Cost of congestion charging (Rant)

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Wednesday 24 August 2005 11.36am
So, in another place I have chronicled my efforts to find out the purpose behind the excavation on Bermondsey St outside the BK. What this showed me is just how extensive is the beaurocracy that is involving itself with managing our street network.

Others have posted photos of the hardware being installed in Tooley St (talk about Big Brother) and I'm now beginning to wonder if anyone can tell me how much it costs for one of these installations. I'd also like to know how the benefit of this programme is quantified.

As a comparison, I started to think about legislation aimed at improving the environment and the legislation that springs to mind is the original Clean Air Act of 1956.

http://www.ace.mmu.ac.uk/eae/Air_Quality/Older/Clean_Air_Acts.html

This was aimed at resolving the environmental problems of the 'great smog' of 1952 and the resultant deaths. The government of the day recognised the problem, framed and enacted the legislation and, hey presto, the problem disappeared.

Traffic congestion could be seen in the same way and legislation framed to deal with it. For example, in 1983 even the Americans had managed to pass legislation which forced drivers to carry a minimum of three people in their cars if they wanted to enter a given urban area. No cameras just draconian penalties. No need to dig up the roads and spend billions on systems and cameras.

What has changed?

Niall
Friday 26 August 2005 7.15am
What has changed? I think that we have become passive in the face of whatever our government does. Its very interesting to compare the Clean Air Act with Congestion Charging and consider the cost and impact of the two pieces of legislation.

Other than the cost of drafting the legislation and the probable cost of initial enforcement, the Clean Air Act cost the taxpayer almost nothing.

Compare that to Congestion Charging where the entire focus of the activity is upon some sort of automated enforcement and charging process where the cost to the taxpayer is significant.

If the Clean Air Act had been introduced in the same way as Congestion Charging it would have allowed anyone who wanted to burn smokey rubbish to carry on doing so as long as they pay for being allowed to do so.

An argument that I have heard against the minimum occupancy approach to car use is that, unlike Congestion Charging, the government couldn't figure out any automatic, evidence based method of enforcement. In Boston in 1983 the Americans enforced the minimum occupancy rule with a policeman at every major junction. The Congestion Charging zone has some 220 entry points so you'd need 220 policemen for a couple of months and culture would then have changed with no further cost to the taxpayer.

But it seems that we don't or can't do small government anymore. Burgeoning beaurocracy is our culture and it also helps to keep the unemployment figures down. How long before the productive economy folds under the pressure?

Regards

Niall
Friday 26 August 2005 10.15am
Niall Connolly Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Other than the cost of drafting the legislation
> and the probable cost of initial enforcement, the
> Clean Air Act cost the taxpayer almost nothing.

Just the small matter of smokeless fuel costing considerably more than the domestic coal previously used by most working class London households!

The current premiums are some 30% for anthracite and 50% for Coalite. I recall from my Midlands youth that a lot of people in the Greater Nottingham smoke free zone knowingly bought the cheaper stuff from suppliers in Derbyshire where domestic burning wasn't controlled.


Friday 26 August 2005 11.47am
Niall, your contention that 220 police men for a couple of months would change the culture is EXACTLY what I said about littering. It needs a real hit with intensive application of cracking fines and people soon learn that law is law and it WILL be applied. It certainly worked for the bus lanes. It could work for all your points.
Friday 26 August 2005 12.24pm
Congestion charging was explicitly designed to have two effects -

(i) to reduce congestion
(ii) to raise money - a net contribution after all the running costs of some 130million a year towards TfL's other services was budgeted for.

Of course, the Treasury subsequently cut the amount of money they were giving to TfL by 125million a year!!!
Monday 29 August 2005 10.48am
All

I've asked some questions of TfL about the general cost of the mini-zone project and the identities of the bidders for the contract and the two current competitors. TfL have replied under the Freedom of Information Act and I can expect a reply (which I suspect will be rather less than I would like) within 20 working days or 4 weeks.

Rabbie made an interesting point with regard to the intention of the Congestion Charge. As he explained it was intended to raise revenue which would be put into public transport. I don't know anything about the projections for the CC revenue stream but I have to assume that, to maintain the revenue stream, congestion needs to be maintained at some (possibly significant) level. So the idea of changing culture and getting people out of their cars and onto an improved public transport system is exactly what the process doesn't seek to do.

From what I have read, CC has been 'so successful' that the revenue stream from it has been less than expected, resulting in reduced funding for public transport. So, what level of vehicle use does TfL see as 'optimum' ie giving the best baslance of revenue against 'congestion'?

Regards

Niall


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