One in ten London businesses back congestion charge extension

Just one in ten London business leaders support expanding the congestion charge, according to a poll.

But a third back ‘smart road pricing’ – an innovative system that tracks cars in a charging zone, and factors in miles driven, and traffic levels at the time.

The £15 daily levy on traffic in the city centre has been under renewed scrutiny after the Government proposed expanding it as far as the North and South Circular roads, under the terms of a new Transport for London (TfL) bailout.

TfL has been hit hard by coronavirus, with fare revenue dropping 95 per cent at the peak of the pandemic.

The Government handed the network a £1.6 billion bailout in May, to last until mid-October, and the deal was extended two weeks ago to give more time to negotiate a second package.

Ministers have proposed extending the congestion charge next year, to match the planned extension of the ultra low emission zone, Sadiq Khan’s answer to toxic fumes in the city.

Both the Mayor and his Conservative rival Shaun Bailey oppose expanding the c-charge.

But with the current TfL deal set to expire at midnight on Saturday, crucial talks are still ongoing.

Now businesses have shared their concerns about a c-charge extension in a London Chamber of Commerce poll of more than 500 members, conducted by Savanta ComRes.

A third said the charge rate should vary according to the time of day, while a similar number (31 per cent) backed a smart road pricing system, which would track vehicles in the zone and factor in distance travelled and traffic levels.

Some 14 per cent believe the current charge should be extended to black cabs, which are currently exempt.

And just more than one in ten (13 per cent) said the charge should be widened, with a further 12 per cent unsure what changes, if any, should be introduced.

London Chamber chief executive Richard Burke said the poll showed “degrees of appetite” for smart road-pricing but opposition to a blanket extension of the charge.

“London’s chambers of commerce and our respective business communities are concerned about some of the reported conditions of the proposed funding deal for Transport for London, which is why we’ve written to London MPs to call for non-partisan solutions that don’t hamper London’s economic recovery,” he said.

“Widening the congestion charge zone at this point in time runs the risk of doing so, and our research shows that only one in ten London business leaders support that measure.”

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