Examination of Witnesses (Questions 300
WEDNESDAY 28 JANUARY 2009
Q300 Ms Smith: And outer London might
have challenges which are more similar to other places outside
Ms Dix: Yes, absolutely.
Q301 Ms Smith: I think you have made
the points I would have made. You also said, Mr Ranger, the ultimate
question may be, as you go through your work, where does congestion
sit. That was what you said. Does this mean in fact that there
may come a point where you would actually want to review the operation
of the Congestion Charge in Central London? Is this the long-term
aim of the current review of the Congestion Charge?
Mr Ranger: No, we are not looking
to review the Charge itself in terms of whether it should be there.
I think we are looking to see how other policies sit around it
so that they are not competing with it and they are not eroding
the benefits you are getting for paying your £8 to travel
in the Congestion Charge area. I think the man in the street or
the person in his car would start to feel it inappropriate if
they are having to pay for something which does not provide the
benefit that they thought they would get.
Q302 Ms Smith: What kinds of benefits
do you think you may be able to provide to the Congestion Charge
Mr Ranger: I think that is where
if the number of vehicles actually coming into Central London
is lower or decreasing then obviously the element of flow in traffic
should be either decreasing or stay the same, not increasing,
and that is what we would be looking at as a measure. On top of
that, we do bear in mind that there is going to be an immense
level of activity in terms of construction regardless of what
happens around roadworks that will happen in terms of Crossrail
and the line upgrade for Thameslink and Olympic deliverables as
well, so we will have to bear those in mind when we look at what
happens with traffic flow.
Q303 Graham Stringer: Have there
been any areas, which I would expect to be just immediately outside
the Congestion Charge Zone, which have suffered increased pollution
or increased congestion?
Ms Dix: It was a big concern before
the scheme went in. People thought all that would happen would
be that traffic would divert outside the Congestion Charge Zone
into the areas immediately around it. None of the monitoring has
picked that up. Quite a lot of the diversion of trips actually
took place with people moving from car to public transport, to
cycling or walking, and if there was any diversion of traffic
which was otherwise going through the middle of the Zone some
of that was actually captured on the Inner Ring Road, whereby
we did adjust the signals around the Inner Ring Road so that it
could take more traffic around because less traffic was crossing
to go in. So we were able to do that without actually affecting
congestion on the Inner Ring Road, in fact that got better, and
some of the longer distance traffic we could not spot. It might
have gone to the M25 or somewhere, but you could not actually
pick it up on the monitoring. So the answer to your question is,
Q304 Graham Stringer: Just to go
back to the original point, is it six years this February this
Ms Dix: Yes.
Q305 Graham Stringer: So in round
terms we have taken £1.5 billion out of people's pockets
over that period for a scheme whose objective was to reduce congestion
and congestion is the same. Does that mean that the project has
been a failure in its own terms?
Ms Dix: I would say for three
of those years congestion was reduced. It was only in the latter
part of 2006 that we saw this more marked erosion of congestion.
I would also say that since a large part of that was attributable
to these utility works, which would have happened anyway because
everybody wants the gas mains and the water mains fixed, then
what one would need to compare is what life would look like with
the congestion charging scheme versus life without the congestion
Q306 Graham Stringer: Which you can
never do, can you?
Ms Dix: Yes. The difficulty is
the person in the street is not going to make that comparison.
We have done that comparison theoretically. If you took away the
congestion charging scheme, congestion would be far worse than
it is observed today, so I say there have been benefits for the
Central London congestion scheme. There have been benefits in
terms of reduced CO2, there have been benefits in terms
of reduced air quality emissions, and those were all positive
up until about 2006. So if you looked at it over the six years,
yes, there has been a net improvement. It is just that we have
started to see an erosion if you simply compare life now with
life as it was, but if you compare life now with what life could
be like now without the scheme there is still a benefit.
