This page is dedicated
to the ABD campaign against proposals for congestion charging in the London
Borough of Greenwich, and the nearby Blackwall Tunnel. For the latest news,
go to the bottom of the page.
In 2005/6, Transport for London (TfL) and Greenwich Council
conducted a joint
study of “road traffic demand management” in the Greenwich area. This
included consideration of a congestion charge tax (ie. a road toll) on the
area bounded by the A102 and A2 – which includes Greenwich park and
Greenwich town centre.
you can see on the map above, the proposal also covered the Blackwall Tunnel
one option that was discussed, even if a wide area charge like the central London congestion
tax was not implemented, was to impose a toll on the Blackwall Tunnel. The
Blackwall Tunnel and the A2 are of course the main routes used by traffic
from South-East London and Kent to reach central London.
joint study of the options had been supported by surveys of residents – by Accent Group
and by Mori.
The latter survey asked respondents to consider two possible zones – marked A
and B on the map, the time of operation and the charges - £2, £4 or £6 were
mentioned, but it might be higher for larger vehicles.
that the proposed charging zone also included the A2209 (Deptford Church Street) to
the west which is the normal way for traffic from the Surrey Quays,
Rotherhithe and Southwark areas to avoid Greenwich town centre, and it might
also cover the A2 over Blackheath so most of the diversionary routes would
also be covered. In fact to avoid paying the charge, traffic would have had
to go through the centre of Lewisham which is already severely congested, or
take some minor back roads. Clearly this congestion tax would not be
readily avoidable by most traffic. In addition a lot of traffic would likely
divert to other river crossings that are already heavily congested.
is worth pointing out that the use of “surveys” to lead public opinion in
the preferred direction was a common element of TfL practices. By using a
biased survey they can pretend that people support a scheme without doing
open and full consultation. And of course there was no attempt to consult the road users, such as people who use the Blackwall
Neill, MP for Bromley and Chislehurst (and subsequently made a Government
Minister in the new Government)
spoke in the House of Commons on this issue in questions to then Minister Stephen Ladyman. When talking about the proposed Greenwich scheme he said “That
would have ramifications well beyond Greenwich and the immediate area and
would have an enormous impact on the national traffic network, including the
A2 and A20, which are key feeder roads into London”. He requested the
greatest possible public consultation be undertaken and that such a scheme
not be imposed against the will of the public.
Transport Innovation Fund
funding for the initial studies came from central Government’s
Transport Innovation Fund (TIF) for congestion schemes. The TIF funds
were being used to bribe local authorities to set up congestion
charging and road pricing schemes because the Government realised how
politically sensitive such schemes are and did not want to be seen as
promoting them directly. Of
course if you get a local scheme in somewhere like Greenwich, which
encourages traffic to avoid the area, then you generate major congestion
problems in adjoining areas which in due course can then justify their own
In the TfL
it points out: “…any attempt to impose significant peak hour traffic
reduction on Greenwich Town Centre would give rise to objections similar to
those associated with the earlier lorry ban. Measures that serve only to
reduce traffic in one locality by transferring it to other equally sensitive
locations, clearly, offer no net community benefits, while proposals that
benefit one interest group by inconveniencing others will always present
difficult choices. The Council would not wish to be a party to measures that
are liable to inflict detriment on other communities or local authorities.”
document even manages to suggest that because of the problems of traffic
diversion if a congestion charge was introduced at peak periods, it might be
best to introduce an “off-peak only” charge – this would definitely be a
world first – a congestion charge when there was no congestion!
estimated the cost of a scheme at over £100 million, an enormous amount of
money with no clear benefits.
Problems of Greenwich
Greenwich town centre has been a notorious traffic bottleneck for many
years. The nature of the geography also causes any generated air pollution
over a wide area to collect in the river valley. Two alternative solutions
have been suggested in the past to remove traffic from the town centre and
enhance this World Heritage site – the first was to improve the A2 route
over Blackheath, possibly by using a tunnel to avoid damage to the park –
the second was by constructing a new road along the river frontage – both
projects were effectively blocked by environmental objectors.
2002, an Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP) was adopted by Greenwich because of
the known air pollution problems on some of the major roads. You can read
about this on the internet at:
although clearly many of the major routes in Greenwich generate much air
pollution from traffic (for example the Blackwall Tunnel handles over
100,000 vehicles per day with heavy congestion during rush hours), it is not
at all clear what the overall impact of traffic is on air pollution levels
in Greenwich. Indeed the report fudges many of the key issues. For example
it says “local road transport constitutes approximately 28 to 80% of NOx
emissions in the borough…” and “approximately 50% of the remaining
background sources arise from road transport sources outside the borough”.
