On Wednesday I had to give in and pay to drive in central London after 7 am. I had to deliver a heavy package to one place, drop off a print for framing at another, and fit in a haircut at another. I could not do all this on foot or by tube, and I could not do it before 7am when the charge comes in, given the hours of the other people involved
I got to the edge of the Charge zone after the rush hour. As soon as I could see the Congestion Charge zone signs hoving into view, the traffic jams began. The Cromwell Road was seized up. I discovered as I went about my business one lane of the two lane Fulham Road was closed for roadworks at the same time as the Cromwell Road problems. There were all too many places where our money was being spent on making the roads worse, only to delay us all more owing to the restrictions on use of the carriageway. The blockages on Southwark bridge are especially spectacular as they work to restrict the road system around that part of London and take the remaining useful general parking spaces out.
How right Ken Livingstone was to call it a Congestion Charge. He not only imposed the tax, but made sure with the changes to traffic light phasings, lane narrowings, chicanes and closures that you would be permanently in congestion if you still dared to use the zone. Under Ken only the rich could travel by car – as you would need to be very well off to afford £8 every day out of taxed income. It took me around 3 hours to get to all three places, have a hair cut and reach my Westminster office. To have to pay £8 on top was the last straw. I look forward to Boris carrying out his promise to scrap the charge in the west, and to rephase the lights so we can have less congestion in London. Maybe then he could rename the residual charge the Free flowing charge, and make sure we get something for the odd occasion when we have to pay it and need the roads to work. Shouldn’t it be refunded on days when they close too many streets,plunging us all into chaos?