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London Mayor presses ahead with planned reduction of Congestion Charge Zone

Abolition of Western Extension to zone would be retrograde step, warns LCC

Mayor of London Boris Johnson has proposed opening a public consultation to pave the way for abolishing the Western Extension of the capital’s Congestion Charge Zone, introduced in 2007, in a move that has been criticised by the London Cycling Campaign (LCC) and apparently sits at odds with his promise to bring about a “cycling revolution” in the city.

Scrapping the Western Extension by 2010 was a key promise in Mr Johnson’s manifesto ahead of him becoming mayor of the city in 2008, although at the time Transport for London (TfL) warned that it could result in lost revenue of between £55 million and £60 million a year.

The implementation of the original Central London Congestion Charge Zone in 2003 and subsequent extension have been acknowledged as not only reducing traffic but also helping encourage greater numbers of Londoners to take to their bikes.

In his Mayor’s Transport Strategy published yesterday, while underlining his commitment to increase levels of walking and cycling in London – we’ll be looking at his policies in that regard in detail tomorrow – Mr Johnson reaffirmed his plans to abolish the Western Extension.

The LCC argues however that the extension, as well as the original Congestion Charge Zone, should be retained, pointing out that the Mayor’s Transport Strategy itself concedes that scrapping it would give rise to “an increase in congestion in the area.”

A spokesman for LCC told “According to TfL the Western Extension reduced motor traffic entering the area by 10-15% which helps all road users. All the
arguments about less congestion, better public spaces and less pollution in the Central Congestion Zone, contained in the Mayor's Transport Strategy, apply just as much to the Western Extension.

“By reducing car traffic, congestion charging improves conditions for cycle users and pedestrians and encourages a switch to more efficient forms of transport. In addition to increasing congestion, removing the Western Extension will mean a significant loss of revenue.”

Recently, Professor Stephen Glaister, President of the RAC Foundation, told the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme that continued projected growth in the UK population, including London, would lead to increased congestion, especially at a local level, and saying that road charging could help redirect peak-hours traffic to less busy times of the day.

That’s a fact that the Mayor’s Transport Strategy also acknowledges, stating that irrespective of the proposed abolition of the Western Extension, “the application of
road user charging may be explored in the longer term in other circumstances where it can be appropriately tailored to local conditions and suitably implemented.”

Simon has been news editor at since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.

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