Report claiming Westminster parking charges will cause economic misery based on "guessing"

Respected transport journalist (and London Cycling Campaign board member) Christian Wolmar has reported finding serious flaws in widely published predictions that the proposed Westminster car parking charges will cost the capital 5000 jobs and £800 million in lost output.

The extravagant claims are being propagated by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR), even though it acknowledges its report failed to carry out "a thorough investigation of the business and economic impacts of the new parking charges".

The report writers explain that they "have made some indicative estimates based on some rough-and-ready, yet not implausible, assumptions".

Wolmar writes on his blog: "In my language, that's called guessing."

Sections of the report have been reproduced unchallenged in the Evening Standard and The Daily Telegraph, though it's not currently available for download from the CEBR website.

Wolmar also points out that the authority of the figures is thrown further into doubt because they're based on an assumption that 20-25% of evening West End visitors arrive by car, which is double the known modal share for private car use in the West End.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research has a history of pro-motoring research with debatable conclusions: in 2007 it published a report (commissioned by Land Rover) that claimed Ken Livingstone's proposals to charge high-polluting vehicles a higher rate of congestion charge would actually increase pollution.

What's sad is that in this instance the questionable conclusions of this particular think tank have been allowed to obscure the fact there are areas of the West End that are currently clogged full of motor vehicles in the evenings and weekends.

Pedestrians in particular get a raw deal, with tens of thousands of people being crammed on to narrow pavements, while a relatively tiny number of motorists and taxis fill up the streets.

It's not unusual to see groups of people on foot spill on to the road - around Drury Lane or Bow Street for example - and then hear a car or taxi honk them out of the way.

When one or two people in a car are effectively forcing 10 or 20 people on foot to get out of their way, and squeezing many others into inadequate pavements, then there's something deeply inequitable about the allocation of street space.

There's so much more that could be done to make central London a safer and more pleasant place to walk and cycle, and many Londoners think it's logical that motorists should pay if they want to use large areas of public space to park their vehicles.

Motorists might also be interested to know that charging for on-street car parking can benefit them as well as other street users, because it reduces congestion and shortens journey times (see the video at the top of the page).