London

'Fewer cars' as London congestion charge zone cut back

Fewer vehicles than expected used the former western congestion charge zone in the weeks after it was scrapped, Transport for London (TfL) has said.

TfL said in the first three months of the year there was also a negligible impact on air quality and minimal change in traffic speeds in the area.

The Green Party's Darren Johnson said an 8% rise in traffic and slower travel times was "nothing to celebrate".

London mayor Boris Johnson scrapped the zone following a public consultation.

'Purely political'

The Western Extension Zone (WEZ) was introduced in 2007 by the former Labour mayor Ken Livingstone, despite people living in the zone voting against the proposal.

Drivers were charged £8-a-day but the fee was scrapped on Christmas Day 2010.

Campaigners who called for an end to the charge claimed it was never justified and was for "purely political reasons".

Observations in the first 12 weeks of 2011 showed traffic entering the former zone during charging hours increased by 8% compared with the same period in 2010, TfL said.

TfL had forecast an increase of between 8-15%.

'Impact of roadworks'

Traffic driving within the former zone increased by an estimated 6%, which was at the lower end of the forecast of 6-12%.

At 3% slower, the change in average traffic speeds were "significantly" lower than the predicted reduction of 6-12%, the figures showed.

The TfL study showed there was not a been a "discernable impact" on air quality by removing the WEZ and concentrations of nitrogen dioxide had fallen, both inside and outside the area.

Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: "I've always believed that West Londoners never wanted the extension of the congestion charge and had it foisted upon them.

"I am glad I gave the people a say and thrilled that the initial results suggest there has been no significant downside in removing the WEZ."

But Green Party London Assembly member Darren Johnson said particulate pollution has been bad across the whole of central London this year and the area covered by the western extension zone was "no exception".

He said: "It is too early to say what the long term impact will be as the major roadworks and lane restrictions on Cromwell Road have reduced local traffic since last October."

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