Congestion charge extension to be scrapped

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The Independent Online

The western extension of the London congestion charge area is to be scrapped, London mayor Boris Johnson announced today.

The move follows a consultation process in which 67 per cent of those responding - and 86 per cent of businesses - said they wanted the extension to be removed.

Mr Johnson said he would take the necessary legal steps to scrap the extension, which includes areas such as Kensington and Chelsea, but the earliest it could be removed is spring 2010.

The congestion charge, originally covering just central London, was introduced in February 2003, with the western extension added in February 2007.

The charge for cars entering the zone was originally £5 but rose to £8 in July 2005.

Mr Johnson said today: "During the election I promised Londoners a genuine consultation on the future of the extension.

"Londoners have spoken loud and clear, and the majority of people have said that they would like the scheme scrapped. One thing everybody should be assured of is my determination to make it easier for Londoners to get around our great city."

Transport for London (TfL) said today it estimated traffic returning to the western extension would result in a small increase in emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, but that this increase would be unlikely to have any material effect on measured air quality within the western extension or on the boundary route because of the number of different factors that affect local air quality.

The ongoing investment in technology such as hybrid and hydrogen buses, encouraging the uptake of low-carbon vehicles and fuels and reducing power consumption on the Underground and London Overground railway were all helping to tackle transport-related emissions across the capital, TfL added.

The London Chamber of Commerce and Industry said: "We are delighted to see that common sense has prevailed. This is an important milestone for many of the capital's hard-pressed businesses and we urge the Mayor to launch a root-and-branch review of the original charging scheme in the central zone."