Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mayor's Biggest Test

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

The Mayor's Biggest Test

Article excerpt

Normal service The British disease WE REVEAL TODAY confidential proposals drawn up by Mayor Livingstone's transport planners designed to reduce the influx of cars into central London in advance of the introduction of congestion charges. It is a safe prediction that the scheme will cause howls of outrage among motorists - especially the measures that will ban private cars from using one eastbound lane of the busiest arterial roads into the capital, such as the A4 and the A40. The Mayor and Transport for London are clearly aware of the plans' sensitivity - which is why they wrongheadedly tried to prevent this newspaper from obtaining the details. The Mayor will have difficulty enough selling his radical ideas about transport without raising suspicions that he is being less than open and frank. That objection aside, the Mayor deserves some credit - at least for clarity of thought.

While everybody has talked for years about reducing traffic chaos in London, he is making a real attempt to do something about it. He knows that when congestion charges come into force, they will obviously have a major impact on roads outside the central charging area. One measure of the effectiveness of the congestion charge will be how many motorists do not pay it because they are dissuaded from driving into London. Serious arguments will undoubtedly ensue about the nitty gritty of where, precisely, bus lanes should be introduced and which roads ought to have designated car-free lanes.

It is hard, however, to fault the logic that traffic restrictions on arterial roads should accompany congestion charges.

We have always supported both in principle, as long as public transport is seen, at the same time, to be getting substantially better. The Mayor's dilemma is that the public have to be persuaded that it is a price worth paying. It will require a huge shift in the public's thinking and Mr Livingstone will have to hold his nerve. He must make hard choices and be prepared to face unpopularity. He has made a sensible start; but the ultimate test, which will make or break his mayoralty, is yet to come. …

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