Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witness (Questions 80 - 99)



  80. I am pushing this; I know Mrs Dunwoody will stop me, but I am still a bit confused. I have no doubt at all that the monitoring will take place. I have no doubt that it is in place. But when you have that monitoring over the first few months against what criteria are you going to judge that monitoring, the results of that monitoring if you have not got the criteria laid down.
  (Mr Livingstone) If I find by the end of that two months that nothing has gone catastrophically wrong, congestion is down inside the zone, traffic flows into the zone are down (by the sort of figures I have just talked about) I would consider this a success. I would then sit down and start talking to Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster who have argued for a westward extension if the scheme works.

  81. So those would be your criteria.
  (Mr Livingstone) Yes.

  82. On that last question, are you considering or have you established any independent auditing of this scheme other than your own department?
  (Mr Livingstone) Everything that is produced will be publicly available and I am just about to seal a deal I hope with the Assembly who have appointed their own traffic expert to advise them about the scheme. The offer I have made to them is that that person could be the independent assessor of the scheme; someone appointed by the Assembly, not me. I am prepared to accept their nominee, effectively, to be the independent monitor of this scheme.


  83. Who would pay this independent person?
  (Mr Livingstone) The Assembly. Generously I imagine, as everything seems to be in this field.

Mr Syms

  84. Quite clearly where the boundaries of the scheme are there could well be turbulence and concern amount businesses and schools. What representations have you had from people on the cliff edges of this particular scheme? What impact do you think it is going to have?
  (Mr Livingstone) Literally there have been thousands of representations. The one area which you heard about earlier from Kate Hoey where we would rather this was not the boundary is Kennington Lane. I was born and brought up in Lambeth; I know it. This is a boundary we would rather not have. But the only alternative is actually worse. That is the area will focus on most. As you go along the Euston Road, this is not a community with people popping across the Euston Road.


  85. Before you wander away from that, Mr Mayor, in what sense? Because after all the Kennington area is not an affluent area, as you know. What alternative would be worse?
  (Mr Livingstone) We could make a slight diversion slightly enlarging the zone.

  86. Why did you decide on the Inner Ring Road?
  (Mr Livingstone) Because it is the best available road as a boundary. The London First Scheme looked at the Inner Ring Road down to the river. ROCOL then looked at the Inner Ring Road. Of the two, I found at public meetings I did in the north Southwark and north Lambeth area people arguing and that if there was going to be a zone they wanted to be inside it rather than outside it. So my first decision was not to go for the river as a boundary but the Inner Ring Road. But also that was the professional advice that this was the best route to go. We could make a slight diversion but there is not a better route other than Kennington Lane. But it is a route we would prefer not to have to take. It is the one area where there is a genuine community and there will be pain.

Mr Syms

  87. Can I ask about the funds collected, the hypothecated funds. In the short term of course the best prospect for improving public transport is buses. Inevitably if London's public transport is to be improved the tube needs to have substantial investment. What will be the funding relationship for London Underground from hypothecated funds and how long do you think, if these funds are flying in that direction, there will be substantial improvement for tube passengers?
  (Mr Livingstone) As I said, the increase in cost of the bus contracts will absorb all of this. There is one area I am looking at as a call on the congestion charge revenue which is the anomaly that child fares on public transport—half fares—end at 16. And yet now the bulk of our children stay at school until 17. This is a discouragement. I know that the government would prefer to make it easer for young people to stay, so we are looking at increasing the half fare cut off point to 18. This would most probably take £40 million to £50 million out of that; it is not cheap. But it also has the benefit of encouraging our young people to stay in education.

Mr Donohoe

  88. Why are you not introducing this scheme before the improvements to the public services, like the underground?
  (Mr Livingstone) The change in the nature of the PPP contract during the last two years has been to push the improvements to the scheme beyond the first seven and a half year tranche. There will be some real service improvements visible on the Jubilee Line with an extra carriage coming on each of the trains, and the opening of the Mothballed exit at Canary Wharf Station. Beyond that we do not see any real improvements until about 2009. Whether there will be improvements on the train operating company services I doubt. Therefore we are focussing all the improvements on the buses. All the extra capacity we are providing in buses. We anticipate a small shift of people onto the tubes and trains, but the service is so poor. The increase in bus ridership is beginning to pick up, people are switching from car to bus where the service has improved. Small, but very welcome after years of reverse.

