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Transport - 24.04.2003
Leading cities in traffic management and fight against congestion debate on congestion charging
"Congestion charging is a way forward, and the current experiences have the benefit of not only reducing congestion, but placing transport and mobility in cities at the heart of the political debate." These are the broad conclusions of the round table on fighting congestion held in Brussels on 24 April 2003.
The round table was organised by Polis, the cities and regions network promoting innovation in transport, and the Council of European Municipalities and Regions (CEMR).
Politicians and heads of transport planning of the cities of London, Rome, Bristol, and Cologne presented their integrated strategies and political commitment to reduce congestion.
The Secretary General of the French "Groupement des Autorités Responsables de Transport"(GART) presented the evolution of the debate in France, while Transport and Travel Research (TTR) gave an overview of the different controversial aspects of congestion charging, mainly the question about its social and economic consequences. The round table was opened by Polis Executive Director, Isabelle Dussutour, and moderated by the Secretary General of CEMR, Jeremy Smith.
Jeremy Evans, from Transport for London, explained the functioning of the congestion charging scheme and the wide consultation process that prepared it, as well as the very stable and encouraging results on traffic volumes. " We managed to inform the citizens well in advance and to ensure support from shopkeepers and other stakeholders. The improvement in public transport will help us make the city centre more accessible to all and a better place to live ". Jeremy Evans also emphasised the necessary integration between charging and earmarking funds for improving the overall transport system in London: "The objective of this policy should be to improve public transport so that owning a car is no longer necessary. I am proud, he concluded, to be part of this scheme, to see that we implemented it on time and that we can show after two month encouraging results ".
Cllr Helen Holland, from Bristol, presented the preparatory work done in her city to introduce congestion charging (CC). "Carrots without sticks don't work" she explained while emphasising that CC is part of an overall transport plan for the city, including social inclusion through access to mobility, health and environment improvements, urban planning and attractivity of the city. " I think that the political decision of implementing CC can be a risky one if total transparency about the scheme, its results and its influence on quality of life is not ensured ".
Maurizio Tomassini, from Rome, presented the access restriction scheme, already implemented years ago to protect the historical city centre from congestion, and emphasised its benefits on accessibility and attractivity of the city. " Rome was amongst the pilot cities in introducing access restriction. The situation was so bad that the people and stakeholders accepted the scheme immediately. Rome is now considering extending access restriction to others areas ". Maurizio Tomassini also stated that " European co-operation and exchanges of experiences were a key point in implementing such politically sensitive decisions ".
Bélà Dören, from Cologne expressed another point of view. He advocated for less radical measures, for mixing parking policy, redesign of roads, better urban planning and information to public transport passengers. " Charging for accessing the city centre can be dangerous for economic activities and the willingness of people to live in city centres. It can also have wide political Implications as you can lose elections o this issue. We are more in favour of implementing a policy mix, which allows a better integration of the use of cars, without charging for it".
Chantal Duchène, from GART, stressed that "you need money to improve public transport and ensure that most activities can be done with public transport. Congestion charging can provide that money". She explained that French cities are now lobbying the central government to make CC legal in France. She also presented the Paris point of view, where reduction of road space for the car and promotion of alternative modes is preferred to CC. " CC is a solution for some cities. However, its efficiency is only guaranteed if it is part of a global integrated transport policy. On the other hand, such schemes can provide the necessary funds for improving local public transport systems ".
Jo Baker, from TTR transport research addressed concerns expressed by participants on the social equality of such schemes and the potential economic consequences. " CC schemes do not affect the socially excluded. Most of them cannot afford to have a car, and the transfer of funds to support public transport contributes to better social equality and mobility for all. Economic impact needs to be monitored, but in cities where CC has been implemented, no significant delocalisation of activities has been noticed. "
Jeremy Smith summed up the debate and the contributions from the floor by mentioning that " though congestion charging is a way forward, the combination of measure is essential as transport issues are economically and socially complex". "
Mrs Suzanne Hoadley
Mrs Suzanne Hoadley
Council of European Municipalities and Region
Georgina Mombo Rasero
Tel. : +32 2 500 05 34
Skype : georgina.mombo