National Alliance Against Tolls - London Congestion Charge - Impact Report Jan 2005

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LONDON "CONGESTION" CHARGE - THE IMPACT - JAN 05 REPORT

1. The most recent report from Transport for London who run the London "Congestion" Charge is:-
"Central London Congestion Charging Scheme - Impacts Monitoring - Summary Review - January 2005".
Note that the report and the comments that follow are based on the charge of 5. This was increased to 8 a day from 4th July 2005.

2. The report implies that:- a) Congestion is down 30 to 33%.

b) Most residents are in favour of the scheme.

c) There has been little adverse effect on businesses.

d) Air Pollution has improved by 12%.

e) "Customers" are happy and there are no collection problems.

How much is Congestion down?

3. The graph on page 7 of the report shows that immediately pre charge the traffic took just under 4 minutes to do a kilometre, and it now takes about 3 minutes 40 seconds. That is an improvement of about 8%. So how do they make it 30 to 33%?

4. Easy - instead of the actual flow immediately before the charge you take a "reference value" of 4 minutes 30 seconds, then in both cases you ignore the first 2 minutes because that is reckoned to be the congestion free rate of flow. So that gives you a reduction from 2 minutes 30 seconds to 1 minute 40 seconds or 33%. Hey Presto!

5. To travel across the zone, immediately before the charge would have taken about 20 minutes, and it now takes 18 minutes 20 seconds.
Not much of a reduction for a five pounds charge!
(The zone is about 5 kilometres across.)

6. The report gives no indication of what has happened to congestion in the 98% of London outside the Toll zone. They do however report (Page 10) on volume of traffic on some "selected" roads outside the Zone. Traffic on these roads is 2% less than before the charge. The selected roads do not include the Inner Ring Road, where you would most have expected a traffic increase.


What are the views of residents?

7. The reported views of those who actually live within the charge zone were favourable in most respects. The exception was trade and employment where people who thought it was better were outnumbered by those who said it was worse. (Page 17)

8. Surprisingly as the toll only applies weekdays and only during the working day:- "43 percent of charging zone respondents believed family and friends were now finding it more difficult to visit them."(Page 19)

9. Also surprising is:- "Of those respondents who report change in Inner London, a slightly higher proportion say more time is spent travelling now than before the introduction of the charge". (Page 19)

10. Different groups of people were asked "Do you think that you have personally gained or lost as a result of the congestion charging scheme?" About half reported that it had made "no difference" (or "other" whatever that meant). The rest were split 25 to 25 if they lived in the Zone, 26 lost to 23 gained if they lived elsewhere in Inner London and 28 lost to 24 gained if they lived in outer London or outside London (page 21).


Has there been an adverse effect on businesses?

11. The report gives reasons why business may have declined for reasons other than the Congestion Charge. No figures are given. It is not possible to come to a conclusion one way or the other.
At least it is not possible from what you see in the report. There have however been independent surveys including one just published by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry:-   Effect on London Businesses


Has Air Pollution improved?

12. Supporters of the charge have quoted the line at the top of page 4 - "12 percent reductions in the emissions of key traffic pollutants previously reported will have continued".

13. But this is almost immediately followed by "it is not possible to identify a clear 'congestion charging effect' in monitored air quality data."

14. The report covers the 2 worst pollutants:- Nitrogen Dioxide and Particulate Matter, pm10. It show graphs rather than figures. There are numerous measuring sites in London, and the results will and do vary widely between locations, though most attention is paid to the figures for the Zone. The report suggests that air quality is better since the London Toll was introduced. This is not however reflected in the graphs particularly if they are corrected for an apparent drafting error.

15. The graphs for Nitrogen Dioxide (figure 23 on page 35) and Particulate Matter (figure 24 on page 36) show the Toll starting in February 2002 and give the impression that pollution was fairly flat until a year after the Toll started.
But if you look at the actual start of the Toll in February 2003, you will see that pollution shot up.

