So, is congestion in London a thing of the past?

As it’s nearly 3 weeks since they were introduced I was just wondering if the much talked about congestion charges have made any difference to the traffic in London?

The area covered by the charging is VERY small, only a few square miles right in the very centre of London.

Reports I have read say the amount of traffic was reduced by 20%, even into the second week, after the school runs restarted.

Maybe a 20% drop in traffic levels is sufficient to eliminate ‘congestion’. If the latter has a scientific definition, then there must be a level of traffic flow at which congestion cannot happen.

That’s for the traffic modellers and their super computers.

It was reported in the Times today that the National Express coach company are having to revise their timetables because their buses are getting in and out of London that much quicker. Also there is a thought that some 20mph speed limits will have to be brought in because the traffic is moving quicker and proving to be dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians.

I bet the Daily Mail loves that one - can see the headline now:


The M25 Orbital Parkway still sucks ass.

Yes, I know that’s not City. But for some reason it almost seems like things are just moving out, especially in the route between Gatwick and Heathrow.

I travel from north London to Holborn (well, Strand) every day. The traffic on that route doesn’t seem noticeably different to me, but it was never horribly bad anyway (apart from Russell Square). I’ve also been working in Paddington, and travelling along Euston Road and Marylebone Road, the northern edge of the charging zone, and that definitely has improved.

Definitely not!

The ‘official’ stats showing the success or failure of the scheme won’t come out for a while, and in any case nobody will pay much attention to them when they do. If the stats tell a success story, opponents of the scheme will just accuse the Mayor of fudging the figures, like we do with the stats pertaining to exam results, unemployment figures and ‘crime detection’ rates. If the stats tell a story of failure, the Mayor will simply say he thinks they’re flawed and don’t tell the whole story.

I think anyone who has driven through the affected area recently HAS noticed some traffic reduction. I certainly have, based on four or five journeys over the past fortnight. But there is still a hell of a lot of bad traffic congestion throughout London and the surrounding areas. I had to drive from Sth London to Surrey this week, nowhere near the Congestion Zone, and all the main roads leading out to the A3 were like a car park.

I do think the Congestion Charge scheme has reduced traffic in central London. But I still maintain that’s not the point, and that Mayor Ken has no right to impose the charge. He doesn’t own the roads. We (the drivers) paid for them to be built, and we pay for them to be maintained. I don’t think anyone has the right to impose a daily £5 tax for their use. No-one was consulted, and no-one voted for it. So much for democracy.

Wasn’t congestion charging part of Ken Livingstone’s platform when he ran for Mayor of London? (And even if it wasn’t, Red Ken’s record on transport is such that anyone who voted for him knew they were voting for car-unfriendly policies … )

I don’t own a car, so the charge only affects me indirectly.

My experience with public transport is that the buses are zippier but the Underground is much busier, as are the various overground train termini. I’ve never seen the concourses at Victoria and Kings Cross so full before.

I’m guessing that some people who have switched to public transport will get sick of the overcrowding and go back to their cars, and it’ll settle down to being generally annoying for everyone as per usual.

Ahem. There was a public consultation survey on transport soon after Ken took office (I filled one out) which apparently showed a small majority in favour of the charge, and as Steve points out, a vote for Ken was effectively a vote for the charge anyhow.

The Mayor’s Office has regular consultations on various issues – there’s an Energy Strategy and a Noise Strategy consultation going on now, and a Culture Strategy consultation document out in May. You can check the Mayor’s website or call his office if you want any of those.

If there’s one thing you can’t say about Ken, it’s that he doesn’t consult the public…

As an aside, it has just been reported that Tony Blair, who is entitled to a “resident’s discount”, has failed to register the family car for the congestion charge.

The fine for failure to register is on the order of GBP80 per day (that the car is used within the area).

It will be interesting to see what happens to this story (TB and KL are not the best of friends).