Azara Blog: Cambridge congestion charge

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Date published: 2005/02/17

The Cambridge Evening News says:

Introducing a congestion charge in Cambridge could be the answer to making the city's buses run on time.

Two years after the congestion fee was introduced in London, Cambridgeshire County Council still insists there are no plans to introduce charges in Cambridge. But Andy Campbell, the managing director of Stagecoach in Cambridge, says he would welcome anything to ease traffic congestion.

"Anything that reduces traffic congestion will make operating buses a lot easier and will enable us to get the reliability right," he said.

Another example of a special interest pressure group pleading for subsidies to support their own special interest. Stagecoach has a large commercial interest at stake so their self-serving pleading is even worse than usual. In Cambridge much of the problem with buses is that they are inappropriate vehicles for the city's narrow streets, and the real crush happens at the Drummer Street bus station, and the congestion there is almost all due to buses themselves. (The construction of the so-called Grand Arcade has made things particularly bad right now.)

The so-called London congestion charge is not a congestion charge but an access charge, so once you pay your fee you can cause as much congestion as you want. Further, buses themselves are the cause of much of the congestion, but they do not pay at all. In Cambridge buses have already received huge subsidies the last few years such as bus lanes and the Park and Ride schemes. The London charge is mostly lost in the cost of implementing the scheme (so the net "benefit" to the UK economy is probably negative) and Cambridge is so much smaller the relative size of the associated costs will be even worse.

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