Extension of the congestion charge zone into Kensington & Chelsea to the west.
The central zone has simply been extended to an area comprising all of the City of Westminster and virtually all of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. The extended boundary is:
Congestion in Kensington to be charged?
The previous western boundary road (Edgware Rd, Park Lane, Grosvenor Place, Vauxhall Bridge Rd) remains free to use to avoid creating large detours around the zone's edge. The Westway also remains free to use, to avoid detours on unsuitable roads.
Additionally, a discount buffer zone has been created around the charging zone, encompassing all residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea. Within this buffer zone, no charge will apply but residents living there will receive the residents' discount of 90% (bringing the charge down to £4 per week instead of £8 per day). A buffer has also been applied to a number of other locations immediately on the edge of the existing zone - see the TfL map for details. TfL did also consider introducing a discount buffer zone for some residents in Kennington and north Battersea.
Charging hours are now shorter (7am - 6pm) for the new, enlarged scheme compared to the previousscheme (7am - 6.30pm). This is to provide relief to the restaurant and theatre trades.
Extensions to the north, east and south were also considered but were not taken forward since their traffic problems were not considered as severe as the west, and in the east and south, public transport provision is not yet considered to be good enough to support congestion charging.
Rail & Tube improvements
No substantial improvements have been made to the Tube as a result of the extension; buses are expected to carry most people who switch from their cars to public transport. Improvements have already been made to a number of stations such as Queensway and Lancaster Gate under the various private investment programmes.
TfL are keen to see improvements made to the West London Line, which carries passengers along the western boundary of the zone. These will hopefully include a frequency increase eventually to every 15 minutes as well as the new stations at Shepherd's Bush and Imperial Wharf. However, these improvements are not being funded as part of the congestion charge package.
An extensive package of improvements to bus services in the zone has been introduced.
Minor frequency improvements (such as an additional few bus journeys during peak periods) have been made to routes 9, 10, 11, 36 and 94.
More extensive frequency improvements have been made throughout the week to routes 14, 16, 18, 22, 27, 239, 328, 344, C1 and C3.
All route 23 journeys now run to Westbourne Park rather than half terminating at Kensal Green; this is a doubling of frequency between those two locations.
Routes 52 and 137 experienced a decrease in frequency which was compensated over much of their lengths by creation of a new route, 452 (see later).
In addition to the extra capacity provided by the above frequency increases, routes 319 has been converted to double-decker operation.
Additionally, route C3 from Earl's Court to Clapham Junction via Wandsworth has already been converted to double-deck operation.
Rerouting & extensions
Routes 28, 31, 44, 46, 430 and C1 have been revised or extended, as show in the map and explained below.
An entirely new north-south route has been created across the charging zone. Route 452 now runs using double deckers every eight minutes between Kensal Rise and Wandsworth Road stations, duplicating current route 52 between Kensal Rise and Knightsbridge, and route 137 between Knightsbridge and Queenstown Road/Wandsworth Road. This provides a new link between Battersea and Kensington/Notting Hill.
The West London Residents' Association, which opposes the western extension of the congestion charging zone, claims that £166m which is to be spent on installing the camera-based automatic numberplate recognition (ANPR) technology is a waste as it is already outdated by the "tag and beacon" system being trialled by TfL in south London.
Independent research by academics from Oxford and Cambridge Universities has found that the existing congestion charge has been highly beneficial for London, reducing congestion and decreasing travel times more than expected. The study also found that the western extension would have benefits outweighing its costs by more than 50%. The report also found that the effect on business was "broadly neutral", with no discernable effect on employment or profitability inside the zone.
The western extension to the congestion charge zone has been approved by the Mayor and will come into operation from 19 February 2007, requiring drivers entering Kensington & Chelsea to pay the £8 daily charge. The charging hours will finish half an hour earlier at 6pm, and from September 2006, drivers will be able to pay the charge the following day.
The second consultation for the western extension of the congestion charging zone has now finished. The LTUC responded to the consultation by questioning the merit of finishing the charging hours at 6pm instead of 6.30pm, whilst Conservative London Assembly member Angie Bray suggested that the Mayor might "ignore" the results of the consultation.
A DfT value for money test, which requires 90p of benefits for every £1.30 spent on a major scheme, ranks the congestion charge western extension as poor value. However, TfL say that the DfT test does not take into acccount health, environment or quality of life improvements.
The public consultation into the detailed plans for the western congestion charge extension will be "on tour" via a roadshow across Kensington & Chelsea until 15 July. Temporary exhibitions will take place at Kensington Forum Holiday Inn, Chelsea Town Hall and Westbourne Grove, whilst travelling exhibitions visit a number of locations across the area.
An RAC survey has highlighted London roads with the worst congestion - most of which are outside the proposed charging zone. The RAC pinpoint roads such as Islington's Upper Street, Holloway Road, the Blackwall Tunnel approaches, Whitechapel Road, Old Kent Road, Commercial Road, Lambeth Road, Wandsworth Road, Essex Road and Camden Road, as all having worse congestion than roads such as Chelsea's King's Road and Fulham Road, and Bayswater Road, which are inside the proposed charging extension zone.
A new public consultation into the detailed proposals for the westward-extended congestion charging zone has been launched, and will run until 15 July. Proposals include a buffer zone around the slightly-revised charging zone, where residents will not be inside the charging zone but will still receive a discount, and a move to finish charging hours earlier at 6pm instead of 6.30pm to aid the restaurant and theatre trades.
