From 7.00am this morning the so called Congestion Charge zone was doubled in size as it extended westwards into Chelsea, Kensington, Belgravia, Pimlico, Notting Hill and Bayswater among other places. Livingstone is rubbing his hands and the thought of yet more revenue and the hope of a small reduction in traffic levels.
Since the CC was brought in during 2003 (when TfL and Livingstone insisted that the £5 charge would not increase and that the zone would not be extended - both have since happened) TfL and Livingstone have consistently maintained that the scheme has been a success. Even in their press briefings concerning this extension they claim that congestion in the west of town will reduce by more than 15% and that the number of vehicles used in the zone will drop by around 10-15%.
But the fact is that since the charge was introduced and the initial reduction in traffic volume, more and more people have been forced back onto the roads by the state of public transport. Yet more tube strikes are on the way too as Ken's friends play on his communist ideal of putting self interest ahead of service. The fact is the reduction in traffic volume from prior to the charge's introduction in 2003 to today is a mere 8%, a figure stated on the BBC this morning - and even that tiny amount has been achieved at a cost of hundreds of millions of pounds, many job losses and unnecessary business closures. Small businesses are crying out for change and being ignored. It is nothing more than vandalism dressed up as populist policy.
Motorists have a Hobson's Choice between poor public transport and paying a revenue raising levy of £8 per day. More and more are choosing to swallow the levy which shows the congestions charge is failing. The 55,000 residents given a 90% discount off the charge inside the western part of the zone will benefit as they can now drive into central London for 80p rather than £8 - meaning even more traffic in the centre of town. But do not worry about the Mayor in all this. Ken is OK. He can continue using taxis and passing the cost on to the taxpayer.