20 October 2006

Congestion Charging

A few months ago, TFL installed an ugly thick black mast outside my house and covered it with cameras pointing directly at the Earls Court Road, the boundary of the new improved congestion zone.

Last week, we received a leaflet and a form from TFL inviting us to register as residents living in the new zone and apply for our 90% discount on the charge. Although the new zone only comes in to force next February, as a ploy to get everyone to register early, we can have the discount apply right away. So instead of paying £8/day to drive through Central London, I can pay £4/week or just over £200/year.

In one fell swoop, the congestion charge has gone from being a device to stop people driving into central London into a scheme to keep the streets of central London clear for the "wealthy residents" of Kensington & Chelsea, driving to work in Covent Garden or the City in the Chelsea Tractors.

This is mad. I do not particularly mind the £200 charge (although I heavily resent the £10 registration charge payable to TFL - paying a fee to pay a fee sounds like double taxation, which I thought was generally illegal), and I will ensure I get value for money by regularly driving into the central part of the zone, for which I would have previously paid £8/day.

I do mind that my parents and in-laws will have to pay £8/day (on top of what they pay for parking) if they want to come up to London to visit their grandchildren during the week. They could take the train, it is true, but my father-in-law is registered disabled and my parents live so far from a station that they are already halfway to London they might as well keep going. Actually, they do occassionally come up by train, but it is the principle, damn it!

I do also mind that the extension to the zone is going ahead in the face of huge local opposition for no good reason related to traffic control. I just find it bizarre that a huge benefit is being given to local residents whilst a huge handicap is being imposed on local business.

Finally, having worked as a courier in London prior to the CC coming into force and now, from time to time, cycling to work through central London, I cannot see that there is any less traffic than before. If anything the congestion is worse along the major arteries because of all the other daft traffic control measures put into place.

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