Edinburgh congestion charge ‘no’ vote is ‘step in the wrong direction’

Edinburgh congestion charge ‘no’ vote is ‘step in the wrong direction’


 


Simon Cattle


23.02.05


 


 


Environmental organisations have expressed disappointment after Edinburgh residents delivered an overwhelming rejection of Edinburgh Council’s plans for a congestion charge on cars. And they have warned that the health and legal implications of polluted air in the Capital will not go away.


 


In a referendum of more than 74% opposed the scheme About 290,000 residents were asked if they were in favour of cordons, similar to those in London and under consideration in Bristol.


 


Edinburgh City Council said net revenue from the proposed charge was forecast to be £761m over 20 years. ‘Yes campaigners’ argued the charge was necessary to reduce traffic and pollution, and said the revenue would be used to fund improved public transport.


 


The plan was to charge motorists £2 a day to enter the congestion zone, with fines of £60 for those who dodged paying. Two cordons were to have operated from Monday to Friday – with an outer one for the morning rush hour and an inner one in operation until 6.30pm.


 


‘No’ campaigners described it as a money-making ploy which would harm the Edinburgh economy and displace traffic into residential areas of the City. The idea had also been opposed by neighbouring councils – whose own citizens travelling into the capital would have been eligible for the outer cordon charge.


 


Jos Dings, Director of the European Federation for Transport and Environment (T&E) described the result as a step in the wrong direction: ‘Congestion in Scottish cities will not go away. Germany and Switzerland are already operating successful national charging schemes, and a congestion charge will be launched in Stockholm in August.’


 


The head of Edinburgh City Council, Labour Councillor Donald Anderson, acknowledged defeat: ‘The idea is now dead and buried for Edinburgh,’ But he said the council was ‘as committed as ever to further improving our city’s transport.’


 


Mark Sydenham, spokesperson for Get Edinburgh Moving, which had campaigned for the ‘yes’ vote, said, ‘We still think that this was a workable and practical scheme and are disappointed that it has been rejected. Congestion charging would have been good for public transport users, good for public health, good for the environment, and good for the economy. 


 


And he warned: ‘Action still needs to be taken to tackle Edinburgh’s unhealthy levels of air pollution. The Council must now take forward plans for closing central areas of Edinburgh that fail European air quality standards.’