An open letter to the media, 2000

Dear Editor

As if there were not enough disincentives to drive into London, Ken Livingstone has championed a congestion charge as a further penalty for car owners using the roads for which they have paid many times over. Here are some facts that he would rather you did not know:-

  1. Traffic pollution has been declining since 1990 and is forecast to continue to do so for at least the next ten years. The Transport Research Laboratory (Report TRL 431) quotes 'Restrictions on cars on air quality grounds have been shown not to be warranted by this study'.   more..

  2. Traffic on major urban routes has been declining since 1998. Increases in congestion are the result of road space being eroded by misguided local borough traffic schemes. Many of which are based more on political correctness than common sense.

  3. Councils which do not produce a 'Green Transport Plan' (disincentives to private car use) suffer financial penalties by the government.
Having aggravated London congestion by years of under-investment in roads and public transport, the authorities now seek to blame and penalise private car drivers for the consequences. If the GLA wants to make those responsible for congestion pay for improvements to public transport, perhaps they should charge the boroughs that reduce road space and withdraw parking facilities.

Driving in London is a stressful affair. People only do it because the alternatives are worse or impractical. Public transport is already overcrowded during the rush hours. If the GLA force more motorists to use the system it will become even worse. However much money is spent on public transport, it can never replace the flexibility of a car.

The people most likely to be forced off the roads are the lowest income groups, Exactly the social exclusion that Ken Livingstone is opposed to.

The GLA should learn from the example of the Millennium Dome. One reason for its failure is its hostility to private cars. Despite excellent public transport links, people have voted with their wheels and stayed away. Project this over the whole of central London and traders may well pay a higher price than motorists for congestion charging.

This scheme must be stopped. Selecting any particular group to fund the needs of another, regardless of their ability to pay and simply because they are unpopular with the authorities, is fundamentally unjust. You have until 22 September 2000 to make your views known. Please write objecting to the charging proposals to:

  Greater London Authority
  Romney House
  Marsham St
  London
  SW1P 3PY

marking your envelope 'Congestion Charging Consultation'.

Yours sincerely

Tony Vickers
London Campaign Co-ordinator
Association of British Drivers