Measure one of several being considered to avoid gridlock

Council bosses in York are in talks with transport consultants involved in the implementation of London’s Congestion Charge about implementing a similar scheme in the historic city.

The news follows calls by cycling campaigners in the city, reported by road.cc at the weekend, for the council to charge motorists to avoid York’s streets becoming gridlocked.

According to the York Press, traffic levels in the city are forecast to rise by as much as 28% over the next decade, and councilors have accepted that current transport plans will be unable to cope with the increase, meaning that a more radical solution needs to be found.

Four options, costing between £97 million and £244 million, are now being studied, with measures being considered including promotion of cycling and walking and increased provision of public transport, as well as the congestion charge. A questionnaire is being sent out to all 90,000 households in York during the next two weeks to gauge public response as part of a consultation period that is open until March 26.

Councillor Dave Merrett, Chairman of York Council’s cross-party traffic congestion scrutiny committee, claims that a "radical future solution" is needed to the city’s congestion problems.

While he admitted to the York Press that funding will provide a “really serious challenge," Councillor Merrett adds that "based on the evidence, it is clear that the city has few choices that will really make a dent in the long-term growth of traffic and congestion in the city.

"Many measures only make a marginal difference that is soon swallowed up by further traffic growth,” he continued.

"The committee agreed with officers' views that a radical future solution will be required if we are to avoid the further serious spread of congestion well outside the current problem areas, increasing delays and disruption to motorists and bus users, continuing air quality problems and negative effects on both the York economy and the quality of life in the city."

Councillors claim that introducing road charging would only be a last resort measure if encouraging motorists to pursue other options such as public transport, cycling and walking proved ineffective.

Paul Hepworth, the North Yorkshire spokesman for CTC, the national cyclists’ organisation, has applauded efforts made to date by the city council to reduce car dependency, but says that more needs to be done.

Mr Hepworth maintains that “space needs to be freed up for essential road-users and, quite frankly, if there is not enough of a voluntary switch away from short-distance commuting, politicians may have to look at bringing in the stick rather than the carrot,” and adds that he believes that the introduction of congestion charging in the city is “inevitable.”

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.