Ken does something sensible, at last

10 August 2007

Ken Livingstone, London’s very own Captain Mainwaring, is going to revamp the London Congestion Charge yet again, as you may have heard. Today, Friday 10 August 2007, sees the start of a consultation period that ends on Friday 19 October 2007.

Consulting doesn’t, of course, equal listening. Livingstone has demonstrated a well-developed disregard for the results of such exercises in the past, insisting that he has a larger mandate from Londoners to crack down on the fringe minority known in the press as motorists.

The proposals, which will likely go through largely unchanged, would hit owners of 4x4s and other large vehicles with a wallet-numbing £25 a day fee, even if owners live inside the congestion charge zone. That’s more than £6,000 per year. At present the rate is a flat £8 a day, with residents benefiting from a 90 percent discount.

Also under the proposals, cars that cough out fewer than 120 grams of CO2 per km crawled, and which are EuroIV compliant, will be able to dance freely in and out of the capital free of charge and without a care. Well, apart from the atrocious traffic on the boundaries of the charging zone of course.

We applaud these measures. Not only will they encourage manufacturers to improve the overall efficiency of their vehicles, which is very definitely a good thing, they will also soften the most obnoxious aspect of the old system - the process by which poorer people were taxed off the road. The threshold for a new but exempt vehicle will be much lower, with cars like the tiny Citroen C1 limboing easily under the 120g/km limit. That doesn’t mean we have to start liking Ken, mind.

Petrolheaded pundits, even the cerebral variety to be found over at Car Magazine, generally don’t like the proposals. “Where a Citroen C1 carrying just one person would enter the zone for free, a full seven-seat SUV (carrying more people to the benefit of emissions and, lest we forget, space in the city centre) is heavily penalised,” writes staffer Ben Barry.

This would be a fine, logical argument were it not for one tiny detail. It’s bollocks. Anyone with an eye in their head standing in Picadilly Circus can see that most SUVs in the city carry just one well-heeled person almost all of the time.

Next » « Previous Home