The Government's main transport adviser until recently, Professor David Begg, believes that the congestion charge should not be extended until satellite tolling can be brought in, when charges would be made according to the time of day and road travelled on.
The West London Residents' Association organised another protest against the proposed expansion of the congestion charge into Kensington & Chelsea.
The Association of London Government has called for a public inquiry into the western extension of the congestion charge zone, amid concerns about its value for money. However, the Mayor's office believe that an inquiry is unlikely due to the extensive public consultation already carried out.
A survey of 116 London firms by the Confederation of British Industry found that only nine per cent of businesses surveyed backed the western expansion of the congestion charge zone.
TfL has made an agreement with Capita, the existing private operators of the congestion charge, to provide services for the extended charging zone if the Mayor gives it the go-ahead.
Local residents and Assembly Member Angie Bray said that it is unfair that Kensington & Chelsea residents not inside the extended congestion charging area would receive a residents' discount whilst Westminster residents outside the zone in Maida Vale do not.
A convoy of over 100 vehicles is expected tomorrow to travel from Kensington to Parliament Square to demonstrate against the proposed western extension to the congestion charging zone.
The Mayor is set to offer the 90% congestion charge discount - currently only for residents of the zone - to residents in a "buffer zone" outside the C-charge extension area, as a concession to those concerned over division of the area. All Kensington & Chelsea residents would receive the 90% discount, even those outside the extended zone which would only extend to the A3220 (Warwick Rd etc.) in Earl's Court, rather than to the West London railway line - the boundary of Kensington & Chelsea. The charge boundary has also been amended to exclude Ladbroke Grove's Canal Way (including the large Sainsbury's there) and all the area northwest of there, meaning that the charge does not apply to Kensal Green Cemetery or College Park near Willesden Junction.
The latest annual TfL Travel Report, for 2004, has shown a 33% drop in car traffic entering the congestion charging zone in response to the charge's introduction in February 2003.
TfL have negotiated a deal with Capita, the private firm operating the congestion charge system, to extend their contract by two years to February 2009, introducing a clause which will let them run the western extension if it proceeds. After 2009, TfL expect to switch from cameras to more flexible satellite tracking technology currently undergoing trials.
Transport for London will be consulting on plans to increase the congestion charge in the existing zone from £5 to £8 for cars (£7 for commercial vehicles), whilst introducing extra discounts for season ticket holders, fleet operators and making payment easier.
Two £3m investigations have been commissioned by TfL into the impact of the current congestion charging zone, one with respect to businesses and the other with respect to residents. The investigations will also consider the impact of the western extension.
New criticism of the finances of the congestion charge western extension has been levelled at the Mayor and TfL by the leader of Kensington & Chelsea Council and the chief executive of the London Chamber of Commerce, who both raised doubts about the schemes ability to finance itself and have major concerns over loss of trade in the extension area.
New market research by firm CACI says that the smaller shopping areas, such as the Fulham Road, would be hardest-hit by a extension of the congestion charging zone, rather than large stores like Harvey Nichols or Peter Jones. Sainsburys has also expressed concerns that the existing zone is not improving their delivery times.
Critics of the congestion charge extension, which would result in shorter charging hours to 6pm instead of 6.30pm, want the shortened hours to be brought in immediately to aid the restaurant and theatre trades.
The Mayor has published a formal revision to the London Transport Strategy, allowing further consultation and work on the congestion charge western extension to proceed. The move has angered some residents and politicians as about two-thirds of respondents to the first consultation were against the scheme.
Although a £2.9bn TfL borrowing plan was improved by central government yesterday, it may not be enough to cover some schemes lower on the Mayor's priority list - like the congestion charge zone extension into Kensington & Chelsea.
A recent survey carried out on behalf of TfL has shown that 61% of questioned residents of the proposed extension area are against the project, with 38% in favour. Meanwhile, the Mayor is proposing to give the 90% discount to the 20,000 Kensington & Chelsea residents outside the charging zone, to allay fears that these residents will be cut off if they have to pay the full charge.
Some Kensington & Chelsea residents will be more concerned this weekend after Ken Livingstone's re-election as Mayor, along with his plan to extend the congestion charge into Kensington.
An independent survey of 270 of the 700 businesses that would be inside the congestion charge zone extension has concluded that the extension would not be viable, and that it could politically damage the Mayor.
Business organisation London First has published a critique of the congestion charge extension scheme, saying that an extension should not be considered for three years, whilst a full economic assessment of the existing scheme is carried out.
Consultation on the congestion charge extension into Kensington & Chelsea ended on Friday, amid concerns by some residents that they did not receive the appropriate information.
Wandsworth have issued a report criticising the Mayor for not commissioning an independent report into the expansion of the congestion charge zone, saying that it will cause increased traffic and parking problems in Battersea - although they welcomed the proposal to keep the Vauxhall - Edgware Road route charge-free.
Westminster Council have issued a leaflet to their residents affected by congestion charge expansion proposals, saying that Transport for London's leaflet fails to give residents an informed choice.
Following a protest march on 3 April, the West London Residents' Association is involved in planning another march of 5 June.
Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrat candidate for the London Mayoral elections, has stated that he would scrap proposals to extend the charging zone to Kensington & Chelsea, alongside introducing other measures in the existing central zone such as letting drivers have five free days, and ending the charging period at 5pm instead of 6.30pm.
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