Edinburgh congestion charge: Serious consideration of plans to reduce congestion in 2023
Edinburgh Greens say ‘Let’s start discussion now’ on congestion charge
Edinburgh will have to be looking seriously at a congestion charge for the city by the end of the year, transport convener Scott Arthur has warned.
And he said careful consideration would need to be given to when it would apply, what area it would cover and how to make it work for businesses in the Capital. Cllr Arthur made his comments as the city’s transport committee agreed to launch a consultation on a series of action plans for public transport, active travel and parking, designed to cut car miles, reduce congestion and help meet net zero by 2030.
He said: “A congestion charge in some for is almost certain to be something we're going to be considering in this committee but if we do go down that route we have to consider it very carefully and make the case for it very carefully in terms of where we draw the boundary, when it operates – is it just peak time or is it all day – and things like how we work with businesses to make sure it doesn't have negative impacts on their trade and also their employees getting to work.” He said he also hoped to explore whether it was possible to vary the charge depending on whether vehicles were being used by just one occupant or whether they were carrying passengers too.
Cllr Arthur said the Scottish Government was also looking at road charging, which it described as “pay as you drive” and the UK Government was considering similar options. He said: “As we phase out fuel duty there's a need to make up that lost revenue and also make sure people are taxed for every kilometre they drive. There are lots of moving pieces here, so it's important we get what's proposed for Edinburgh right.
“Our anticipation is we will see some progress from the Scottish Government quite soon and then by the end of this year we will probably have a serious discussion about a congestion charge and what that would mean for Edinburgh – that would explain why we're doing it, if we choose to go down that route, what the benefits would be and also what some of the challenges would be.”
‘We should start to have a dialogue with people now’
Green councillor Claire Miller backed the idea of a congestion charge and called for the discussion of how it should work to begin now. She said: “It would be helpful if, as a city, we have a conversation about congestion charging because there are so many different ways in which it can be done and so many ways it can have an effect – and everybody's vision of it might be slightly different.”
She suggested a “wider-ranging, less formalised” discussion before any formal consultation took place. “I think we should start to have that dialogue with people now and start to talk about what does congestion charging offer the city, why are we talking about it, what are we trying to do with that tool.”
Edinburgh residents voted against a congestion charge scheme in a referendum in 2005, rejecting the plan by 74.4 per cent to 25.6 per cent. The proposal then was for a two-cordon scheme in force Monday-Friday, charging drivers £2 a day, with an outer cordon, just inside the city bypass, operating during the morning rush hour and an inner one around the city centre from 7am to 6.30pm.
The SNP manifesto for last year's city council elections proposed a congestion charge for commuters driving into the Capital. It was to involve a flat-rate charge of £2 or £3, applying at peak times only, but with residents of the entire Edinburgh local authority area exempt. After Cllr Arthur became transport convener in the new Labour minority administration, he set out ambitious aims to increase capacity on bus routes from outside the Capital into the city centre and warned that if commuters still insisted on driving rather than taking the bus once the bus routes had been improved, they might have to pay a congestion charge.