Fleet News

Road charge is taking its toll, say companies

A THIRD of businesses believe they have lost contracts through the introduction of the London congestion charge, a new survey has shown.

Van rental company Northgate polled a total of 467 of its customers and asked how the scheme had affected their businesses.

A total of 369 questionnaires were returned. Of those, 61% employed 10 or fewer people and 68% operated inside the charging zone.

Almost 70% of respondents said the £5-a-day charging scheme, introduced in February, has had a negative impact on their business.

A total of 67% said they disagreed with congestion charging and 74% said it would have a negative impact on their businesses. A total of 77% felt businesses should be exempt from the scheme.

Customers were asked to predict the business costs they would incur as a result of congestion charging and the survey average was £5,230 a year.

The findings come soon after a survey by Westminster City Council revealed that more than two-thirds of central London businesses believe congestion charging has made their life harder and more than one in four say they would consider moving out of the zone.

The study suggests that one way of reducing the impact was to cut the charge's operating hours, with only 32% of businesses supporting the current hours, 7am-6.30pm, and 50% wanting the scheme to end at 1pm.

Councillor Colin Barrow, cabinet member for transport at Westminster council, said he would be seeking an urgent meeting with London mayor Ken Livingstone to push for modifications to the scheme.

He said: 'London is paying a high price for being the only major city in Europe to charge admission. This is effectively what Ken Livingstone has done by penalising people for entering central London with the congestion charge.

'The scheme has been operating long enough now for its full effect on business to emerge and our survey clearly finds that the charge is having effects on business that need to be urgently addressed.'

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    Road tolls throughout UK by 2010?

    THE findings of the survey come as an influential independent think-tank report suggests that congestion charges should be introduced nationally by 2010. They would be added on top of fuel taxes to help reduce traffic and pollution.

    As reported on Fleet NewsNet last week, the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr) argues that if motorists are to be asked to pay more, revenue raised should pay for better roads and public transport and road tax should be abolished.

    If a national congestion charge scheme – which added congestion charges to fuel taxes – was introduced by the end of the decade, it could potentially raise an additional £16 billion per year.

    Commenting on the possibility of national road charging, Teresa Maynard, spokeswoman at Castle Fuel Cards, said: 'A road toll of 14p a mile is equivalent to adding £1.50 to the price of diesel.

    'Although it would be 2010 at the earliest before tolls could be imposed, fleets need to remain aware of the potential for punitive taxes on driving if the environmental lobby gets its way.'

    Richard Schooling, commercial director of Alphabet, said: 'The Government is under growing pressure to curb emissions from road transport and anything it does to discourage driving will have a major impact on fleet costs.'

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