instead becoming a straight tax on motorists.

Today’s a good case in point. Cycling along London’s Marylebone Road – absolute gridlock .. the Thames Embankment similar.

Yet the infrastructure exists to sort this log jam of mainly single-occupancy private cars in one stroke.

Clearly the congestion charge (at least for the Olympic period – but perfectly easily for the Jubilee too), could be raised instantly, overnight even.

It would not be popular in the first instance. But the mayor has just been re-elected.

In the long run it might anyway prove hugely popular as Olympic mayhem eased.

When Mayor Livingstone did the sums before introducing the charge, he discovered that eighty five per cent of all private cars driving in central London come from well beyond the central London boroughs. So there are probably very few votes in it.

I have Tweeted the question whether, for this very limited period, the charge would rise to £100 per day – with weekends included. It might prove necessary to take the charging time into the early evening – say until 8.00pm.

If there is to be public transport confusion during this massive traffic period it will be caused by private cars. There are enough buses and tubes to go around.

More, the pedestrian will find it possible to walk down many more streets with ease, cyclists would find life easier too.

So I’m wondering why there is such vast reluctance to use the tools that sit there ready for action. Indeed would it be too fanciful to ask if they DON’T use the Congestion Charge to control congestion, will it still BE a Congestion Charge?

Won’t its non-use simply prove that it is what motorists complain it is – an odious tax upoon the them.

And as for facilitating the very rich to drive in for the Olympics – well there’s a downside to every good idea. The isolation of the few Chelsea tractor owners  prepared to pay, might well leave their drivers less than comfortable to be seen driving around the capital in such circumstances.

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18 reader comments

  1. Murray Harrold says:

    Oh! Thank you very much! Yes, Why shouldn’t I pay £100 a day, eh? … I, like many others, have to work for a living and that involves trips to London to collect stock and other bits. These products I export (mainly to Europe). Tell you what, I’ll just stop working for 2 months, shall I? Let all of us who are having to work around this Olympic crisis simply stop work so a relative few can enjoy the hundred meter dash. These wretched Olympics cost pushing 12 billion and realistic forecasts show that the UK economy may (that’s “may”) benefit by 5 billion … by 2015. Of course, being part of the TV system you will be able to use BMW’s (why not Jaguars?) in Zil Lanes… so you will be all right, eh?

    Cheers mate, when you are done… come and join the real world.

    1. Don says:

      Murray, not subtle but I think you have covered the gist of this 1984 Orwellian nepotism.

  2. Ygritte says:

    You know nothing Jon Snow.

  3. adrian clarke says:

    There does seem ,as a veteran cyclist, a little bit of selfishness,and persecution of the motorist.Has any survey been done as to the purpose of the cars on the road?Are they mere visitors or using the vehicle to get to work?
    How much congestion do cyclists cause, for motorists to take care when overtaking,or slowed at junctions,lights etc by cyclists executing turns at a slower pace.
    If by the dilution of the charges through inflation and the charge becoming just another tax on motorists(which it always was)why is there no similar charge on cyclists?Why are cyclists given free run of the roads, without a carriage tax or third party insurance at the very least.
    I think the suggestion of a gross congestion charge could have only come from a pedestrian or cyclist,who no more own the road than the motorist who already pay millions not to see it used for road improvements.

  4. Philip Edwards says:

    Jon,

    Just close down the whole rotten to the core corrupt place.

    It might help stop contamination of the rest of our country.

  5. citizen smith says:

    Jon,
    do you think you are more effective as a journalist/commentator or could you get yourself into either London poloitics or even as a Commons MP?

    Discuss.

  6. Mel says:

    £100 a day? What an utterly selfish,ridiculous comment. Making nurses,care workers,voluntary workers for the homeless and vulnerable,hard working people like Murray above who is fighting to keep himself and the economy of this country going,pay £100 a day while dignitaries zoom down the Zil lanes in BMW’s paying nothing at all?
    Haven’t the people of this country already paid a ridiculous amount in times of great hardship for what only amounts to a few weeks?
    And won’t the people of this country still be paying for it many years after it is all over? A country rarely recoups the money spent on hosting an Olympics no matter what reassuring plans and optimism they spout at the time so what makes us think we will be any different! Maybe it is the assurance that this will generate money for grass roots sport facilities – oh hang on didn’t funding for the football pitches on Hackney’s East Marsh loose out to a Coach Park?
    Maybe it is the assurance that this will boost the small struggling businesses, – oh hang on isn’t the one major place to get food inside the Park a massive Macdonalds so that junk food can be fed to a nation already suffering obesity problems?
    £100-I don’t think so!

