Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cut Congestion-Charge Hours and Cancel Any Extension, Says Our Poll

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Cut Congestion-Charge Hours and Cancel Any Extension, Says Our Poll

Article excerpt

Byline: CHARLES REISS;BEN LEAPMAN

THE THREAT from Ken Livingstone to spread the congestioncharge zone across a new swathe of London won a massive thumbsdown in a new poll today.

The Mayor also came under pressure to scrap the charge altogether for drivers entering the capital in the afternoon. The London-wide poll, exclusively for the Evening Standard, sparked immediate calls for Mr Livingstone to listen to the verdict and act.

London First, the business campaign that led the way in calling for the introduction of the charge, said an earlier cut-off time was "an option we will want to look at very closely" when the scheme comes up for review next year.

The London Chamber of Commerce said it was clear the charge was having a "serious impact" on shops and restaurants.

A spokesman said: "Both sectors believe that the problem would be alleviated if the charge ended earlier.

"If the price of sustaining the retail trade at a higher level is a little bit more traffic, that's probably a price worth paying."

The poll of more than 1,000 Londoners by YouGov shows support for congestion charging is strong, and rising.

A solid majority, 57 per cent, favours the scheme, up from 48 per cent a year ago. The number against has fallen three points since last year, to 36 per cent.

There is wide hostility, however, to plans to extend the area covered by the charge. Only one in four are in favour, with 64 per cent against.

The public doubts are shared by business. A spokesman for the Confederation of British Industry warned: "There should be no question of rushing into expanding the areas before it is quite clear what the effects have been in the existing area."

The John Lewis Partnership retail group announced last month that sales at its flagship Oxford Street store were down five per cent on a year ago, compared with a 2. …

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