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Report calls for London to move towards new road user charging scheme to replace C-Charge, ULEZ

Mon 29 April 2019 | Back to news list

A new report from the Centre for London calls for the introduction of a new road user charging scheme which charges drivers on a per-mile basis and varies according to vehicle emissions, local levels of congestion and pollution and the availability of public transport alternatives.

The Centre for London's report - Green Light: Next Generation Road User Charging for a Healthier, More Liveable, London - says that London needs a more sophisticated approach to road user charging which reflects the true impact of individual vehicle journeys.

The scheme would be integrated with London’s wider transport system via a new app and digital platform, which the authors proposes would be run by Transport for London (TfL). The scheme - entitled City Move - would provide Londoners with more choice about how they travel around the city. 

The scheme would use the latest technology to give Londoners all their travel information in one place, allowing them to compare, plan and pay for journeys. Drivers would be presented with costs and impacts of using their vehicle versus alternative modes of transport with the cost of driving a particular route confirmed before the commencement of the journey.

It emphasises the need to update the existing system; while it says that the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) is a much-needed environmental measure, it comes on top of the existing Congestion Charge, and proposed charges for the new Silvertown and Blackwall tunnels. This means that by 2025, London could have at least five separate road user charging schemes – each featuring different vehicle standards, hours of operation, charge amounts and payment arrangements. This has created a confusing system for drivers to navigate.

The report recommends that the Mayor of London should ask Transport for London to develop options for a new approach to road user charging, with a view to introducing the first version of a scheme by the end of the 2020-2024 Mayoral term. This would include developing a customer platform, upgrading the required GPS and mobile network capacity, and a trial to test the technology.

Silviya Barrett, Research Manager at Centre for London said: “The Congestion Charge was pioneering when it was introduced 16 years ago, and the ULEZ is desperately needed to address a growing air quality crisis.

“But new technologies are rapidly transforming the way people travel – and how they pay for their journeys. It is time for London’s approach to road user charging to keep up with the pace of change."

Steve Gooding, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “As this report rightly highlights, to have any chance of working smoothly and attracting public support rules and regulations need to be simple to understand and easy to plan for.

“One wonders whether this is the case in London – and increasingly in other towns and cities across the country – where drivers are confronted with an array of charges designed to do different things across different geographical areas. Many could be forgiven for confusing their CCs, CAZs and ULEZs.

“No one would challenge the urgent need to tackle congestion and reduce emissions so the easier things are made for drivers to comply the quicker change will be accepted.”

The Centre for London's report provides the most detailed recent analysis in this area but also echoes calls from several other stakeholders in road transport. A recent study supported by a group convened by the BVRLA and a separate report from the Aldersgate Group both called for road pricing systems to be reconsidered to capitalise on the arrival of new technologies which could facilitate the transition.

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