Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

C-Charge 'Has Cost Oxford St Traders [Pounds Sterling]300m'; NEW RESEARCH CHALLENGES MAYOR'S CLAIMS OVER IMPACT OF DRIVING LEVY

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

C-Charge 'Has Cost Oxford St Traders [Pounds Sterling]300m'; NEW RESEARCH CHALLENGES MAYOR'S CLAIMS OVER IMPACT OF DRIVING LEVY

Article excerpt

Byline: ROSS LYDALL;FIONA WALSH

THE CONGESTION charge has caused a substantial fall in Oxford Street sales, a new report claims today.

In the most wide-ranging analysis to date, a report by independent researchers runs counter to claims by Transport for London that the [pounds sterling]5a-day scheme has had only a "comparatively small" effect on central London traders.

More than [pounds sterling]300million may have been lost by traders in the capital's premier shopping street - meaning the costs of the scheme outweigh its wider economic benefits, said by TfL to be [pounds sterling]278 million.

This will place further pressure on Mayor Ken Livingstone to abandon plans to double the size of the zone in 2006. Today's report has been produced by academics at Imperial College London - led by Professor Michael Bell - for the John Lewis Partnership, which is concerned at the effect of congestion charging on its flagship Oxford Street store.

Among the findings are that up to one in four John Lewis customers have changed their shopping habits as a result of the charge and the "vast majority" of those now shop less frequently at the store.

Sir Stuart Hampson, chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, said: "The question as to whether the charge has had an impact on retailers is now beyond dispute.

"We do not believe it is prudent to embark on extending the zone, or to introduce similarly blunt schemes to other cities in the face of today's evidence, without further study."

Professor Bell says it is impossible to calculate precise losses for Oxford Street as a whole. Other retailers will certainly have suffered but probably not as much as John Lewis.

"It has a large number of domestic customers while other retailers attract more tourists, who do not tend to use cars," he said.

There are about 300 retailers in Oxford Street, with a collective turnover of [pounds sterling]5billion. If they were to have suffered the same decline as John Lewis, overall losses would be [pounds sterling]250million-450 million a year.

John Lewis shoppers were found to have been deterred by the charge, by complexities in paying and concerns that they would forget to do so - thus incurring a [pounds sterling]80 fine. …

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