More than five years after the London Congestion Charge was launched, and more than a year after the western extension began, traffic in central London remains 21% lower than pre-charge levels and traffic entering the extension has fallen by 14%, according to Transport for London’s (TfL’s) Sixth Annual Impacts Monitoring Report.
Those percentage figures mean that 70,000 fewer cars enter the original zone each day compared to pre-charging levels, and 30,000 fewer cars enter the western extension.
However, the report also reveals that decreasing levels of road space in both the original and western zones has caused congestion to return to levels experienced before the charge was introduced. A widespread program of water and gas main replacement works has greatly reduced the road capacity in both zones, as have various traffic management measures to assist pedestrians and other road users.
TfL’s assessments indicate that one of the biggest current contributory factors within the western extension is a major property development at the Scotch House Corner junction in Knightsbridge.
The temporary works associated with this development have reduced road capacity at this key junction by up to half, and had a negative impact on traffic in the area. Traffic signals have since been adjusted at the junction to ease traffic flow, and TfL has altered loading and unloading bays and bus stopping arrangements to help the situation. TfL is meeting with the developers fortnightly to discuss how best to mitigate the effects of the works.
In response to the increase in congestion levels, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has asked TfL to accelerate the delivery of his plans to improve traffic flow. These include:
Re-phasing of traffic signals to get traffic flowing more smoothly, without prejudice to the needs of pedestrians and vulnerable road users.
Fines for utility companies that cause delays through badly planned work.
Working closely with Thames Water to reduce the impact of the works they need to do to repair and replace the miles of Victorian water mains in the Capital.
Reviewing all major schemes that could reduce the capacity of the road network, with a view to minimizing the impact on traffic flow.
Developing plans for the introduction of a Paris-style bike hire scheme which is expected to encourage more Londoners to leave their cars at home.
I have always thought that the Congestion Charge is a blunt instrument. It has proved successful in cutting traffic coming into London but on its own has not resolved the problem of congestion. I am therefore introducing a more comprehensive approach to easing congestion in London, one that gives greater consideration to how all transport measures impact on the movement of traffic on our roads.
I have scrapped the CO2 Charge that risked thousands of small cars flooding central London, and have asked Transport for London to bring forward a range of measures to turnaround the trend and halt the squeezing of road space that has continued to worsen congestion.—The Mayor of London, Boris Johnson