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London Traffic Delays Cost $6.8 Billion a Year, Panel Says

  • Lawmakers propose shift to road-use pricing from flat fee
  • Current congestion charge ‘too blunt’ to tackle problem

Traffic delays cost London 5.5 billion pounds ($6.8 billion) a year, a panel of city legislators said, recommending sweeping changes to the capital’s congestion charging program.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan should replace the current flat fee drivers pay to enter the capital’s congestion charge zone with a road pricing program, the London Assembly Transport Committee said on Thursday in an e-mailed report. The new program should charge people more for using the most congested roads, at the times when traffic is greatest, they recommended.

“Road pricing would be a fairer approach, as road users would pay according to how much they contribute to congestion,” Committee Chairwoman Caroline Pidgeon said in the statement. “The current congestion charge is far too blunt an instrument and too narrow in scope.”

Under the current program, drivers pay 11.5 pounds per day for driving in the capital’s charging zone between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday to Friday. The report pointed to the need for "a larger and more sophisticated system" than the current one, which uses cameras at the boundary of the zone equipped with plate-number recognition technology.

As well as causing delays to commuters, London’s congestion has contributed to toxic levels of air pollution that have breached European Union rules every year since 2010. Khan has made improving air quality a priority of his tenure as mayor, introducing hydrogen-powered buses, encouraging cycling and proposing a new, so-called Ultra Low Emission Zone that will start in 2019.

As an interim measure before moving to road pricing, the panel recommended reforming the congestion charge to make drivers who remain in the charging zone the longest, and those who use it during peak hours, pay the most.

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