For PM10 (particulates) it says “between 5% and 40% of concentrations
result from primary road transport emissions in the borough, depending on
location, with approximately 60 to 95% arising from background sources”.
reality nobody knows how much general air pollution in Greenwich comes from
local traffic, from industrial or other sources, or how much from outside
proposed plans also didn’t seem to have taken any account of the Low
Emission Zone (LEZ) which now covers the whole of the greater London area
and will reduce emissions from HGVs and buses quite substantially in the
next few years. In addition the general improvement in the technology of
vehicles is reducing emissions by large amounts – the chart below shows the
impact on various emissions of European directives on vehicle pollutants
from heavy duty diesel vehicles (source Prof. F.H. Palmer).
that private cars seem to produce less than 20% of total emissions of
pollutants such as PM10s as HGVs, LGVs, buses and taxis are the main sources
(see p.23 of AQAP). It
is also worth pointing out that the central London Congestion Charge has not
resulted in improved air quality within the congestion charge zone. The
ABD suggested that it was unnecessary to introduce congestion charges in
Greenwich to tackle air pollution issues and doing so would not be effective
in tackling air pollution. We said more steps should be taken to reduce congestion
which itself is the major cause of such pollution.
Cessation of the Blackwall Tunnel Tidal Flow
action that was taken by TfL was the cessation of the Blackwall
Tunnel tidal flow system. This has undoubtedly increased congestion, and was
likely to result therefore in higher air pollution. They justified this on
the grounds of safety but the tidal flow system has been in use for 30 years
without major incident, the accident statistics show that the tunnel
actually has fewer reported accidents than most major roads in London, and
independent consultants had actually recommended that alternative measures
to improve safety be taken. TfL went ahead and stopped the tidal flow system
without any public consultation, not even with the local boroughs, and
without any prior notice. Of course many commentators have said that as
allegedly happened with the London congestion charge, if you first make
congestion worse then there is more justification for introducing congestion
charges. Refer to the following article for more details of the
the ABD Opposed the Proposals
The Association of British Drivers mounted a major public campaign to have road tolls
in Greenwich thrown out. The public do not like road tolls of any form, and
these proposals were in essence just an attempt by anti-car fanatics to raise
the cost of motoring and restrict your freedom of movement. An on-line
petition was set up - see:
The ABD also circulated over 100,000 leaflets to residents of the
borough of Greenwich and received hundreds of responses. A copy of
the leaflet is present in this file:
Leaflet . The letter we sent to respondents is contained in this
Response_Letter. Some of the
comments received can be seen on the attached page:
As we received an
enormous response to our leaflet on the proposed congestion charge in
Greenwich, but Transport for London still had not published their detailed
proposals, we held a public meeting on Saturday the 22nd September 2007 at
Mycenae House in Blackheath - a copy of the presentation given at this
meeting is present in:
Greenwich_Road_Tolls2 . A report on the meeting is present on this page:
On the 4th November
2007, we issued the following press release which shows that based on the
surveys undertaken by Transport for London, there was overwhelming opposition
to any congestion charge scheme in Greenwich:
Only 16% supported such an idea, with 77% opposed according to the latest
Soon after the
Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, said the following in response to a
question from a Member during his Mayor's Question Time session at the
Greater London Assembly:
approached by Greenwich Council as congestion is very severe. Greenwich
town centre is more congested than any other in London, with 50% of traffic
being through traffic.
They have looked at all the options, both wide area and more local schemes.
Greenwich may pursue a small area scheme in a “discrete” zone.
There will not be tolling on the Blackwall Tunnel.
5. It is up to
Greenwich Council if they pursue a scheme for a small discrete zone that does not
impact on any other boroughs or the A2.
had these comments on that statement:
To suggest that
Greenwich is more congested that any other town centre in London is
questionable. Other centres in south-east London such as Lewisham and
Blackheath village are also very heavily congested at certain times. We
suggest this is a claim that is unproveable.
In fact from the
TfL surveys that were undertaken, some 55% of traffic is defined as “through
traffic” because it originates outside the “cordon” used for the study area
and also has a destination outside. But the cordon included a very wide area
and within it are the A2, A20, A205 South Circular, and the A102 Blackwall
Tunnel approach. So obviously a lot of the traffic was through traffic as
the London Borough of Greenwich just happens to sit across many major
routes. It is simply nonsensical to suggest that this is unreasonable or
that it is a problem that needs tackling, and the Mayor was seemingly trying
to mislead the public by suggesting that this 55% figure referred to
Greenwich town centre alone.
we welcomed the Mayor's
comments as they indicated
that although a wide area scheme that covers the A2 and Blackwall Tunnel was
probably no longer on the agenda, it did not mean that a more limited road
toll or congestion charge was not still being contemplated.
(in 2008) Mayor Livingstone was of course ejected by the electorate in
favour of Boris Johnson who had publicly opposed any extension of congestion
charging to Greenwich or other outer London boroughs. He also made a
manifesto commitment to reinstate the Blackwall Tunnel Tidal Flow. Indeed it
was said by some commentators that Mr Johnson won the election because of
the votes of Londoners in South East London stimulated by a local motorists
pressure group, but you can take that with a pinch of salt.
seem likely that no proposals for a congestion charge in Greenwich will be
carried forward in the foreseeable future, at least while Mr Johnson remains
Mayor. Unfortunately he has subsequently reneged on his commitment to
reinstate the Blackwall Tunnel Tidal Flow system.