Sandra Heavenstone talks to newly appointed Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, about his plans for reforming the congestion charge and improving traffic flow in the capital
What are the road transport issues for London at the top of your agenda?
My manifesto pledge was to get Londoners moving and the capital’s roads are key to that goal. I aim to tackle the traffic jams that ensnare our motorists and get traffic to flow more smoothly. We can do this by rephasing traffic lights and using powers to fine utility companies whose work overruns and causes unnecessary delays. We have already reached an agreement with Thames Water, who has agreed to trial new measures to keep roads open during works.
How will you increase road productivity whilst tackling congestion at the same time?
We will use new powers to crack down on the utility companies that leave queues of cones guarding empty road space. The bottlenecks and jams that these cause are incredibly frustrating for road users. I hope that this work and rephasing traffic lights will increase productivity by keeping traffic on the move and not at a standstill.
What will be your policy with regard to the proposed congestion charge?
Reforming the congestion charge is at the heart of my plans to get London moving and my view that a £25 charge for large family cars is unfair is well known. I hope to able to announce very soon that the work necessary to abolish the CO2 charge has been completed.
I have never been convinced that this sort of scheme is the best way of reducing emissions. Rather than penalise the families that own larger cars, which might be hit by this type of charge, my focus is on reducing emissions by reducing congestion. Transport for London is already working hard on putting plans together to reduce emissions by rephasing traffic lights, promoting cycling and walking; and encouraging people to drive more efficiently.
Cars that are moving emit less CO2 than those that are stuck at traffic lights or in jams. That is why I will not allow smaller cars into the zone for free or introduce the £25 charge for large family cars. The current exemptions from the charge such as motorbikes, black cabs and emergency service vehicles will continue.
What is your integrated transport policy?
My biggest area of responsibility is transport and I intend to put commuters first with policies that first and foremost make journeys faster and more reliable. London has been in dire need of a fresh perspective on transport and my team is already cracking on with putting our plans into action. A vibrant, reliable and pleasant public transport system is vital if we are to keep Londoners moving and help the capital’s economy to grow. And it must be attractive and safe if Londoners are to consider sustainable alternatives to the car.
The most important thing, however, is to ensure our transport policies are responsive to what Londoners actually want. To that end, I have assembled a first class team, including Tim Parker as chair of TfL, and Kulveer Ranger as Director of Transport Policy, who will work with me to develop a transport strategy that will benefit all Londoners.
Will you increase the number of buses on the road?
Buses are very important to my plans to reduce congestion in outer London. I have asked TfL to trial ‘orbital express buses’ that would connect centres in the outer boroughs. I hope these can provide a real alternative to people using their cars for short orbital journeys in outer London.
Londoners elected me with a mandate to rid our streets of the bendy buses and replace them with a new bus for London that will be safe, reliable and an emblem of our great city. We will work hand in hand with Londoners and the bus industry to get these buses on the streets of the capital by the end of my first term of office.
How will you address the need for increased parking facilities?
The Boroughs of London control 95 per cent of the capital’s roads and as such take greater responsibility for parking. But it is certainly important that if people choose to take their car to London that there are facilities for them to leave their vehicles where they will be secure; and where they are not left in positions that may affect other drivers.
What new transport technology are you implementing to improve traffic management?
Plans are already in motion to rephase traffic lights but another of our objectives is to use LiveBus technology to make it easier for bus users to plan their journeys. Buses are already being fitted with GPS systems that use satellite technology to track where buses are. This information is currently only accessible to the computer whiz kids at TfL but I think this information should be available to all Londoners. I want passengers to be able to access a real time map showing them the position of all our buses through the Transport for London website.