Is Sadiq Khan right to refuse to expand London’s congestion charge zone?
Wes Streeting, Labour MP for Ilford North, says YES
When Boris Johnson was mayor of London he promised Londoners: “I am not going to be having any more congestion charges”. Yet now, his government is trying to force exactly that on our city.
Transport for London’s financial health was getting better by the day before the pandemic — with Sadiq Khan reducing its deficit by 70 per cent. Now it needs support because of the collapse in passenger numbers and fare revenue due to Covid-19.
But despite the government giving billions to private rail companies with no strings attached, it seems ministers will only offer TfL financial support on the condition that the congestion charge zone is extended, fares and council tax are hiked, and free travel for under-18s and over-60s is scrapped. This is unacceptable.
Expanding the congestion charge to the North and South Circular roads would affect four million Londoners. It would be crippling for families across London who are already struggling. While so many are fighting for their livelihoods during this pandemic, an expansion to the congestion charge could be a death knell for jobs and businesses.
Khan is right to refuse the government’s attempts to punish Londoners.
Sam Bowman, director of competition policy at the International Center for Law & Economics, says NO
If you underprice a scarce resource, you’ll get shortages. That was true for bread under communism, gasoline under Nixon, and it is true for London’s congested roads today.
Average road speeds in central London are just 7.4 miles per hour. In Singapore, where they charge for road use, average speeds are over 20mph.
London’s congestion charge has helped. It cut congestion by 30 per cent and sped up traffic by 21 per cent. But it is far too low in many places, and should apply to much more of the city.
Expansion to the North and South Circular roads would help motorists by reducing congestion and speeding up travel times. Buses would become faster and more reliable too. That, plus increased demand from ex-motorists unwilling to pay the new charge, would allow for more extensive and regular bus services across the city.
Road socialism has failed London. As usual, the solution is the price system.
Main image credit: Getty