Thursday, November 27, 2008

Western Extension Meets Its Waterloo

The relentless march of the congestion charge came to an end today, with the announcement of the results of the public consultation on the future of the Western Extension.

Imposed in the face of bitter local opposition, Livingstone hoped that people would come to love the extended charging zone. This was a forlorn hope, as demonstrated by the public response, with over 60% in favour of outright abolition and over 80% of local businesses calling for the zone to be scrapped. In the face of these figures anyone sensible would concede the point, but Labour's assembly members have gone into bat, claiming the public are wrong and the extension should be retained. Let's be charitable and assume they are still in shock following the May election.

For retailers in the zone this decision represents a lifeline in current economic conditions. It is a more effective contribution than all Gordon Brown's tinkering. Shops will be counting the days to abolition.

And in Havering & Redbridge we can breathe a sigh of relief. Congestion Tax will not be coming to a road near you.


morris hickey said...

And presumably all those who have paid the charge for the western extension area will now be due refunds? [What was that pink quadruped that just flew past????]

Havering & Redbridge may have been spared the congestion charge, but here in Redbridge the last meeting of the cabinet on 4 November disclosed that there may be very many more places where parking charges will be levied. They tried this on in the 2008 budget proposals for a shopping parade in Hainault where there is not even a parking problem; but there would have been if they had got away with it.

Blatant money grabbing and using the motorist as a milch cow.

weggis said...

Congestion IS a Charge on Business.

How do you and the Mayor propose to deal with it?

lucia said...

1. Congestion rates had been falling in London before the Charge was dreamed up.

2. Traffic light timings were altered some time before the Charge was introduced, in order to make it appear that congestion was worsening.

3. Try looking at the congestion caused in Leytonstone High Rd near the Green Man since Waltham Forest Council imposed its appalling and contradictory traffic system there - so much for the success of left-wing nannydom, Weggis.

Roger Evans said...

I was a councillor at Waltham Forest when Labour introduced the infamous Leytonstone gyratory.

The M11 Link Road was built specifically to reduce congestion in the High Road - and in the teeth of opposition from the council. They feared that without a 24 hour traffic jam, the High Road would attract more traffic, so they introduced a road layout that more or less guaranteed the jam would remain.

Locals kept telling me that things would improve whe the scheme was completed. They were less impressed when I told them they were seeing the finished product...

weggis said...

I am no fan of “nannydom”, Lucia, from whatever wing it emerges! But neither am I a fan of anarchy.

I don’t know Leytonstone too well as a motorist, but I do know that there is a section of the M11 link road that can be seen from the Central Line and that almost as soon as it was opened the northbound carriageway became a car park in the evening rush hour.

True, some of the highways “improvements” round Barkingside leave me questioning my understanding of the English language. However, it is beyond doubt that traffic volumes have increased considerably since 1990 and that this must be a factor in the congestion that has arisen.

As I said, this is a Charge on Business and a drain on our Economy, not to mention the environment issues of fuel consumption, air quality etc….. and human issues of stress related illnesses and wasted time.

The question was how to deal with it, and pointing fingers at mistakes is not very helpful. What are the lessons of those mistakes?

I am now going to quote the former Conservative Deputy Leader of Redbridge Council [and commenter above] on parking: “The principle that underpins the justification for controlling parking by charging is that of rationing space where the demand exceeds the supply.”

It is only a short step to apply this rationale to road time/space itself. However, I agree that all reasonable measures should be sought to improve traffic flow before it is considered.

Some traffic [this applies to all types of traffic inc. telephone traffic] is randomly generated but it is mostly governed by our social structures. We simply cannot expect large numbers of people to drive at the same time and in the same place without causing congestion. Telephone engineers have the advantage of being able to stuff millions of telephone calls down one optical fibre, but that would be rather difficult on the roads.

I’ve not done this for quite a while but driving on the M6 through Birmingham on a weekday late afternoon [c. 4pm] used to take 3 hours, but at 10pm would take 10 minutes.

BT is considered to be an expensive telecomms provider, but that is because BT engineers its network for peak demand. So most of the time it’s assets are lying idle. Other companies may offer cheaper calls but you may not be able to get through when you want to. These companies make their assets sweat. This is the philosophy of the market. Now that telecomms networks are no longer hard wired they can also manage traffic by switching to a different underused route [a rat run?] or even block traffic before it even starts out [usually used for phone ins].

Unfortunately it does not appear to be a philosophy that can be applied to hard social infrastructure unless we are prepared to pay for it, one way or another!