Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Outrage from Freight and Road Haulage Groups at Proposed Congestion Charge Hike

TfL Consults on Increasing Access to Central London as Industry Protests
Shipping News Feature

UK – News that the Congestion Charge levied on London drivers is set to rise 15% has resulted in protests from members of the road haulage industry and other motoring organisations. Transport for London (TfL) has stated that it is ‘consulting’ on increasing the daily levy from £10 to £11.50 with its 220,000 autopay customers set to see their costs rise from £9 to £10.50 per day if they have direct debit facilities in place. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) was one of the first of the truck lobby to decry the increase with Natalie Chapman, FTA Head of Policy London & South East, saying:

“Whilst many congestion charge users face a potential 15% increase in the daily charge this summer, most transport companies are registered on the fleet scheme so will be in line for an over-inflationary 17% hike if the proposed changes go ahead. FTA realises that the Congestion Charge is to deter non-essential or discretionary journeys, but we consider this as a tax on businesses which have little alternative but to use trucks and vans during the day. Whilst the FTA is not opposed to the principle of the Congestion Charge, London’s businesses rely on freight to deliver essential goods and services and without the logistics industry, the capital would simply grind to a halt.”

Along with other groups the FTA recognises that the charge has played a valuable part in reducing both congestion and pollution in the capital but points out that delivery drivers often have no possible alternative than to accept the cost whilst going about essential business. The FTA says that it is not feasible to deliver goods on public transport and nor are alternative modes practical for the to-the-door deliveries that central London requires. With no charge-free breaks available in the daytime to encourage deliveries to be made outside of rush hour, the Association continues to ask TfL to consider all available options for providing discounts and exemptions to the scheme for freight.

Despite issuing what appear to be clear indications that the charge will increase, the numbers quoted being so specific, TfL says it is willing to listen to stakeholders. TfL’s own estimate says that the proposed increase will generate in excess of £80 million in extra revenue by the end of 2018 and, after pointing out there has been no increase in charges since 2011, Garrett Emmerson, TfL's surface transport chief operating officer, said:

"We are keen to hear what Londoners and motorists have to say about the proposed changes to the scheme. The proposed changes will ensure the charge remains an effective deterrent to making unnecessary journeys in central London."

Many other motoring organisations have been openly critical of any increase however, particularly in an era when many companies and individuals have seen no increase in their own finances, sometimes for several years. AA President Edmund King summed up this view, commenting:

"This proposed hike in the congestion charge underlines what every London driver knows, that the charge is nothing to do with congestion or CO2 and everything to do with cash, in effect a tax. Congestion in the capital is already well above pre-charge levels but this is not related to an increase in the number of private cars. A city trying to get back on its feet after recession doesn't need its key service firms to suffer from further financial burden. Some of that will be passed on to customers, which hits growth and high-street spending."