In this current economic climate many businesses throughout London and the rest of the UK are operating against very tight margins, meaning any proposals which could potentially disrupt or increase the cost of core services they rely upon on a day-to-day basis could have serious consequences.
In this context the proposed increase of the London congestion charge by nearly 17% places an unfair and excessive burden on the essential services provided by logistics and delivery operators which ultimately support and are paid for by individual London businesses themselves.
Express freight services are essential to the functioning of London's economy, with the effective operation of businesses across the capital reliant on the ability of logistics providers to complete the efficient and cost effective delivery of the fundamental goods needed to run their operations.
TNT Express, and subcontractors operating on our behalf, operate 115 vehicles per day within the congestion charging zone, contributing in excess of £260,000 (at current rates) per annum to Transport for London revenues. Our trips into the congestion charging zone are not of a discretionary nature. They facilitate essential deliveries to thousands of businesses who have no choice other than to have goods and services transported in to them.
The aim of the increase in the congestion charge is to strengthen the financial deterrent of driving in London to limit congestion on the capital's roads. However, Transport for London's Travel in London Report 6 states that road vehicle traffic in London is 10.9 per cent lower than in 2000. It also states that this fall has been particularly prominent in central London, down 22.8 per cent on the 2000 level. So is a further financial deterrent really needed? Especially one so high?
The burden of this dramatically above inflation increase to the congestion charge will ultimately be passed on to and become prohibitive to businesses in the capital. This seems an unacceptable price to pay for both those businesses and the wider economies of London and the UK, especially in light of the questions which must be raised over increases effectively achieving the stated aim of strengthening the financial deterrent to limit congestion.
Instead, efforts to address the real reasons for congestion should be focused on improving traffic flow on the road network and increasing highway capacity, all of which contribute to the congestion on the capital's roads. In fact, Transport for London has acknowledged this themselves in their Travel in London Report 5, which says: "The primary reason for the continued reductions in traffic speed, which would have been expected given falling traffic levels, was a substantial increase in interventions that reduced the effective capacity of the road network for general traffic."
As a minimum, commercial operators who provide essential services to the very businesses that underpin the capital's economy should not be subjected to an unfair and excessive increase in costs incurred while shipping products and services into the city to allow those businesses to operate in the first place.