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Could Hackney test road user charging?

The London Borough of Hackney has volunteered to act as guinea pig for the UK’s first comprehensive road user charging system. London Mayor Sadiq Khan is aiming to introduce charging across the capital but has described such a scheme, which would adjust the charge according to congestion, time of day and pollution levels, as being, “many years away from being ready to implement.”

The Borough, which commissioned a study into the feasibility of a road charging scheme in 2020, thinks London Council is moving too slowly. However, it clearly wants an equitable scheme, not something which will simply increase the cost of using a vehicle in London for everyone, possibly pricing those with low incomes off the roads.

A spokesperson for the council said: “Distance-based road user charging needs to also take account of factors such as income, disability and journey purpose. Otherwise it is just a scheme for improving motoring conditions for the rich. There needs to be a ‘just transition’ to ‘net zero carbon’. The limited road space in London and road user charging should be prioritised for tightly defined ‘essential traffic’ such as supporting the mobility of disabled people and freight, servicing and emergency trips. The system needs to build on emissions-based charging and take account of vehicle type, but also should ramp up to heavily penalise second or third cars owned by the same individual.”

London’s Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which charges cars, motorcycles and other vehicles a flat rate for entering the zone, was launched in 2019 covering central London only. It was expanded to cover the area within the North and South Circular Roads in October 2021 and Transport for London (TfL) is currently consulting on whether it should be further expanded to include the whole of Greater London from August 2023.

Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, said: “The dire state of TfL’s finances continues to drive what appear to be increasingly desperate attempts to increase revenue. People are literally voting with their feet, despite the coercion, not enough are ‘walking, cycling or using public transport’ [WCPT].”

Written by Peter Henshaw

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