Western Extension to be Scrapped

Part of the Congestion Charging Zone is to be removed

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The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has announced that the results of a public consultation on the western extension mean he will begin the legal processes required to remove the Western Extension of the Congestion Charging zone. Over two thirds of Londoners and businesses responding to the consultation on the future of the zone have said they want it scrapped.

The Mayor promised to be accountable and to follow the democratic will of Londoners, and abiding by the results of a consultation was a key manifesto pledge after the zone was introduced under the previous administration in spite of massive local opposition. 

The five-week informal public consultation attracted nearly 28,000 responses and overall 67 per cent of individual respondents and 86 per cent of businesses responding to the public consultation supported the removal of the zone. Nineteen per cent stated that they wanted the extension kept as it is, and 12 per cent supported changing the scheme to improve the way that it operates.

The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, said: “During the election I promised Londoners a genuine consultation on the future of the extension. I promised that I would respect their opinions and I promised that if clear support for a particular way forward emerged then I would act on that opinion. Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that that they would like the scheme scrapped. As a Mayor that keeps his promises I am instructing Transport for London to begin work on the process of a formal consultation on the removal of the Western Extension.

“One thing every body should be assured of is my determination to make it easier for Londoners to get around our great city. Transport for London is working on a series of measures aimed at easing congestion and smoothing traffic flow, which include rephasing traffic signals and cracking down hard on the chaos caused by badly-planned road works.  They are also setting up a task force with external experts to review further ways in which traffic flows can be smoothed. Londoners must be able to get around our city without undue delay. I am committed to helping them do this as quickly, safely and cheaply as possible.”

The Western Extension cannot be removed until statutory consultation procedures have been concluded and the Mayor has taken into account the views expressed in the consultations and decided whether or not to confirm his decision. The earliest that the extension could be removed is spring 2010.

Friends of the Earth has strongly criticised the scrapping of the western extension of the congestion zone. Nic Ferriday, spokesperson for West London Friends of the Earth, said: "Even during its short life, the western extension to the congestion charge zone was a great success. Congestion was reduced, with 30,000 fewer cars entering the area each day and air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions were reduced as a result. Boris Johnson's action, like his scrapping of the higher congestion charge for gas-guzzlers, is an attack on the environment and on people's health."

Friends of the Earth sees the move as a regressive step, which favours the private car over public transport. Nic Ferriday said "The scheme had already raised a considerable amount of money which is 'ring-fenced' for public transport. Abolition of the extension is likely to lead to fare rises and cuts to new projects as the Mayor struggles to cope with an estimated 70m annual drop in income. This will be a straightforward transfer of money from bus and tube travel to car travel".

December 15, 2008