The government proposed that Transport for London should massively extend the capital’s current congestion charge zone to the North and South Circular roads, On London can confirm, undermining Conservative claims that the possible new measure was initiated by Sadiq Khan.
A section of a letter from transport secretary Grant Shapps to the Mayor, seen by On London, setting out conditions he wants placed on providing further financial help for TfL says: “Given the significant rise in congestion in inner London, we also propose the extension of the central London congestion charging zone to cover the same area as the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and at the same time, October 2021.”
Cameras are already being installed by TfL in preparation for enlarging the ULEZ to the North and South Circular roads. It presently covers the same, much smaller, area as the current Congestion Charge zone. The ULEZ is designed to discourage the use of polluting motor vehicles only, whereas the Congestion Charge applies to motor vehicles in general.
Conservative mayoral candidate Shaun Bailey claimed on Twitter two days ago that Khan is “talking about extending the Congestion Charge to the North and South Circular”.
Boris Johnson today failed to respond to a request by Harrow East MP Bob Blackman at Prime Minister’s Questions to “confirm that the government has not required the current Mayor of London to expand the congestion charge to the North and South Circular roads,” instead launching an attack on the financial stewardship of TfL under Sadiq Khan.
The letter from Shapps (pictured), dated 1 October, also asks Khan to “maintain the congestion charge at the current level and hours of operation,” thereby seeking the continuation of a previously agreed increase in the charge to £15 a day and the extension of its operating hours to weekends and until 10.00 pm.
Conservatives continue to claim that those changes were brought about by Khan, despite the 14 May agreement requiring him to “urgently bring forward proposals to widen the scope and levels” of the congestion charge and other road-pricing schemes.
A senior TfL figure who was at the heart of negotiating the first bailout has told On London that the specifics of those proposals – the price and operating hour changes – met the firm approval of Johnson’s transport adviser Andrew Gilligan, who has exerted a strong influence on the TfL finance discussions.
Khan today said during a meeting of the TfL board, which he chairs, that Johnson had “lied” to the Commons about TfL’s finances and that he was “shocked” that Gilligan “can’t be bothered to turn up to the TfL board meeting”. Gilligan is one of two Special Representatives of the government who are supposed to attend TfL board meetings under the current bailout agreement.
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