16 October, etc.venues Monument
30 October, JW Marriott Grosvenor House
1st November 2023, etc.venues County Hall
It”s difficult isn”t it to be against the Congestion Charge in London?
In these days when everyone is expected to march triumphantly behind the green banner, those wishing to express a note of caution, of deeper analysis, are treated as if they are outriders to the four horsemen of the apocalypse.
And yet, amid the great self-congratulations of Transport for London (TfL) led by its cheerleader-in-chief, Mayor Ken Livingstone, some have dared put their head above the parapet and risk environmental pariah status. Of which more later.
It”s the fifth birthday of the Congestion Charge introduction, a wheeze that according to TfL, has ”won plaudits across the globe [with] traffic in the zone down 21%.” And 2003 certainly witnessed an initial drop in traffic as congestion indeed appeared to improve.
Nothing wrong with that of course ” who in their right mind would want to drive into central London anyway? The Charge improves pollution levels, reduces the risk of accidents and is generally a jolly good thing isn”t it?
Well, up to a point. The very words, Congestion Charge, tell you exactly what it is ” or should be - but in a move that has echoes of George Orwell”s Animal Farm as the pigs gradually turn into their former human masters, the slogans and goalposts appear to be moving.
In what is snappily entitled: ”The Variation and Transitional Provisions Order 2007,” the Mayor has at a stroke decided to move those goalposts from congestion to emissions in a change that will see affected vehicles ” i.e. larger ones ” pay more than 300% extra for the whopping ”25 privilege of entering the capital every day.
But this smacks more of politics than a genuine desire to see CO2 levels drop, laudable as the latter is. Ken”s political background is hardly obscure ” his horror at the very idea of anyone driving a larger car, his extension of the Congestion Charge boundary to include, let”s be frank, the posh boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea and his tirade against Heathrow expansion last week, would let a Martian know exactly where he stands.
But one car manufacturer has dared risk the wrath of City Hall. Porsche has had enough.
The German maker of magnificent machines has said it will apply for a Judicial Review to the extension of the Congestion Charge for Band G vehicles that will see prices rise from ”8 to ”25 or from 80p if residents live within the zone.
”A massive Congestion Charge increase is quite simply unjust,” said Porsche Cars GB managing director Andy Goss. ”Thousands of car owners driving a huge range of cars will be hit by a disproportionate tax, which is clear will have a very limited affect on CO2 emissions.”
Porsche”s other contention is that businesses outside the UK will be put off basing themselves in the UK capital if they think ”they will be used as cash cows for City Hall.”
But City Hall clearly wasn”t going to take that lying down and responded tersely: ”No-one is allowed to throw their rubbish in the street and Porsche should not be allowed to impose gas-guzzling polluting cars on Londoners who do not want them.”
All good knockabout stuff, but isn”t the key issue here that the Congestion Charge ” quite possibly admirable in its original format ” has now morphed into something far bigger ” and more imposing on people”s liberties?
Could these proposals on CO2 emissions potentially affect that favoured staple of politicians ” the ”hard-working family” ” that needs a larger car to transport the brood around town?
There”s a Mayoral election up soon. Londoners will soon have a chance to decide for themselves what the transport policy ” one of the Mayor”s critical roles in the capital ” should be. If they back Ken Livingstone”s proposals to tackle the ”Chelsea Tractors” then fine, that”s the people”s will.
If they don”t, it might just be a warning shot across the bows of anyone else, who decides they know best how to move the green goalposts without a mandate.
For the record, the other Mayoral candidates offered the following on the Porsche challenge. From Liberal Democrat Brian Paddick: ”Porsche has a point: this has become an emissions charge, not a congestion charge and an ineffective one at that. If it ends up in court, it will be Londoners who pick up the tab.”
And from Conservative Boris Johnson. ”He [Livingstone] has turned his congestion charge into an environmental tax. There are better ways to make this city greener and this is not one of them. I ask him today - make the guarantee that congestion in London will go down because of this policy."
And while we”re at it, although I”m not an apologist for anything with a combustion engine, Porsche just happens to make some of the finest and most aesthetically pleasing motor cars in the world.
Has anyone actually seen their electrically-powered opposites that will attract zero tax? Could it be possible to make anything uglier?
Simon WarburtonEditor - ABTN