22 February 2005

22/02/05. Edinburgh throws out congestion charge

Program: New Mobility Agenda

Note: It is easy to assume that this means (a) that road pricing is out for Edinburgh and, to some at least, (b) that the whole idea is a non-starter. Our view? To the contrary, hand on: we will see congestion charging in city after city and yes!, one day in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh throws out the congestion charge
By Jenny Booth, Times Online, February 22, 2005
Source: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1495431,00.html

Edinburgh residents today threw out plans for a £2 congestion chargefor Scotland’s capital city by a margin of three to one.

While 45,965 residents backed the charge, a total of 133,678 said no to the plans, after a surprisingly high turnout in a local referendum.

More than 62 per cent of the city's 290,000 residents were asked to take part in the two-week postal ballot.

The city council had hoped to introduce a £2 charge to traffic passing through two designated zones, a suburban zone and a city centre zone. It said the tax would raise an estimated £760 million over the next 20 years for transport improvements.

But the plans proved unpopular with commuters, and councils in Fife, Midlothian and West Lothian petitioned for a judicial review of the congestion charge plans at the Court of Session in Edinburgh. Their legal action claimed that while Edinburgh residents who lived outside the charge zone would be unfairly exempt from the tolls, motorists in their areas - living just as close to the capital - would have to pay.

Councillor Donald Anderson, leader of the city council, praised the number of people who had taken part.

"I accept the verdict of the people of Edinburgh," he said. "The people of Edinburgh have decided not to support congestion charge and this will not now be introduced in the city. We advocated this scheme because we thought that congestion charging was in the best interests of the city, but we will respect the choice made by Edinburgh residents."

The scheme proposed an outer cordon, circling most of the city and operating from 7am to 10am, and an inner cordon covering the city centre in operation from 7am to 6.30pm. The charges would apply from Monday to Friday, with a £60 fine for those who failed to pay.

Nicol Stephen, the Scottish transport minister, warned that Edinburgh’s traffic problems would not go away as a result of today’s verdict. Congestion was "a major problem", he said, and the Scottish Executive was tackling it by investing in public transport.

"Edinburgh will benefit with new trains, the airport rail link, and improved bus services," said the minister.

"The need to support this new investment with measures to reduce car use, especially at peak periods, will not disappear as a major transport issue."

Councillor Andrew Burns, executive member for transport, said: "We supported a congestion charge scheme for the city because we believe everyone wants a city with less traffic, reduced congestion, cleaner air and more buses and trams.

"The result today is quite disappointing but I do want to recognise the success of this referendum process. The people of Edinburgh have very clearly given us a view of what they want and I have nothing but respect for the voters.

"We have a huge challenge ahead of us. We will have to double our efforts to cope with the growing congestion."


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