Mr Ranger: I agree that we do
have to live in the real world, though, and we see a world, as
Michele says, where roadworks do happen. We have to take into
account construction and I find it quite difficult to understand
that previously competitive policies were not taking into account
the effect they would have on traffic and the benefits of the
Congestion Charge. So in terms of our administration, we are very
focused on looking at policies, looking to be balanced and working
with each other complementary to the benefits of the Congestion
Charge, hence the emphasis on smoothing traffic flow and everything
we can do around that.
Q307 Chairman: Have you had any instructions
from the new Mayor to change the way policies are put forward,
such as having more coordination on roadworks? Have you been given
any different instructions?
Mr Ranger: Yes, the instructions
are very clear. We will provide copies of this document for all
Members of the Committee, but the Mayor has been very clear. He
is a road user himself, he uses his bicycle everywhere he goes,
so he, much like every Londoner, feels the experience of roadworks,
of traffic light re-phasing or better implementation of street
technology, the erosion of road space, and so he wants to see
coordinated policies on these areas which are considerate to the
impact on each other and the overall flow of traffic.
Q308 Chairman: How much of the money
which is raised from the Penalty Charge Notices goes back to improving
the conditions, improving delivery facilities and improving kerbside
Mr Ranger: I could not give you
the exact figures but I am sure we can provide those for you.
Q309 Chairman: Is there a policy
to do it?
Mr Ranger: There is a policy to
look at the reinvestment of the Penalty Charge because, as I think
Michele mentioned, there is a statutory obligation that that money
goes back into providing transport benefits.
Q310 Chairman: But not specifically
in that area?
Mr Ranger: On the road surface,
Q311 Chairman: Yes, money from the
Penalty Charge Notices. Is there a policy to put revenue from
that into conditions which would alleviate the problem of people
being able to park?
Ms Dix: Absolutely, in the sense
that all the policies on which the money is spent from congestion
charging, for which there are net revenues, go on improving transport
in London. Other PCNs that we issue for offences outside the Congestion
Charge do not generate net revenues, they cover the cost of the
enforcement. In Congestion Charging, revenues include PCNs and
revenues, which come from the Charge, are all put into this pot
called "Net Revenues" and that has to be spent on a
series of measures which were listed as part of the original Congestion
Charging Order. Some of that is on improvements to roads, some
is on improvements to bridges, some of that has been spent on
improvements to developing freight strategies to help businesses.
Q312 Chairman: So it is a general
Ms Dix: It is a general pot, but
we have to list each year where that money has been spent. As
Kulveer said, 82% of it or so tends to go on bus improvements.
Q313 Mr Martlew: Mr Ranger, you worry
me somewhat, your enthusiasm! I am aware of the issue about the
re-phasing of the traffic lights. That was to give pedestrians
more time. I just get the impression that the motor car is going
to be given more precedence under the new administration than
the pedestrian. I suppose it could be argued that the pedestrianisation
of Trafalgar Square held up the traffic, but it is a massive improvement
for London and I understand that the plans for Parliament Square
have been abandoned. Have we got a new situation where the motor
car is being given precedence again over the people who walk and
live in Londonapart from cyclists, of course?
Mr Ranger: I would like to put
your mind and the minds of the rest of the Committee at ease.
We are not pro the motor car. There is no sort of policy here
that says we want people to drive more. There is a policy which
says we do not want London to come to a grinding halt. We want
to be as efficient as possible with the road space that we have
because it is not just cars that use it, there are buses, cyclists
and everybody else who uses that environment and really we want
to at least mitigate the impact of a lot of things that are happening
over the next four, five, 10 years which will impact on our ability
to get people to move through our city. I am quite concerned about
the level of diversions and the level of construction and the
impact on all the work that is happening on the Underground, the
construction of Crossrail, the construction of Thameslink and
the construction for the Olympics. It is an unprecedented time
in terms of the level of works which are happening in our city
and I and the Mayor are quite keen that we make sure that London
continues to move and be able to move through that period of time.
The way to do that will be to look at what we can do to mitigate
how road space is being used and we see that we need to improve
the flow. So if that means that people can move a bit quicker
Q314 Mr Martlew: Across the crossings?
