Saturday, 26 January 2008

Congestion in Cambridge

If you travel around the conservative city of Cambridge in the morning, you ill experience congestion. In my experience, no greater than that of Manchester, Sheffield, Blackburn and Norwich. All cities that I have been to in the recent weeks and months.

The council say that that is a problem and that they want to do something about it. They want to increase bus usage, increase people riding on bicycles and getting people within the city to walk more. Admiral aims, I am sure that regular readers will agree.

However, one of the most controversial parts of the scheme is to introduce a congestion charge so that every car/vehicle/van that moves between the hours of 7.30 to 9.30 pays a charge of £3-£5 per day. This means that anyone in a moving car will pay around £600-£1000 per year just to travel. In addition to car tax. On top of fuel tax. It appears that there will be 37 fixed camera positions as well as mobile cameras out at this time. If you move a car ten yards, you will be liable. Approximately 90% plus of all journeys will be captured and charged. This would raise about £35 million pounds per annum it seems. He stressed that the congestion charge was the last action that would be last thing to happen.

The figures above come from a conversation that I had with one of the councils transport guru's that manned a stand in a local shopping center today. Incidentally, it appears that £10 million of the £35 million wold go on administration charges. Thats a whopping 28%! No plans had been made what to do with the £25million left over it seems.

I am wondering how many people will decide to look for work elsewhere because the council would now employ an effective tax simply to arrive for work?

The view of the guy that I spoke with was that there was a problem (no more so than most of the cities that I visit) and that it needed to be solved. One way (the only way?) would be to use a grant from Gordon Brown and his boys and girls. This would be used to increase bus usage through dedicated bus lanes, more cycle paths and to provide more park and ride locations.

I discussed at length the proposal and came to understand that in order to alleviate the 'problem' the labour government would give £500 million to solve the issue. One condition of this government grant was that the council then had to impose the congestion charge. There appears no other way to 'solve' the financial aspects and hence the congestion charge will become a reality.

Worryingly, the method of consultation seems to consist of selective questionnaires to chosen groups of Cambridge people and these roadshows. The council also refuses to hold a referendum on the matter believing that their will be a 60% anti congestion vote.

More worryingly and when asked the question, "Can you assure me that none of the council will benefit directly or indirectly on a personal level?" the answer was that no assurance could be given.

Conclusions
1. The Cambridge congestion charge will become a reality. Once here, what odds will I get that it wont also happen in Manchester, Sheffield, Blackburn, Norwich and other cities? Cambridge will be setting a model for other cities to follow and that will mean more additional taxation for the already hard up ad much put upon motorist.
2. Applying 28% to £500 million equals £140 million. Will that be the administration charges? Thats an awful lot of jobs within the council!
3. Up to £1000 pounds per year is a lot of additional money to find just to work in the city. Will that lead to businesses not being able to function? Will smaller businesses be able to meet the additional rise in pay demands? Will teachers, teaching assistants and nurses be able to afford this additional tax?
4. Once we are all riding on buses and have congestion charge, we now have the council able to increase these charges at will. As the guy at the shopping centre stated, there needs to be a change in the way people act and the council had a duty to impose this changes for the greater good.
5. We do not want the congestion charge and yet we are going to have it. Period. We are going to have to get used to it. There is NO alternative to it from the councils point of view.
6. The council is being very dictatorial in this process and claiming that proper consultation is taking place. Roadshows are NOT proper consultations and the refusal to have a referendum within the city is NOT right. Come on, lets have a council that has some balls (apologies to any female members of the council but you know what I mean here)

I call on Cambridge City council to listen to the residents, to forget any congestion charge and to make it clear that if the roads of the city do become congested then we will make our own choices on our travel options.

If there are factual errors in the above or any named member of the council wishes to comment on any of the above, I shall be happy to add their comments.

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