Now that sub-head may confuse you a bit, because it raises the question as to how a rise in price of anything will be good news for anyone apart from the beneficiaries of the rise, but bear with me and all will be revealed.
Transport for London (TfL) – the organisation in London that is responsible for the Congestion Charge and all its charges, fines and implementation - has announced that it is looking at increasing the standard daily charge to enter the Congestion Charge applicable area from £10 to £11.50.
For the many motorists who pay this charge this will mean a rise of 15% (which is way above the rate of inflation), but for the freight industry (who mainly use the ‘fleet scheme’) the increase would be 17% - even further into the ‘way above’.
Whilst there are understandable grumblings from car user groups (who have yet to start up a campaign to stop the increase – first news on that will be on this blog as soon as it happens!), the FTA (Freight Transport Association) are unsurprisingly up in arms, especially as they have been campaigning long and hard to get TfL to re-think the charge that is imposed on freight operators who have no option other than to use the city’s roads and Congestion Charge zones.
Natalie Chapman, FTA Head of Policy London & South East stated: “Whilst many congestion charge users face a potential 15% increase in the daily charge this summer, most transport companies are registered on the fleet scheme so will be in line for an over-inflationary 17% hike if the proposed changes go ahead. FTA realises that the Congestion Charge is to deter non-essential or discretionary journeys, but we consider this as a tax on businesses which have little alternative but to use trucks and vans during the day.”
For those of you reading this who think that the FTA don’t understand the (stated) points behind the Congestion Charge in London – i.e. reduced congestion, reduced CO2 emissions and improved air quality – they do; but they also consider the charge to be a ‘tax on deliveries’ because often (or as in many cases ‘primarily’) delivery drivers have no option at all but to enter the Congestion Charge zone to do their job.
Ms Chapman added: “Whilst FTA is not opposed to the principle of the Congestion Charge, London’s businesses rely on freight to deliver essential goods and services and without the logistics industry, the capital would simply grind to a halt.”
If you look at it logically, it is not feasible to deliver goods purely by use of public transport and the alternative delivery means such as cycles cannot cope with many of the deliveries that are required – and there are no charge-free daytime breaks outside of rush hour either. This means that costs of deliveries will have to increase and this cost will be borne by London’s businesses, residents and visitors through the resulting higher prices for goods and services.
This is why the Freight Transport Association has asked TfL to “consider all available options for providing discounts and exemptions to the scheme for freight.”
And the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA) has also criticised the plans as they don't take into consideration rental vehicles, which they believe should be exempt, with Chief Executive Gerry Keaney saying: “This 15% increase in the daily charge is completely unjustified and is in effect a tax rise on essential business users who have no choice but to drive in central London. It is illogical that London cabs are exempt from the congestion charge but rental vehicles are not.”
Firstly it is good news for car manufacturers who have invested in electric cars because this will give them a chance to push their products even more and give a much-needed boost to the electric vehicle sector.
And it’s good news also for manufacturers of cars that are Congestion Charge exempt that aren’t electric for the same reason.
Good news also for cyclists, manufacturers and retailers of cycles, and companies that hire out cycles because no doubt there will be those car drivers for whom an extra £7.50 a week, £30+ a month and around £390 a year on top of what they already pay is too much. (This is also bad news for car/van/lorry drivers who will have to cope with a whole load of new cyclists who have no idea what to do on the road, and for the accident and emergency services that will have to deal with the aftermath of this; but good news for Cycling Proficiency classes who may have an influx of new students!)
But let’s not start cheering or booing yet! It’s only a plan, and there are a lot of arguments and counter-arguments to happen before it happens or doesn’t happen.
But I won’t hold my breath for it not to happen if I’m honest.