16. The report does admit that there has been "an increase in NO2 concentrations." (page 34). Not only have they increased but the figure is just over 70 mg, which compares with Edinburgh figure of 48 mg.

17. The situation is similar with the other main pollutant- Particulate Matter, pm10. The roadside figure within the charging zone has increased from around 36 mg to around 51 mg. The figure for Edinburgh is 27.


Are Customers happy and are there are no collection problems?

18. Whether customers are happy is subjective and difficult to measure. And we must admit that no one likes paying tolls.
But we can identify some people who may not be that happy:- a) All of those who have to bear the 5 charge.

b) Those who pay the two million 5 excess charge each year for paying between 10 PM and midnight.

c) The over six thousand a day who get a penalty charge notice.

d) And last but not least those who have been served with the 316,000 warrants issued to bailiffs for recovery of the outstanding debt.
(page 51).

To balance this we must admit that there is at least one person happy - Ken Livingstone!

TRAFFIC AND INCOME

19. It is just about possible from the report to arrive at some conclusions on the volume of traffic etc, within the zone.

20. The report gives a graph of traffic within the zone, before the scheme and now (page 8).
The figures as rounded by us for each daily charging period are:- Cars have gone down from 200 to 130 thousand,
Goods vehicles are down from 70 to 60 thousand,

Buses and taxis are up from 70 to 80 thousand,
Motorcycles are up from 25 to 30 thousand,
Pedal cycles are up from 17 to 20 thousand.
21. The above figures are for traffic entering the zone. The chances are that the traffic which will be most discouraged is that which would have spent the least time within the zone, it is therefore likely that the average traffic on the road has not reduced as much as these figures suggest. Also the figures don't include cars which stay within the zone on a particular day. Instead of 5 a day, residents pay 2.50 a week, so it seems unlikely that their car journeys will have reduced.

22. Where have the people gone? Well if we assume that each of the missing cars entering the zone was carrying 1.5 people, then there are about 100 thousand less people entering the zone by car. It seems that about 60 thousand now use the bus (page 11). Our estimate from the figures is that about 20 thousand extra will be using taxis, motorbikes or cycles. Figure for people using the Underground has fallen, the figures have picked up but it is still down by about 50 thousand. What does all this mean?

23. It seems to indicate 2 things:- a switch from train to bus, and that about 70 thousand less people enter the zone during the charging day.

24. The figures imply that (after excluding buses, taxis and bikes) over 200,000 charges a day would be incurred. But there are on average only around 108 thousand charges a day (page 42). Why?

25. Some of the difference will be due to exemptions (such as disabled), but it seems that on average those vehicles who enter the zone do so on average twice a day. They are certainly trying to get their money's worth!

26. Of the 108,000 charges, 17% (page 42) are for residents. This would give total daily income of around 450 thousand or about 115 million a year. There is also a surcharge of 5 if you pay between 10 PM and midnight. There are no figures for this, but we estimate that this would generate another 10 million a year.

27. Penalty Charge Notices give annual income of about 70 million. At one stage penalties reached 7,400 a day at an average amount of about 50 with 71% being paid (page 48). More recently there has been a fall in the number of notices, but this has been offset by the average amount increasing.

28. Impact report does not give details of the expenditure and income for the scheme. And there doesn't seem to be a breakdown anywhere!
The Transport for London annual report for 2003/04 does have a few total figures for the year and the previous one.
There was a loss of 58 million in 2002/03. This was the first part year of the scheme with expenditure of 77 million and income of 19 million.

29. In the full year 2003/04 the expenditure was 142 million and the income 187 million, giving a profit of 45 million. There is no breakdown of the figures, but based on our earlier estimates it appears that about 120 million of the income would have been from the charges and the rest from Penalty Charge Notices.
This suggests that the 5 a day charge was not sufficient to cover the expenditure of 142 million.

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