On Monday, London’s congestion zone doubled
in size. The idea seems to be that if congestion charging is good (and so
far the congestion charge has been a success), then more congestion charging
is better. But John Kay
explains cogently why that ain’t necessarily so.
The western area of Belgravia and Kensington, Bayswater and Notting Hill
is mainly residential. More people live than work there and most of the vehicles
on its roads are private cars rather than vans and lorries. While most journeys
in the east central zone begin outside it, most journeys in the western area
begin within it. Most, perhaps all, of the revenues from the western extension
will be absorbed in operating costs, since so many travellers pay the discounted
residents’ charge. If they drive into the eastern part of the zone,
they will begin to recreate the congestion in the commercial areas the earlier
In other words, there are a couple of hundred thousand residents of the new
congestion zone who used to be incented not to drive into the old congestion
zone, and who now can do so with impunity. Is this really a great idea? I guess
we’ll find out.
Interesting datapoint, from the Guardian:
The congestion scheme made revenues of £245m and a profit of £122m
last year, most of which was invested in buses. This makes a slight dent in
the £1.6bn per year running costs for TfL’s bus network, which earned
£961m from fares last year, leaving the taxpayer to cover a funding
gap of just under £600m.
The new extension to the zone is expected to generate profits of up to £40m,
but even then it would represent just a fraction of the cost of the bus network
and 3% of TfL’s total costs.