    1. yoiurt says:

      Why would nurses, care workers and voluntary workers have to pay £100? There are trains, buses and bicycles they could use.

    2. Mel says:

      District nurses, Macmillan nurses and other people who may be called out in an emergency and who need to get to someone or some people quickly should not have to pay £100.

      And some of these people need to carry bags, equipment and provisions that you do not want to take on public transport even if you were able to.

  7. Y.S. says:

    London is best seen on a TV screen, going there is a headache.

  8. Mudplugger says:

    Methinks too long wearing lycra and a silly plastic helmet have finally addled the Snow-brain.

    Go for a long drive, Jon, before it’s too late.

  9. Paul M says:

    I am sure Jon’s post was intended to provoke comment and debate, but I don’t imagine he intended to provoke such insulting invective.

    Come on Mel, Adrian Clarke, Murray Harrold, you know Jon is famous for riding his bike, and for having opinions of his own. Enter into the spirit of it, politely.

    And anyway, if you had read the post properly, you would have noted the reference to the irony of rich 4×4 owners who could still afford it.

    Me? I thought it was thought-provoking, and I would generally support the notion of an increase for the games, although perhaps only a doubling. Longer term, refer to the paper by the IFS prepared for the RAC foundation (that club which works for motorists, remember) which suggests that the only way to go long-term is road pricing which would recognise the “externalities” of traffic in different places and at different times, and perhaps charge £2 a mile in London during the day, and 5p a mile in Devon at night INSTEAD OF duties on fuel.

    1. Mel says:

      I am sure Mr Snow realises that my finding his proposal selfish and ridiculous has absolutely no reflection on how I find him himself. Channel 4 news is the only evening news I watch and trust and I have always trusted and admired Mr Snow’s reporting for the genuine heart felt conscience I believe he does it with and also because after the headlines are over he doesn’t forget or let us forget.
      Doesn’t mean to say though that when I find one of his proposals selfish and ridiculous I am not going to say so! I hope he doesn’t mind – after all he has spent his career trying to help break down barriers of freedom of speech and opinion in all countries and cultures including ours.

  10. Rachel says:

    Hello Jon,

    I like this idea, but then I would never drive into London myself. That would be madness! It costs me around £80 a shot to get into London and back home by train/tube etc, although it’s only a once in a while thing. It’s not the congestion charge that makes driving into London a total nightmare, it’s the congestion! The congestion charge is more of a club membership fee- a badge of honour even, for the surfeit of die-hard, you won’t ever get me on a train, I must drive right to my office desk, car drivers!

    laters

    Rachel

  11. David J says:

    My business has already been hit severely because of opportunistic and greedy banking policy, which has not been helped by poor government fiscal controls.

    Now London is effectively closing down for 2 months and it is being suggested that I should be penalising further with an increased congestion charge. This additional loss of business could be catastrophic for my business.

    Whoever suggests making it even more difficult for businesses should take the responsibility of the employing the real people after their short sighted edicts have cost them their jobs. In my case its 15 people and lets not forget their families who rely on their continued employment.

  12. daniel says:

    I say Jon for Mayor.

    I was in favour of the congestion charge when it came in and it couldn’t agree more that it has just become a tax… I know many people who stopped driving into town from the suburbs (shepherds bush, ealing) because back then it was expensive, now it’s minimal inconvenience and does need a hike… though £100 might be a little excessive.

    With a bit of investment around means testing for those that really need it and obvious exceptions for cleaner vehicles… i would love to see a price hike and less vehicles on the roads. Even though those changes would effect me, it would make for a better london.

  13. PAVEL131 says:

    I am a construction worker, working and living within four miles of the Olympic site.
    A little know OC edict is that all construction sites within a four mile radius will close down for the whole of the Olympics fiasco, for approx six weeks; laying off thousands of workers, including myself. SO THAT’S ALL RIGHT THEN?

  14. tim ducket says:

    what a twat more payments on the hidden tax!!!!
    have 3 vans in london trying to deliver goods and you want to make my company bankrupt tku

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