Big new charges for London drivers as Tube fails

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The Independent Online
TOLLS AND parking charges costing drivers pounds 7,000 a year in the next 10 years were proposed yesterday by an influential group of planners aiming to reduce car traffic in London.

And it is expected that the recommendations by the statutory London Planning Advisory Committee will be echoed in big cities throughout the country.

The 200-page report by the body, which covers all 33 London boroughs, emerges at a time when the public transport system, especially the Underground, faces mounting criticism. Massive delays and breakdowns have hit the system particularly hard in the past week or so.

On Tuesday the Circle and Metropolitan lines collapsed under the strain, forcing thousands of passengers on to the Jubilee Line, which duly closed three of its busiest stations, resulting in severe overcrowding on the carriages.

Rufus Barnes, the director of the London Regional Passengers' Committee, said any attempts to attract motorists from their vehicles should involve the creation of an "attractive" alternative. "It really isn't on to try and get people to transfer to a system that is creaking at the seams," he said.

Controversially, the planners' report argues that drastic fare cuts on public transport, more frequent services and new routes would persuade few motorists to use public transport.

The document predicts that traffic could be reduced by up to 40 per cent if local authorities took advantage of powers, which the Government is about to introduce, to impose tariffs on road use.

Tolls for entering the central area of Westminster and the City should initially be set at pounds 2.50 a day, increasing to pounds 7.50 by 2008, the study says. A new levy on workplace parking would be introduced at pounds 1,500, rising to pounds 5,000 in nine years.

It recommends that car-park fees should increase from a typical pounds 10 a day to pounds 12 or pounds 15, reaching pounds 30 by 2008.

By that date concentric cordons would cover the whole of greater London. Drivers moving into the area immediately surrounding the central hub - between the North Circular and the South Circular roads - would pay pounds 3.75 a day, and those going into the outer area to the M25 would have to pay pounds 2.

Toll fees and parking levies together would generate at least pounds 1bn a year, the researchers found.

Despite protests from the AA and the RAC, Nicky Gavron, Labour chairman of the committee, insisted that the recommendations were not "anti-car" because they would ease the way for motorists who had to use the roads.

A spokesman for the RAC said the proposals were all about pricing motorists out of their cars, not providing an alternative. There was "hardly a mention" of how the extra money generated could be used to improve public transport.