Business anger at plans to hike congestion levy

 
Marion Dakers
LONDON’S congestion charge could rise from £10 a day to £11.50, under plans revealed yesterday by Transport for London that were criticised by hauliers and some business groups.

The levy on motorists in central London has already doubled from £5 a day when it was launched in 2003, though TfL said the charges have been frozen since 2011.

Officials hope to raise an extra £84m by 2018 through a 15 per cent rise in fees, in order to invest more in the capital’s transport network.

TfL has given the public until 14 March to put forward their thoughts on a pricier congestion charge.

Drivers signed up to auto-pay accounts would be charged £10.50 a day, up from £9, while those who drive into the zone and pay the next day would see their fee hiked from £12 to £14 under the plans.

The Freight Transport Association slammed the increase as “a tax rise for businesses”.

“FTA realises that the congestion charge is to deter non-essential or discretionary journeys, but we consider this as a tax on businesses which have little alternative but to use trucks and vans during the day,” said Natalie Chapman, head of policy for London and the south east.

David Leam, head of infrastructure at business lobby group London First, said that congestion should be addressed but that the charge programme “remains a blunt instrument”.

“[I]n parallel with more investment and better day-to-day management, London will need more sophisticated road pricing if we want to keep the capital moving.”

But the New West End Company said the congestion charge, along with a pilot consolidating deliveries at quieter times of day, “help[s] support a vibrant and economically robust West End”.

The group, which represents businesses in the area, “has always believed that space for people should be prioritised rather than space for traffic”, said boss Richard Dickinson.

AA president Edmund King said: “This proposed hike in the congestion charge underlines what every London driver knows – that the charge is nothing to do with congestion or CO2 and everything to do with cash, in effect a tax.”