Monday, February 09, 2009

Congestion charge for Bristol still on the agenda

Bristol’s horrendous traffic continues to lower our health, wellbeing and quality of life. This will continue to damage present and future generations if we don’t do something soon that is effective. I’m therefore glad that Transport Secretary Geoff Hoon has said that congestion charging for big cities is still on the agenda ( ‘ Road charge ‘on agenda’ ’, Post, February 9). Due to their no vote Manchester wont now be receiving the very large investment in public transport improvements that comes before congestion charging is introduced. However, that money is available for other cities and our need for transport investment is great, so it makes sense not to rule out options.

Bristol’s transport problems are serious: every day too many vehicles are trying to use local roads; there are very limited possibilities for building more roads and in any case more roads bring more traffic and more damage; drivers spend half their time crawling in jammed traffic; congestion is costing business very large amounts of money; traffic congestion generates more air pollution and produces more climate change causing carbon emissions; congestion causes frustration and raises stress levels.

A congestion charge would try to achieve: significantly reduced traffic in the most congested areas; similarly reduced delays; shorter journey times; reliable delivery times; the saving of many hours of journey time; the raising of large sums of money for re-investment in transport, especially public transport; switching to sustainable transport modes; a boost for public transport use; a system that pays for itself within a few years or less. Very sizeable and additional central government transport investment is promised before congestion charging is introduced.

Lessons from London’s congestion charge should encourage us. Congestion and traffic levels have reduced. The number of cars and car movements has decreased. Movements of buses, coaches and taxis has increased. Tens of thousands more bus passengers enter the charge zone during the morning peak. Bus reliability and journey times have improved and the time passengers wait at bus stops is much lower. There is much less disruption on bus routes due to traffic delay.

We clearly have a serious problem. We have congestion charge proposals that are targeted at solving at least some of the problems, backed by large amounts of money. We have clear evidence that congestion charging in London is producing some significant improvements. If the details of any scheme for Bristol are right, the decision making processes are fair and we can implement the scheme properly then I’m strongly in favour.

Further information and useful links: