Mayor refuses to discuss smart, fair road charging plans

The Mayor has dismissed proposals to start an ‘honest, open conversation’ with Londoners about developing a new system of charging for road use in London.

The resilience of Transport for London’s finances has been thrown into sharp relief during the coronavirus crisis, with around 90 per cent of its revenue coming from public transport fare payers.

This financial crisis looks set to continue to deepen in the long-term as the Mayor refused today to even discuss the option of developing more diverse revenue sources with me during Mayor’s Question Time.

It is well overdue for the Mayor to start an honest, open conversation with Londoners about how we share out the costs of our transport system more fairly.

The Congestion Charge itself is now old enough to drive, and its replacement with smarter, fairer, distance-based road charging is something that has been put off again and again by successive Mayors.

In this current crisis, with problems of how we manage and pay for transport at the top of everyone’s priorities, it is outrageous that the Mayor today refused to even discuss with me the next steps.

Crucially, we now need to start having this debate with Londoners themselves. They will have big questions about fairness, privacy and about the benefits and it is not good enough for the Mayor to show such a lack of political courage today.

During MQT today, I again pressed the Mayor to develop plans for smarter and fairer, privacy-friendly road charging, where drivers pay for how far they travel and how polluting their vehicle is, rather than the flat charge that now applies no matter how far people drive.

However, the Mayor would not be engaged today on even starting a conversation with Londoners about smarter road charging.

Watch my questions here:

In January 2017, Green Assembly Member Caroline Russell, along with our LibDem colleague Caroline Pidgeon, put forward a budget amendment proposing a study of options for road-charging, but it was not taken up by the Mayor.

And Centre for London’s 2019 report, Green Light, looked in some detail at how the scheme could work technically.

Since the introduction of lockdown, TfL has seen a 95 per cent reduction in journeys on the Tube, and an 85 per cent reduction in journeys on buses since mid-March 2020. This has caused an overall income loss of around 90 per cent, including non-passenger incomes.