Extending Congestion Zone ‘a disaster for business’ warns London Assembly’s Unmesh Desai
- Credit: Mike Brooke
Expanding the Congestion Charge Zone covering the whole of east London right out to the North Circular Road along with massive fare rises on public transport would hit business already struggling over Covid-19.
That’s the stark warning from east London’s man at City Hall, Unmesh Desai, who has slammed the government’s proposed conditions for TfL’s bail out from the pandemic emergency.
The outspoken London Assembly member has also blasted Downing Street for demanding hikes to council tax while also cutting all travel concessions.
“The planned TfL funding ‘deal’ would be disastrous,” he said.
“Let’s not forget the reason TfL needs support is because people did the right thing in staying at home during the Covid emergency when revenue from fares evaporated overnight.
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“Business are being left to struggle with a continued loss and inadequate support while people are losing their livelihoods.”
The government has offered £1billion in answer to TfL going cap-in-hand to Downing Street asking for £2bn to keep services running for the next six months.
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But the deal would come with tough conditions such as raising fares above the Retail Price Index and higher council tax, it emerged this week.
Free travel for children from 11 to 18 would be scrapped and concessions for the elderly such as Freedom passes would be stopped.
Expanding the £15 Congestion Charge Zone out to both the North Circular and South Circular roads formed part of the conditions, as well as extending the hours in the existing zone which runs eastward up to Tower Hill and includes all of Aldgate, Whitechapel and Spitalfields west of Commercial Street.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, however, told the Commons the government had gone to the mayor with a list of things he could do for TfL and insisted they were not going to require extending the Congestion charge zone.
Labour Assembly members could “complain as much as they like” about what the mayor does, he said, but blaming the government was “picking on the wrong target”.
Transport chiefs at City Hall had turned around TfL losses in the last four years, reducing the operating deficit by 71pc and increasing cash reserves by 13pc, despite losing the government’s £700m annual operating grant.
But the pandemic was an unknown economic factor that no-one could forecast.