  89. What protection are you making within the system to make sure that the hypothecated funds that you raise will be separate and additional to what you have already as funds within your budget?
  (Mr Livingstone) By law it all has to be spent on the transport budget. But then our plans for expanding the bus service, building cross-rail—we have a shopping list about £25 billion long. There is no problem making sure we spend the money on transport schemes. The order in which those schemes go ahead requires the approval of central government in everything except the buses.

  90. What will be the relationship in funding terms between the London Underground and the hypothecated funds themselves?
  (Mr Livingstone) This scheme will be in place before the Underground comes under my control. Therefore I am not setting a budget for the Underground for next year. We might get it about the beginning of the financial year and I will inherit whatever budget the government has left me for it. Therefore all the income we are predicting for the first year congestion charge will go in perhaps extra expenditure on half-fares for 16 to 18 year olds and the rest will go into expanding the bus service in—broadly—south and south-east London.

  91. What about using hypothecated funding for, say, additional traffic police?
  (Mr Livingstone) I am hoping that the increase in traffic police will be born by the council tax this year. All my increases in policing have been born by the council tax. It is about the one thing that people do not mind paying for.

  92. Well, it depends where. Are you getting a guarantee that none of the hypothecated funds will be used for paying consultants and paying for advice that you require for the congestion charging itself, that this will very specifically be used for the increased level of spending within the transport in London?
  (Mr Livingstone) I absolutely guarantee that. The obvious advantage for me is that anyone promising to scrap it would have to start talking about how they are going to pay for the service improvements that this has delivered with the loss of income from the revenue.

  93. Do you honestly believe that you will survive this?
  (Mr Livingstone) I think I will. This has been an intense debate for three years in London politics. The scheme was first thought up in 1964. I am sure you have seen the government White Paper. Londoners are not fools; they know something has to be done. For all the furor in the press, the opinion polls have stayed relatively evenly balanced. But significantly when you examine the views of people in and immediately adjacent to the zone, there is a comfortable majority in favour. When you look at people in the outer boroughs, there is a comfortable majority against. I think a lot of people are assuming the zone is much bigger than it is and will displace a lot of traffic into Bromley and into Barnet which, of course, in those two areas, you are unlikely to see any impact of this at all.


  94. That does not quite fit with the evidence we have taken from Kennington.
  (Mr Livingstone) There will be a difference in Kennington. If you actually take the whole of inner London, there is a comfortable majority in favour of the congestion charge. If you take London as a whole it is much more evenly balanced. In parts of outer London they are two to one against it. I think that is a genuine fear that it is a very much bigger zone. And in outer London public transport is so much poorer. They do not have the same level of services.

  95. You are not saying they do not trust what you are telling them, are you, Mr Mayor?
  (Mr Livingstone) I do not think they trust any of us.

  Chairman: I am sure you are speaking for yourself.

Mrs Ellman

  96. Do you agree with the Freight Transport Association who say that the charges will not have any impact on the timing of deliveries?
  (Mr Livingstone) This is to reduce congestion and therefore I would have been quite happy to exempt commercial vehicles completely. That is why I reduced the notional charge from £15 a day to £5. If you were to abolish it completely then a lot of wily Londoners would just buy vans instead of cars. No business is driving round central London for the fun of it. They are there deliberately doing deliveries and getting in and out as rapidly as possible. There is no point in actually putting a burden on them.

  97. Does that mean you are accepting that congestion from that source will not be reduced?
  (Mr Livingstone) No, I would be very surprised, given the cost of operating in London, whether any of the major businesses that are doing deliveries have got wasted capacity.

  98. Are you concerned you might affect small businesses?
  (Mr Livingstone) Undoubtedly there will be losers in this scheme. If you are dealing with one white van man who is going to one point inside the zone, working there all day and coming out, that charge is going to be a charge they are going to have to pass on or be absorbed. If you are dealing with somebody who is making a lot of deliveries—a locksmith or a window cleaner—if the congestion is really reduced and they can do another job in each day, they will be in. So there will be winners and losers. I have never gone out and said to Londoners: "You are going to enjoy this". It is going to be very painful for many people, but people recognise that you just cannot go on with this current situation.

  99. What are the implications for taxis?
  (Mr Livingstone) I suspect taxis will not have any great problem. They are exempt from the charge. If anything, they might get more usage. There will be some people who leave their car at home instead of driving into work, will come in by public transport, but getting around London during the day, because they do not have their own car, will have to use a taxi. But there are not that many people, I think, driving in then driving around all day in central London.

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 19 November 2002