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Sadiq’s bold step on road pricing

LCC CEO Dr Ashok Sinha reacts to Sadiq Khan’s new net zero 2030 report.

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London’s pathway to zero, 2030

It was a long time coming, but the Mayor, Sadiq Khan has today released a new report on just how he’s going to set London on a path to meeting his target of a net zero carbon London by 2030. Critically, it recognises that much faster action to reduce transport emissions – the single biggest source of London’s emissions – is central to addressing the climate emergency. And equally critically, it opens the door to a future new, smart and fair road charging scheme to cover the whole of London.

LCC is hugely pleased the Mayor has finally accepted what we’ve been saying for a long time – that his original Transport Strategy is out of date, and accelerated action is now absolutely vital to help Londoners switch away from private car trips to walking, cycling, shared vehicles and public transport. We also greatly welcome his direction to TfL to come up with options for a simplified, fair road charging scheme, to reduce carbon emissions, clean up our air, and reduce congestion.

Switch car for cycle

This is a really important step. As we laid out in our own Climate Safe Streets report, it is imperative that “substitutable” car trips are discouraged as well as attractive alternatives to car use expanded – neither measure by itself is up to the job of decarbonising our roads by 2030. Why? Because millions of car journeys take place every day in the capital that could easily be cycled, with all the negative impacts that follow; there is no way we will hit the Mayor’s decarbonisation 2030 target in just eight years unless those trips are wholly or largely switched to another mode. That means London-wide road pricing, as well as an accelerated roll out of an easily accessible, high quality cycling network, must go hand-in-hand.

There will be those who say pricing car trips off the road is not the answer, placing their faith in electric vehicles instead. But even under the most optimistic projections, we will still have large vast numbers of petrol and diesel cars on the road come 2030, with all the congestion and road danger that comes with it. We therefore applaud the Mayor for coming clean: EVs are only part of the answer, and smart and fair road pricing is unavoidable to meet our London’s environmental and other objectives.

London needs funding

It’s also now time for the government to step up. While a smart and fair road charging scheme will help fund the large scale investment in active travel and public transport that London needs to address the climate emergency (as well as maintain its huge contribution to the UK economy), it won’t be sufficient by itself. That is why LCC is calling the on the government to now drop its self-defeating approach to towards London and invest properly in its transport system – and indeed all the transport systems of the UK’s major cities.

Political will needed

London’s boroughs too must step up. While the majority of motor vehicle miles are travelled on TfL roads, the boroughs control 95% of our streets. It’s where most people will cycle, most of the time. So the boroughs have an equal responsibility, with the Mayor, to make it safe enough for everyone to be able to cycle for everyday journeys. That’s why our Climate Safe Streets campaign will be ramping up the pressure on the boroughs at this year’s council elections in May. We’ll need the help of all our members and supporters to make this campaign as effective as it needs to be.

Finally, it’s time to stop the crippling political game-playing when it comes to our roads and the environment. It may be a Labour Mayor that has put his head above the parapet, but variable charging for the use of roads to manage demand is a classic market-based solution long advocated by many on the right. We will all need to come together – politicians, business groups and NGOs – to win the hearts and minds of the public that it’s ultimately in everyone’s interests to bite the bullet and make it a reality.

There’s a lot to digest in the Mayor’s new net zero 2030 report. LCC will publish a full stock take shortly.

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