Mayor Johnson

Congestion Charge is a failure

Congestion Charge signToday the papers are covering the publication of the 6th Congestion Charge Monitoring Report by TfL on Wednesday, see here. Or rather not in many cases. Nothing in the Standard and only a perfunctory piece in the Telegraph.

The Guardian had a news piece and some editorial.

The Guardian says:

London’s roads, it emerged yesterday, are just as snarled up as they were before the congestion charge was introduced five years ago. So was it a costly mistake? Quite the opposite. The charge netted £137m last year and has cut the number of cars entering the central zone each day by 70,000. Unfortunately, road diggers and construction mean those who do drive in spend too much time in jams.

The Guardian is quick to crow about the £137 million surplus the Congestion Charge apparently makes. Typically TfL figures do not include indirect overheads – when TfL’s accounts get past the Audit Commission this number will be down below £100 million.

The Guardian is also not quick to point out that £73 million of this income is from fines. It’s a pretty rubbish system that takes over £250 million off Londoners and puts back less than £100 million most of which is fines income.

Even that money is not free and clear. This infrastructure cost about £320 million to set up. Over the five years or so of operation of this system it has taken about £1.2 billion off Londoners and spent just about every penny on … the system. It has generated very little net cash.

The Congestion Charge had failed on every level.

4 replies on “Congestion Charge is a failure”

This is, surely, missing the point. If money raised were the criterion for a successful congestion charge, then it is/was simply tax by other means. Guardianistas claimed before its introduction that its success would be marked by a reduction in congestion. The reduction has not materialised, and on that basis and that basis alone, the charge has been a failure.



You are right that congestion is the criteria to judge the thing on.

That said you might hope that at £8 a pop some of the cash was available for something useful.

It is worse than that though. Because the old mayor bragged about collecting £200 million from this tax the old chancellor reduced TfL’s grant. So not only does the thing make nothing the net effect has been to take money out of London. Over five years Londoners have paid out £1.2 billion in charges and fines and lost about £500 million in grant from central government.


We should remember that the original consultation for the charge asked ‘Would you support a congestion charge, IF THE MONEY RAISED WAS INVESTED IN PUBLIC TRANSPORT?’ So the concept of raising money for public projects was very much part of the initial offering – and the charge has failed on that level too.


Amen to that. We need people like you to hold the bureaucrats to account.

They publish ‘estimates’ on accidents and ‘pollution’ when it suits them, and the small print shows revenue only as ‘provisional’.

It’s been a failure in terms of revenue, road speed and elusively-defined ‘congestion’ – so much so that TfL have to talk about ‘capacity’ in terms that favour buses. I hope that Boris takes an axe to under-used bus lanes and other schemes that steal road space from the majority.

A true Conservative will axe this stealth tax.


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