Lack of leadership risks London losing road charging funds to Govt

The Mayor is at risk of losing all income from the congestion charge and ULEZ to the government because he hasn’t taken the lead on a modern road pricing scheme.

My Green Assembly colleague, Caroline Russell, today challenged the Mayor at MQT to stand up and take a lead on smart, fair, privacy-friendly road pricing, before Government steals his thunder and his wallet.

In reply, the Mayor insisted he will only focus on the Ultra Low Emission Zone for now.

However, with government now setting a 2030 deadline to stop the sale of new petrol and diesel only fuelled vehicles, planning for alternative means to capture the revenue from drivers to pay for road maintenance and rebalancing transport away from private cars is now urgent.

The Government has left the Mayor on the back foot. On Monday, the Times ran a front page story on the Treasury having produced a report on road pricing to replace their income from fuel duty.

In 2018, Professor Tony Travers had warned the London Assembly that if London’s Mayor didn’t use existing powers in the GLA Act to create a smarter road pricing scheme first, one day Government would, and it would capture all the income with that scheme.*

Caroline wrote about the problem for On London earlier this month – read here.

Caroline says:

“It is urgent that the Mayor starts an honest conversation with Londoners about who pays for transport in the capital. There is too little contribution to London’s budget from people driving in London.

“The big new solution to fair funding of London’s transport is to bring in smart, fair, privacy-friendly road pricing. All the Mayor needs to do now is to fund a proper study, and start a conversation with Londoners about road pricing. It would not delay the Ultra Low Emission Zone or other vital action.

“The Mayor is at risk of missing the boat on smart, fair road pricing. The Treasury has already started to work on it and is talking to newspapers, whereas the Mayor has no published study and just a line in his Transport Strategy saying he’ll keep it under review. This is just too weak.

“In the London Assembly I’ve repeatedly pressed the Mayor on needing to work on a study, and now if the Mayor doesn’t act soon, there is a risk the Government swoops in with a national congestion scheme and takes all London’s road pricing income.

“The Mayor of London was granted a huge power to devise and manage road pricing schemes across London in 2000. This Mayor is too scared to use that power, and risks losing it,”

Watch Caroline challenge Sadiq Khan at Mayor’s Question Time today:

*In a meeting of the London Assembly Budget and Performance Committee on 12 July 2018, Prof Travers warned: “My slight fear is that the powers do exist for the Mayor of London and, if they are not used, the national Government will at some point. If the national Government decided to introduce a national system of road pricing, most of it in cities, it gets the revenue. That is the risk for all London politicians in the medium to long term.”