CambridgePPF Calls for City Deal to Reconsider Congestion Charge

21st Oct 2016EnvironmentalGreen BeltLocal planPlanning

The likely dropping of the proposed road closures leaves the City Deal’s congestion package in disarray. CambridgePPF calls on the City Deal to consider that the only effective and fair way of cutting congestion and creating a high quality public transport system is through a driver pays approach. The City Deal should re-think its bias against a congestion charge.

The news that the City Deal is backing away from its “peak-hour control-points” is welcome evidence of its willingness to listen to the concerns of the public. CambridgePPF has argued all along that the control-points are more likely to worsen congestion than relieve it because of the inevitable displacement effect it will have on traffic. A more realistic balance between improving the speed and reliability of bus travel and encouraging drivers to give up their cars is needed, but the proposals for road closures would have had damaging effects for residents, commuters and businesses. Dropping these control points is the correct decision.

CambridgePPF believes that the City Deal should now instruct the County transport officers to work up a package of measures comparable to the current proposal but with the control-points and the workplace levy replaced by a congestion charge. This alternative would then be presented to the public for its opinions through a full public consultation.

As the City Deal’s own consultants recognised when considering a congestion charge, “no other demand measure is likely to be as effective in reducing congestion, delivering mode shift, and increasing transport revenue for Cambridge.” The consultants estimate the income arising from a £5 per day charge at around £40m per annum, sufficient to run a first-class public transport system as a real alternative to the car. To deny the people of Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire this opportunity is unacceptable.

The arguments against the congestion charge have always been that it would discriminate against people commuting into Cambridge from outside, it would take too long to set up, and would be too expensive. A system whereby everyone wishing to drive in Cambridge during the peak-hours paid the same charge, irrespective of where their journey started or ended, would be equitable and fair. All the income generated would need to be ring-fenced for transport improvements throughout Cambridge and South Cambridgeshire.

Using the same vehicle number-plate recognition technology as was proposed for the control-points should not take significantly longer to set up, and with a projected annual income of tens of millions, the extra cost would be irrelevant. What would require more time would be creating the additional P&R sites and providing the extra low-emission shuttle buses to take people from the P&Rs to the main centres of employment around the city.

Robin Pellew on behalf of CambridgePPF commented, “The City Deal is right that doing nothing is not an option. We have said all along that road closures were unfair and discriminatory. We now need a radical re-think to produce a new package based around some form of peak-time charge to drive within the city. The income generated would then subsidise a high quality, efficient, and reliable public transport service that was sufficiently attractive to get drivers to give up their cars.”

“We’ve spent years talking about the congestion problem yet nothing has been done about it. Creating an attractive public transport system cannot be done over-night, but let’s start now so it can be in place sooner rather than later.”
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