Cambridgeshire makes road charge last resort
Shies away from DoT demands for Fenland revenue
Cambridgeshire CC councillors have voted for a scheme which would use Transport Innovation Fund money and include road charging – if all else fails.
The county's travel scheme proposes a trigger point for a congestion charge scheme, so that it would be introduced if congestion "reached a critical level and nothing else would help".
However, Department for Transport rules for local authority applications for the £3bn TIF stipulate that bids must support transport innovations and include a pricing regime to cut road congestion.
Alan Mo, senior analyst at Kable, said: "Although Cambridgeshire's bid may help appease local opposition to road charging, the new challenge for the council will be to get official approval for a bid which does not have congestion charging at its centre."
Cambridgeshire's bid, which won backing from councillors in an open vote on 13 October 2009, follows the recommendations of the independent Cambridgeshire Transport Commission, chaired by Brian Briscoe. It was established after the council received mixed responses from the public when congestion charging was initially mooted.
The first part of the bid is for funding for a new railway station at Chesterton, to the north of the city, which would be built in 2012. Roy Pegram, Cambridgeshire CC's cabinet member for growth, infrastructure and strategic planning, said that building Chesterton station was the priority.
"This will immediately help reduce congestion in the city as around 80% of people who use the central station currently travel across the city from the north," he said.
The second part of the bid for the remainder of a £500m package will include a trigger point for congestion charging. The earliest date for introducing congestion charging would be 2017, and only if the county's other TIF investment does not relieve roads. Such a charge would also have to gain the agreement of the public, businesses, partner authorities and government.
"We cannot simply sit on our hands, do nothing, and expect congestion to go away, but neither should we bring in a congestion charge without first revolutionising transport choice," said Pegram.
This article was originally published at Kable.
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@Paul4: cheaper public transport and the 'need' to drive
I would agree that I believe public transport should be cheaper. But to accept that, we need to accept that it must therefore have increased subsidy, which needs to be paid for out of some form of taxation. So we pay for it in the end.
You are right to say that it is a problem especially for those in rural areas. However, a well-planned road pricing scheme would take account of that. It should be much cheaper to drive on rural roads than it is in urban city centres. Firstly from the economic perspective of lower demand (and lower congestion, so it is actually a lower 'cost' to society), and secondly because rural areas are never going to have the same public transport facilities as urban areas.
We also should consider what constitues a 'need' to drive. Some solutions have been suggested already, e.g. online shopping, but when we consider that only 60 years ago hardly anyone had a private vehicle - it was a luxury, not a necessity - we need to stop a moment to ask why car ownership has become so essential suddenly.
Partly it's a vicious circle. For example, studies show that people will commute longer distances to work precisely because it has now become quicker to travel longer distances. (On average, people's job market range is approx up to one hour from their home). Now that they're prepared to work further afield, they're locked in to the transport system to get them that distance, which is often the car.
Also, relying on the fact that people can travel further, businesses and services tend to agglomerate (for example, rural post offices shut down, local shops disappear, even hospitals close in favour of centralised super-hospitals). The fact that most people can travel by car has led to a de-facto assumption that we will, and now must, travel by car. This then serves to social exclusion of those without a car. It wasn't planned that way, but it's a knock-on effect of the explosion in car ownership over the last 40 years.
"After the council received mixed responses from the public when congestion charging was initially mooted" - well not really _that_ mixed, over 90% of Cambridgeshire residents are opposed.
The County Council owns the roads that would be affected, and hence it must decide, however everyone who lives outside the City doesn't want congestion charges. The City Council wants it, but can't implement it because it doesn't own the roads.
No County councillors have a mandate for introducing this, indeed it's against the majority of their consituents wishes. So hopefully it'll die a death (again).
@less traffic lights?
I feel I should point out that Lincoln (capital L) is a city, not a town. Citizen Kaned obviously didn't drive there when it had two level crossings across the High Street, across one of which interminable strings of iron ore destined for either Scunthorpe or Northampton, (and from either Northampton or Scunthorpe) would clank across at a walking pace. Or during Bank holidays, when the city would be bisected by a long line of stationery holiday traffic.