Congestion charging suffers setback in overwhelming referendum defeat

Click to follow
The Independent Online

The prospect of congestion charging spreading from London to other cities in the near future looked remote yesterday after the people of Edinburgh voted overwhelmingly against the introduction of road tolls.

The prospect of congestion charging spreading from London to other cities in the near future looked remote yesterday after the people of Edinburgh voted overwhelmingly against the introduction of road tolls.

Planners in York, Nottingham, Bristol and Cardiff considering similar schemes may have to think again, or take a similar line to the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and do it without a referendum.

The Government, in its transport White Paper last summer, pledged it would try to build a consensus for congestion charging throughout Britain.

Almost 180,000 of Edinburgh's 290,000 voters, a turnout of nearly 62 per cent, voted in Britain's first referendum on the subject, and more than 74 per cent rejected the idea. A council spokesman said: "The idea is now dead and buried."

Stephen Joseph, director of the environmental group Transport 2000, called the result a "victory for the pro-motoring lobby" but said the fight would continue elsewhere. "This is a setback for Edinburgh but does not mean the end of city-centre congestion charging as an idea," he said. "Councils elsewhere will have to work harder to explain benefits and allay fears."

The Edinburgh scheme would have levied a £2 charge on motorists entering the city, to be spent on enhancing public transport. Had it been successful, Edinburgh would have become the first city in Britain entirely cordoned for charging, because London's scheme is restricted to the city centre.

Supporters of the charge had hoped it would have generated £760m over 20 years, to be spent on world-class tram and train links. The "yes" lobby said an inner and outer cordon would have resulted in less traffic, which is expected to increase by 25 per cent in a decade, with cleaner air to prevent the deaths of up to 240 people a year.

But "no" campaigners - backed by local authorities in Fife, Midlothian and West Lothian - feared it would damage the economy and push traffic into residential areas.

Comments