Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Road Haulage and Freight Groups Object to Increased Congestion Charge in London

Representatives Say Logistics Sector Has Kept Capital Alive and Needs to Recover
Shipping News Feature

UK – Representatives of the road freight sector were united in their criticism of the recent announcement by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan who has confirmed that the Congestion Charge for driving on the roads of the capital will be 'temporarily' increased as from next Monday 22nd June 2020.

Whilst aggrieved, both the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and the Freight Transport Association (FTA) can hardly be surprised. The Mayor has led what they see as a vendetta against any four wheel transport since he came to power, regardless of the cost to the logistics sector and the end users, in a bid to ensure what he considers a better environment for London.He also is looking to recover revenue lost whilst the Charge has been suspended and public transport has been empty of passengers.

Certainly the timing could be better, the pandemic has caused misery for thousands of businesses and the natural reluctance of many potential passengers to return to it, and the limited capacity of public transport to carry them, will surely see more vehicles on the road in the coming weeks, assuming people can afford to travel at all.

Not only will the basic charge of £11.50 rise to £15, but it will now also apply at weekends and be extended to 10pm at night which the Mayor said would assist in delivering a ‘cleaner,greener’ economic recovery post-pandemic, an argument simply not accepted by such as RHA chief executive, Richard Burnett who, whilst understanding the motives behind the move, commented:

“With last week’s shocking news that the UK economy contracted by a record amount, Transport for London needs to take a more sustainable approach to goods moving around the capital, one which recognises that environmental and social wellbeing depends on economic wellbeing. Simply increasing the charge without mitigating its impact on business fundamentally ignores that principle and will put even more pressure on the firms driving London’s economic recovery. In short, this is a cash grab on business.”

Last month the RHA called on the mayor to exempt goods vehicles over 3.5 tonnes from the Congestion Charge saying it would simplify operations and save money for the sector’s customers, a view mirrored at the FTA where Natalie Chapman, Head of Urban Policy said:

“Logistics businesses have been working tirelessly to deliver the food, medical supplies and other essential items the capital needs during the Covid-19 pandemic. The suspension of the Congestion Charge back in March 2020 was extremely welcome in helping operators focus on dealing with the crisis. However, to reward this hard work, completed under very challenging circumstances, with such abrupt and significant changes to the London Congestion Charge is extremely disappointing to FTA and its members.

”Like many other sectors, logistics is suffering financially from the pandemic, 76% of respondents to FTA’s own industry survey report a general business downturn, and as a sector has a long road to economic recovery ahead, increasing the scheme’s rates and extending its operating hours so abruptly will be detrimental to this recovery process.

"While the FTA understands the financial pressures TfL is currently facing and supports the broad intention behind the scheme, to manage congestion and improve air quality in the capital by incentivising active travel over vehicle use, logistics businesses have little alternative but to drive in London to meet the delivery needs of consumers and businesses, so this simply amounts to a tax on deliveries.

“The FTA is also disappointed by the lack of consultation on such a significant decision, and, although the changes are only temporary, TfL has given no concrete indication of how long they will last. Permanent implementation should be out of the question.”