OPINION: Lack of Market Research Gives Congestion Charge No Chance

Article excerpt

For most readers, February 17 will be just another wonderful day in the world of marketing. But for those who live in London, this date has a tremendous significance.

Every weekday morning approximately 250,000 vehicles enter central London.

As this number increases, the congestion worsens. Average traffic speeds in the capital have now reached an all-time low of less than 10mph. Gridlock, as any Londoner will tell you, is now a daily reality.

Something had to be done and a year ago the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and Transport for London announced that February 17 2003 would mark the first day of a new Congestion Charge. In order to reduce traffic by 10 to 15%, drivers will be forced to pay pounds 5 a day to enter central London.

Cameras have been erected all around London and any car that is caught entering the Congestion Charge area must pay the charge by 10pm or face a fine of up to pounds 120. The pounds 130m raised each year will then be invested in public transport.

Nobody is quite sure if the Congestion Charge is actually going to work.

The key question is whether pounds 5 is really enough to dissuade 20,000 commuters a day to leave their cars at home and take the bus. Ken obviously has no idea. When Jeremy Clarkson recently questioned whether the pounds 5 charge would be sufficient on BBC's Question Time, Ken's only retort was to say that he would consider increasing the charge to pounds 6 if it wasn't.

So where does the pounds 5 figure come from? Obviously not from research. …