Azara Blog: Cambridge "congestion" charge kicked into the long grass

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Date published: 2009/07/25

The Cambridge News says:

Cambridge should bid for hundreds of millions of pounds to transform the city's transport and should not rule out introducing a congestion charge after 2017, according to a key report.

The Cambridgeshire Transport Commission published its findings after gathering evidence from experts, councils, residents and businesses.

The commission warned that Cambridgeshire County Council faces a "stark, time-limited, choice" - make a bid to the Government's Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) with local public support while the one-off funding is still on the table, or confront the "certainty" of increased congestion with the existing budget.

The commission criticised the Government for saying that councils could only win TIF cash if they introduce "demand management" - congestion charging or charges for workplace parking.

It recommended that the county council should keep congestion charging as a "potential, longer-term option", only to be introduced after 2017 once TIF-funded transport improvements are in place.

The county council should explain its position to the public, winning support to "convince" the Government to remove congestion charging as a precondition of funding, the commission's report said.

This is kicking the so-called congestion charge (which is really an access charge) into the long grass. The Tories, who run the county council and who proposed this crazy scheme in the first place, now seem to be getting cold feet. Of course the anti-car county transport bureaucrats will not be pleased that the so-called congestion charge is not going ahead, nor will the usual anti-car academic middle class suspects (e.g. the Cambridge Cycling Campaign), who vociferously campaigned for the charge all along.

It's extremely unlikely the current (central) government will "remove congestion charging as a precondition of funding". On the other hand, the next (Tory) government will likely drop this link. But if and when they do, it's pretty obvious that Cambridgeshire will get a lot less money than the 500 million pounds that the county wants. So not only is that number ridiculously high given how small Cambridgeshire is (relative to the country as a whole), but it was that high in the first place only because it was being used as a bribe to try and force the citizens of Cambridge to accept this so-called congestion charge. Further, the county council never could explain exactly what it would do with, or why it needed, this 500 million pounds. The politicians and bureaucrats just saw money being waved in front of their faces, and reacted like Pavlov's dog.

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