Boris Johnson says that his successor as Mayor of London will have to either raise the congestion charge or introduce ‘smart charging’ at peak times.
The London Evening Standard reports that traffic delays in the capital are up 13 per cent in two years, while average speeds in central London are now just 7.4mph – lower than before the congestion charge was introduced. It is also said that over 13 million passengers have abandoned the bus network this year due to the impact of roadworks.
Introduced by Ken Livingstone in 2003, the congestion charge has caused a long-term reduction in delays, but the trend is now reversing. As well as a growing population and cheaper fuel, Transport for London said that the rise of Uber cabs and its ongoing work on cycle superhighways had also contributed to the problem.
Pondering the likely policies of his successor, Johnson said that doing nothing with the roads, “would not return us to some never-existent Fifties Elysium of free-flowing traffic. Doing nothing would mean that congestion gets worse than it is now.”
In a paper setting out his cycling legacy, he wrote:
“The City of London wants to close Bank junction to all traffic except buses and bikes. Both front-running candidates to be next Mayor have proposed the closure of Oxford Street — and part-closure of Parliament Square has also been mooted.
"For these things to happen, central London traffic will need to be lower than now. How that happens — perhaps by raising the congestion charge, perhaps by making it smarter — will, I predict, occupy my successors in the years ahead.”
Pete Williams, head of external affairs at the RAC, said that traffic volumes in London were falling at the same time as average speeds were decreasing. “This suggests it is not the volume of traffic that is to blame but other issues such as roadworks, road blockages and the increased provision of dedicated cycleways. Perhaps the Mayor should be looking at initiatives to improve the flow of vehicles such as smarter traffic signalling before anything else.”
In contrast, Dr Rachel Aldred, senior lecturer in transport at Westminster University, said that London traffic had started to increase again.
Johnson rejected suggestions that superhighway works were the main cause of delays, pointing out that only 15 miles of traffic lanes had been replaced within the 1,500-mile road network run by Transport for London.