Per-mile road user charging would be win-win for London, says think tank
Replacing London’s current ‘patchwork’ system of road charges with a single, per-mile road user charging scheme could cut pollution by up to a fifth while bringing increased efficiencies for businesses through reduced congestion.
According to a new report by Centre for London, the capital is on track to have five separate road user charging schemes by 2025, each with different vehicle standards, hours of operation, charge amounts and payment arrangements.
Instead, the think tank is calling on the Mayor of London to replace existing and planned schemes – including the Congestion Charge, the new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and proposed charges for the new Blackwall and Silvertown tunnel – with a single system that would be much simpler for drivers to navigate.
By charging drivers per mile and targeting areas of high demand and poor air quality, the report – Green Light: Next Generation of Road User Charging for a Healthier, More Liveable London – says the new scheme would prove fairer than the Congestion Charge and ULEZ, because it would reflect the true level of vehicle usage and its contribution to congestion and pollution in the capital.
According to the authors, charging drivers on the most congested roads the equivalent of a cup of coffee or a bus ticket could reduce total emissions and air pollution levels across the whole of London by up to a fifth (over and above the anticipated impact of the current ULEZ).
But the scheme would also reduce congestion and allow investment in roads maintenance, creating a better journey for all road users while bringing efficiency benefits to businesses.
And the scheme – dubbed City Move – would also bring London’s transport system into the digital age and open up mobility options through being run as a multimodal platform integrated with the rest of the capital’s transport system. Available as an app and website, it would allow customers to compare, plan and pay for journeys using the full range of travel options on offer in the capital. Using the latest technology, the platform would compare the relative costs and impacts of taking the bus, tube, train, car-sharing, taxi hailing, bike hire, cycling or walking to help users make informed travel choices.
As such, the authors are urging the Mayor of London to ask Transport for London to develop options for such a scheme with a view to introducing the first version 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.
The report is being backed by campaign group London First. Transport director Richard Dilks said: “London paved the way for congestion charging 16 years ago and, as charging for road use becomes more commonplace in big cities across the world, we need to plan to stay one step ahead.
“With the city now boasting various charges designed to tackle congestion and emissions, more than 6 in 10 (63%) of Londoners support a simpler combination of these charges in future.
“In order to keep London an attractive place to visit, live and work we need to modernise and cohere our charges as part of a package of measures to effectively tackle congestion and air quality.”