Council rule out new city congestion charge

New congestion charging for the city centre has been ruled out by the city council. Pic: Steven Scott Taylor
New congestion charging for the city centre has been ruled out by the city council. Pic: Steven Scott Taylor
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CITY council leader Andrew Burns today ruled out any fresh consideration of congestion charging for the Capital after the idea was raised in an official report on reviving city centres.

Road tolls – overwhelmingly rejected in a referendum in Edinburgh in 2005 – are among a raft of measures proposed by a Scottish Government-commissioned study headed by architect Malcolm Fraser.

It suggested local authorities should draw up their own plans using a “toolkit” including congestion charging, along with bus lanes, pedestrianised zones and 20mph limits.

But Councillor Burns, who was transport convener at the time of the referendum, moved quickly to make clear there were no plans to resurrect a policy guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of city motorists.

He said: “In Edinburgh we have just approved the Local Transport Strategy on an all-party basis, which does not include the possibility of localised congestion charging.

“It doesn’t form any part of our plans.

“We had our ballot on this and the result was very clear.

“It’s absolutely not part of the agenda for the current administration.”

Last year, a report said Edinburgh was Scotland’s most gridlocked city and had the fourth worst congestion levels in the UK.

The TomTom Traffic Index said drivers with a 30-minute daily commute in the Capital could expect to spend 86 hours a year stuck in traffic.

And with rising pollution levels, Friends of the Earth said road tolls should be re-examined in a bid to tell people if they were coming into central Edinburgh they should use train, bus, walk or cycle unless it was absolutely necessary to bring their car.

But today Scottish Tory transport spokesman Alex Johnstone said: “It is an absurd idea and should be kicked into the longest grass possible.”

Professor Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation said: “Drivers will baulk at the idea of paying yet more money to get about but the hard truth is that traffic and traffic jams are forecast to increase.”

The plan for £2 a day road tolls plan in Edinburgh was rejected in 2005 by 74.4 per cent to 25.6 per cent.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman confirmed a planning “toolkit” was being developed.

But she said: “The Scottish Government has no plans to introduce congestion charges or mandatory pedestrian zones in town centres. Local communities will make decisions for their town centres based on local circumstances.

“The Scottish Government will not be prescriptive.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com