Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140 - 159)



  140. But will that charge cover all of the costs of what you are outlining? There are going to be improvements within bus services and the London Underground. Is the congestion charge revenue going to be able to fund what you are saying in terms of what you would expect to have as improvements in both the bus services and Underground? That congestion charge of £5 is going to cover that?
  (Mr Kiley) The estimate of upwards of £130 million per annum for four years of congestion charging are net numbers so that that number will be net of the cost which pays out over five years of putting the zone in in the first place. That means that latter years you have the ability to realise a greater gain as you pay off debt, and so on, for having put the zone in in the first place. I am the subject of what happens to that resource. We intend to be absolutely completely transparent on what the priorities will be and that will begin with the business plan that we are in the final stages of preparing right now. We will be indicating from the outset where, whatever the revenues turn out to be, will be invested.

  141. As an additional investment?
  (Mr Kiley) Well, yes, in terms of what we are doing now, it would be—We are kept to a very parsimonious line because we are pleaders and beggars as everyone in the country is when it comes to getting the government to give us a little extra consideration. One of our fears is that we could end up being penalised for the revenue flows from congestion charging and what we get with one hand will be taken away.

  142. Is there any protection against that happening?
  (Mr Kiley) Yes. There is an interesting word that is used for doing that; abstraction of revenues. That is a word I was unfamiliar with and admittedly was second grade in my former country in English language. But abstraction is a dreadful word if it means that you are penalised for being creative and innovative in trying to deal with London's problems.
  (Mr Turner) The additionality, which is what you are asking about, we have sought cast iron assurances from the government about additionality of the £130 million.


  143. And you have that in writing from the Treasury, Mr Turner?
  (Mr Turner) We did not get it in writing from the Treasury.

  144. How surprising.
  (Mr Turner) A comment was made on the floor of the House to the fact that we would not be penalised but obviously the transparency of this, as the Commissioner has indicated, is an issue.
  (Mr Kiley) As the Chairman I believe knows, we have yet to learn what the results are of the spending review for London. We were promised—just as were promised something about congestion charging earlier—that we would know these numbers by late June and here we are entering November and we still do not know what we are faced with.

Mrs Ellman

  145. Mr Kiley, are there any plans being prepared at the moment for workplace charging as well as congestion charging?
  (Mr Kiley) No, there are not.

  146. Are you sure of that?
  (Mr Kiley) I am positive. Well, no plans in our organisation at least.

  147. The Mayor said that congestion charges were a pricing mechanism to influence choice and not a tax. Is that a very meaningful statement given that revenues from congestion charging are required to invest in public transport?
  (Mr Kiley) I would say it is a meaningful statement in this sense—and we could argue about this forever I guess—one person's tax is another person's price. The purpose of the charge really is not to collect money; it is to reduce congestion and traffic. If we were at a break-even point I would say this would be very much a worthwhile project. The idea here is not to raise a lot of money. Clearly there is a correlation between the net revenue that we believe we will collect and the investments we make with it. They should really be a corollary of the effort to reduce traffic and congestion so I think you will see, certainly in the early years, the investment of these funds will be in measures to help tamp down congestion and traffic in London. In other words, to give people more options than the automobile, wherever they are in London.

  148. Do you not feel that the pressures will be for that price to go upwards?
  (Mr Kiley) Yes, I do.

  149. What about enforcement? The Mayor—I do not know whether it was a throw away comment or not—spoke about plans to crush offending vehicles, presumably without their occupants. Can you tell us any more about that.
  (Mr Kiley) The enforcement mechanism is different from de-criminalised parking in a number of instances. The secondary legislation has given us powers to pursue miscredence beyond what is normally the case. What we would be able to do with repeat offenders—by that we are talking about people who have not paid their charge and have not responded to the penalty charge on three occasions—is that their vehicle can be located and clamped and removed and ultimately—if the fines are not paid—we crush to recover the cost.


  150. Mr Turner, you must be well aware that in those areas, for example, these powers are very often used by, say, the DVLA in order to encourage people to pay their road tax.
  (Mr Turner) Yes.

  151. You must know that there is not only a very considerable cost to removing vehicles and crushing them, but quite often if someone has a very old car it is cheaper to leave it where it is and get you to remove it. I assume you have done some estimates of that.
  (Mr Turner) Yes. Our estimate of the £130 million includes a view that we would raise about £30 million in terms of net additional sums as a result of the total collection of the enforcement activity in the collection of the fines, the crushing of the vehicles and the storing of the vehicles.

Mrs Ellman

  152. Is your definition of congestion the same as that in the 10 Year Plan?
  (Mr Turner) The answer to that is, which 10 Year Plan, I suppose.

  153. The latest one.
  (Mr Turner) I would have to check back but I am sure that we can reconcile the view. Our view in terms of congestion is very much the variability in terms of journey time and that is the standard that is used generally. I would have to check back on the latest technical detail. I am happy to do so and provide you with the details.

  Chairman: Write it in a note.

Mrs Ellman

  154. What period of time would be reasonable before the scheme could be assessed? It is suggested that the two months is not right, but what would be right?
  (Mr Turner) My monitoring exercise that we have set in place will enable us to start providing reliable information after six months. Some of the information will take a number of years to come through in terms of the economic trends and changes in environmental trends. Indeed, you will be familiar with the accident statistics; to actually quote accident statistics after six months operation would be highly dangerous and certainly unconventional. At six months we would start being happy to release information on a reliable basis and continue to do that. As the Mayor has said, we have a very large range of monitoring surveys because we are aware that we are—without being sort of conceited about it—at the lead in terms of the profession of a scheme of this size. We know that colleagues in this country and elsewhere are watching this and want to know the cause and effect and not speculate about the elasticities and the like. So the work is in place.


  155. Do not tell us, Mr Turner, that your knighthood is hanging on this.
  (Mr Turner) I do not think so.

  156. The benefits of congestion charging that were announced were calculated on the basis of fewer or lower levels of exclusion. Have you done the new set of calculations?
  (Mr Turner) Yes. Some of the work is still to be run through the models, but the information that we have provided as a supplementary note to you are the broad changes that we would still expect. That information is still broadly consistent with what would happen if we ran the models with the reduced traffic entering into central London.

Mr Syms

  157. Can I ask about an emergency situation. In central London it is not unusual to have a bomb warning or a road closed or some sort of matter of concern where the police suddenly take you when you think you are going in one direction and send you in another direction. In the event of hundreds of cars being put through the congestion charging area who have no choice simply because the police have tried to manage the situation, do you forgive them or do you just take a profit?
  (Mr Turner) The system is able to recognise that. We have the type of camera detection which detects the context in which the event is occurring. And also, of course, obviously we have very close liaison with the Metropolitan Police so we would be able to write-off any offences. Indeed, the Mayor has power within the way the Traffic Order has been constructed to suspend the scheme should he decide that it is desirable to do so.


  158. You are quite confident that your technology will show up the number plates?
  (Mr Turner) Absolutely. I think the Committee saw a recent demonstration of a first generation system that is already in place and is operating in terms of bus lane enforcement cameras.

Clive Efford

  159. As you know, south-east London does not have direct access to the Underground. About a quarter of London is not served by the Underground and is often forgotten about, especially by the Evening Standard.
  (Mr Turner) Not by me.

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