Mr Ranger: No, in fact the re-phasing
of traffic lights is without any impact to pedestrians. That is
the key there. We are not looking to have a significant impact
on pedestrian crossing time. In fact, we are also lobbying and
have had discussions with the Secretary of State for Transport
and DfT on bringing in countdown signalling, which provides more
certainty in terms ofI do not know if the Committee has
heard of thiswhere you see a number as it goes down in
terms of how much time you have. It is currently considered to
be a blackout period which provides uncertainty, "Should
I cross or should I not cross?" But the countdown system
has been used in a number of cities, including San Francisco and
across California. It is successful and actually can improve safety
by 25% where it has been implemented. So there are schemes such
as that which we are looking at, as well as turning left on red
lights. We need to look at providing policy solutions which can
provide space on our road network, but then we look to use that
space as mitigation for diversions, for moving people onto bicycles,
for improving the urban environment. That is where schemes such
as Shared Space, maybe not Parliament Square, but definitely Exhibition
RoadI do not know if the Committee is aware of that particular
scheme, where you would look to have more people sharing the actual
road surface, pedestrians, cyclists, buses and car users. Those
are the kinds of ambitions we have. That scheme and Shared Space
itself can also provide lower travelling speeds in 25 miles an
hour zones. So there are many things coming through. As I say,
the key to all of these ambitions and these policies is to ensure
that they are complementary and not competing with each other
in eroding the benefits they may provide.
Q315 Ms Smith: I just want to explore
some of the reasons why the Congestion Charge has not worked perhaps
as effectively in the last two years. The only thing I can think
of is that perhaps there are more vehicles on the road than has
been the case before. What is the reason if that is not the case?
Ms Dix: The primary reason is
because the capacity of the road network has reduced. The number
of vehicles on the road now is no different from the number of
vehicles on the road two years ago. So traffic levels, the number
of vehicles on the road, are still lower than they were before
congestion charging. They are lower by 20%. So the Congestion
Charge has stopped 20% of traffic coming into the zone.
Q316 Ms Smith: That has remained
Ms Dix: That has remained constant.
If we had not changed the road network on which those vehicles
runnot necessarily us changing it, but if things had not
been done to the road network to reduce the amount of road space
which is available for those vehicles, we would still see the
congestion benefits. So if the capacity or the road space that
is available was unchanged, we would still see a 30% reduction
in congestion. But what has happened is that every time someone
goes along and digs up a road and provides a sort of blockage
and perhaps takes one lane out, that reduces the amount of road
space available. So the cars that are there, even though there
are fewer of them, go slower. Every time someone builds a building
and takes the pavement and a bit of road space away, again that
takes some of the capacity out. So a lot of that has been going
on, particularly in the last two years, but on top of that, as
Kulveer says, policies have been introduced whereby we have perhaps
taken some road space away without really realising the full impact
of it on the network because it has been done in this piecemeal
fashion and it is the additive effect of lots of that. So what
we are saying is that traffic levels are still low, but the amount
of road space available for them to use in Central London has
shrunk, probably by about 10%, and that is why congestion has
Q317 Ms Smith: You have used that
phrase "taking road space away". Who has taken it away?
It seems to me you are hinting that there is a number of authorities
Ms Dix: There is a number of people
Q318 Ms Smith: Is it the boroughs
that are responsible in some cases because of planning decisions,
is it Transport for London where it has put bus lanes in? Can
you perhaps just list the three main examples which add up to
Ms Dix: The utility companies
for one, so Thames Water and the gas companies who have to do
essential works because they are renewing the mains. They are
not doing it for fun, they are having to dig up the roads, but
in digging up the roads they take road space away and even though
it is not for ever (i.e. they fill them back up again) the effect
of that is on the network.
Q319 Chairman: I think it might be
helpful if you could send us a note telling us the different areas
in which this has happened, who has been responsible and how you
estimate the impact on congestion levels.
Ms Dix: I would be happy to do