LONDON MAYOR Sadiq Khan on Wednesday(28) said that he would not accept the damaging government proposal to widen the congestion charge zone as would have a ‘devastating effect’ on London’s diverse communities who are already ‘disproportionately’ affected by the pandemic.
The government wants to extend a £15 charge to the North and South circular roads as one of a range of conditions in return for crucial Covid-19 funding for Transport for London(TfL).
The proposal wants the zone expanded to cover around four million more Londoners including the whole of Tower Hamlets and Haringey, most of Newham and Waltham Forest, and parts of Barnet, Brent, Ealing and Lambeth.
All these areas have a high proportion of black Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) residents.
Besides, the proposed charge would have a serious effect on BAME-owned small and medium-sized businesses, including in the retail and wholesale sectors. It will also split North London’s Jewish community in Hendon and Golders Green, a statement from the mayor’s office said.
“It is simply wrong to hit four million more people with additional costs at a time when many are struggling to make ends meet, and I have made clear to ministers that I will not agree to these draconian terms. TfL’s financial issues are solely as a result of the pandemic. The government must not punish Londoners for doing the right thing to tackle Covid-19, and should instead come back to the table with a revised plan which is right not only for our city but our country too,” said Sadiq Khan.
“Besides, extending the congestion charge zone, the government is proposing to increase fares in London by more than inflation and to introduce council tax increases in the capital to pay for public transport.
“In addition, they wish to maintain the requirement to remove free travel for under-18s and are now also proposing the removal of the 60+ photocard.”
TfL’s fare income was decimated as Londoners did not use public transport except for essential journeys. As a result, emergency funding is needed to keep the network operating.
The widening of the zone was on top of the conditions in the previous TfL funding deal in May. TfL was then required to bring forward proposals to widen the level and the scope of the charge in central London.
Temporary changes were made to the congestion charge in central London in June, which extended the operating hours to 7am to 10pm seven days a week, with an increase in the level of charge to £15.