London's Deputy Mayor yesterday suggested that there may be a wholesale review of the capital's congestion charge. Simon Milton, speaking at our transport fringe event, said there was "definitely a better way" to do the congestion charge.
Although personally in favour of the principle of road-user charging, Milton criticised the current scheme as "a very blunt tool" - and added that "it may be possible, with the use of new technology, to have a more sophisticated scheme." The western zone extension is up for consultation now, but Milton's comments suggest a more wholesale review of the entire scheme. He mentioned the proposed Greater Manchester scheme as an interesting alternative - with its peak-time, rather than all-day, charges.
Steve Norris - who sits on the Transport for London board - remains opposed to congestion charging, and favours other devices like Nottingham's proposed workplace parking levy. David Frost (British Chambers of Commerce) is in a tricky position on congestion charging. His members are split on the issue, so he can't take a definitive position for or against. He's against workplace parking levies, but wasn't able to endorse an alternative.
Simon, Steve and David all agreed that wider efforts were needed to manage traffic in our biggest cities. Apart from congestion charging, Milton listed a number of possible moves in London:
- The promotion of more "polycentric" development, with "sub-hubs" in outer London boroughs like Barnet, to ease the pressure on central London's transport infrastructure.
- More river boats on the River Thames.
- A bike hire scheme for London - linked into the Oyster Card scheme. Norris is a patron of Sustrans - which promotes cycling across the UK.
We've got a note coming out soon, on congestion charging - so look out for that.