A LEADING environmental group today called for Edinburgh to look again at introducing a congestion charge in a bid to beat rising pollution levels.
Friends of the Earth said the idea of making motorists pay to drive into the city centre had to be re-examined as the number of Edinburgh streets officially classed as polluted rose.
Road tolls were overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in 2005 and have not been raised again as a serious option until now.
But failure to meet air quality targets has forced the council to extend its existing three monitoring zones and add two new ones at Inverleith Row and Glasgow Road.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of FoE Scotland, said urgent action was needed. He said: “Having to include even more streets in the pollution zones is a sure sign that a decade’s worth of action plans have failed.
“People need to get the message that if you’re coming into central Edinburgh you should use train, bus, walk or cycle unless you absolutely need to bring your car.”
He said low emission zones – banning all but the cleanest vehicles – were one option that could be looked at and he urged another look at workplace parking charges.
But he said: “We need to revisit the congestion charge. If that vote had gone a different way and the charge had been introduced, the city centre would be a more pleasant place to be and we might be meeting international quality standards.
“It has been untouchable for some years because we had that vote and had a lot of negative publicity, but it’s the kind of thing we need to look at if we’re going to fix this problem.”
He said the previous congestion charging scheme could be the starting point. “If we don’t want a congestion charge, what are we going to do instead?”
Transport convener Lesley Hinds said congestion charging had been rejected by the people of Edinburgh and the idea was not part of the council’s plans, but she said initiatives such as low emissions zones were on the agenda. She said: “We are doing things that will make a difference to air quality.”
How it was going to work
EDINBURGH’S £2 a day road tolls plan was thrown out in a referendum in February 2005 - 74.4 per cent voting No and 25.6 per cent Yes.
The proposal involved two cordons – one around the city centre and one just inside the city bypass – operating from Monday to Friday.
The inner cordon was going to apply from 7am to 6.30pm, while the outer one would operate from 7am to 10am. Drivers would have been charged the £2 only once in any one day for driving into the city.