03Policy priority 3: Tackle congestion and air quality
- Expand road user charging in the capital. The mayor should cut congestion and air pollution by charging road traffic at each of the three layers of existing charging infrastructure that sit within London.
- Roll out Low Traffic Neighbourhoods if road charging is expanded. Reducing the supply of road space for car travel must be accompanied by measures to reduce the demand for car travel.
Congestion is a major bottleneck on London’s prosperity, growth and health. As a result of the city’s reliance on private car transport, air pollution is linked to 6.4 per cent of all deaths in the capital.5 Yet even despite the restrictions on movement, air pollution in the city returned to pre-pandemic levels in 2020. A sustained rise in car travel would see London go backwards on clean air and threaten the health of Londoners even as we emerge from the pandemic.
To do so, the Mayor of London should expand charging in London to cut congestion and air pollution. This can be done by charging all private car traffic in each of the three existing charging zones in Greater London – the Congestion Charge, the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), and the distinct Low Emission Zone (LEZ) for heavy vehicles at the Greater London boundary.
More charging makes further expansion of Low Traffic Neighbourhoods possible. Reducing demand for road travel through charging then means that the mayor can reduce the supply of road space for cars in London with a reduced risk of congestion, displacement of traffic to poorer areas, and political backlash. Attempting to forcibly reduce car journeys by making car travel slower and less convenient without changing the original incentives for people to drive within London will not lead to stable transport outcomes and could result in unintended and inequitable results.