Val Shawcross AM, the Labour Group’s transport spokesperson on the London Assembly, has put forward an eminently sensible response to the Mayor of London’s interminable consultation on his favoured pet scheme of the abolition of the Western half of the Congestion Charge Zone.  She has proposed that the current Zone be split into two separate Zones – each with their own charge.

Her proposal would turn the western extension into a separate zone with its own rules, operating times and charging structure.  West London residents would not have to pay to drive in the new zone but would lose the discount they currently enjoy for driving into central London.

She quotes Transport for London figures that show that the Mayor’s proposals would produce a 15 per cent increase in traffic levels as a direct consequence of removing the western extension zone and up to £70m of revenue lost every year.

When Mayor Ken Livingstone first proposed extending the Congestion Charge Zone to the West, I tried to persuade him to create two separate Zones then, so it is good to see Val Shawcross reviving the idea now.

It always seemed barmy to me to allow the residents of Kensington and Chelsea – some of whom are extremely wealthy – to drive in the original Congestion Charge Zone with a residents’ discount when they had previously had to pay the full Congestion Charge.  It was in effect a subsidy to the already well-off.  And, as I suggested to the then Mayor, hardly an egalitarian thing to do.

The present Mayor now wants to stop the residents of the Western Zone getting this subsidy.  I would support that if it were not for the loss of revenue that will make TfL’s budget problems even more difficult.

Val Shawcross is now offering the sensible way forward: the well-off residents in K&C etc will only get a resident’s discount when they drive in their own part of the Zone, but would have to  pay the normal Congestion Charge when they drive in the other part of the Zone.

So her proposal is fairer, generates a lot more revenue for TfL to invest in the capital’s transport system, and would also further reduce congestion and improve air quality.

It is such a good idea, maybe the current Mayor will pinch it.

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