Public Consultation on Congestion Charging

Well if you didn’t look at my old post on the Scottish Public Consultations then you’ll probably have missed the all important paper from the Scottish Executive on Congestion Charging.

At the moment the Consultation refers to the three sets of Regulations that the Scottish Executive are planning to adopt as general Regulations for Councils to adopt as they see fit. It doesn’t go into too many details and doesn’t tell us what plans are in store for Edinburgh, but it is interesting to hear about the general plans for implementation and how the systems will operate.


The consultation paper was due for completion today, or yesterday if you printed out the instructions! In it they were asking three questions:

Are there any other circumstances in which the registered keeper should not be liable for the charge? What is your reasoning for this?

Do you agree with the procedures that we have specified to enable road user charging schemes to enforce payment of penalty charges? If not, what procedures would, in your view, be more appropriate and why?

Do you agree with the duties on charging authorities that we propose in these regulations? If not, what would be a suitable alternative and why?

Congestion Charge Consultation

With all the proposed Regulations being quite general, there was not a lot to be said without starting to think about specifics, well from my point of view that is. So the night before it was due, in typical school exam fashion, I decided to get the answers sorted and sent them in first thing, rather rushed, but I think I got my points across.

Question:

Are there any other circumstances in which the registered keeper should not be liable for the charge? What is your reasoning for this?

Within the regulations it implies that vehicles that are left stationary within the zone may be liable for penalty, however if the vehicle has not been driven into that zone during a charging period, it should not be liable for charges, as parking a vehicle is not adding to any congestion. If it is parked illegally, then it should be dealt with as any illegally parked vehicle, not under the congestion charging regulations.

A vehicle exiting a zone to either an unregulated area (i.e. the area outwith all congestion zones which incurs no charges for the entry to or exit of) or another lower rated zone (i.e. if there are multiple areas defined with varying charges from the city centre to the unregulated area outwith the city) should not incur a charge.

The vehicle would be deemed as leaving an area of congestion or moving in an opposite direction to the central zone, at some point they would have had to enter the zone, and if this entry was at a time when charging was in place then a charge would already have been made. Taking a second charge upon leaving the congestion area and thus reducing the perceived congestion would be an advantage and not one to be penalised with a further charge.

Charges would be best made either at entry to a higher charged zone than the one the vehicle has travelled from, or should be made in the direction of the commuter traffic, i.e. entering in the direction of the central zone during morning business hours.

Vehicles should not be charged for leaving the zones. In the case of a person leaving the city, they are taking their vehicle out of the perceived congestion and reducing the number of vehicles within the congestion zones, which is what these Regulations are attempting to do. In such cases they should be allowed to do so without penalty.

This would allow for those who live inside a zone and are travelling out of the Congestion Charging, i.e. in the opposite direction to the centre zone and the concentration of traffic, to not be penalised for simply moving their vehicle. This would clearly be seen as another tax on owning a vehicle and not the use of it. For those who use their vehicles little, and for leaving the city from their homes, this would incur heavy charges when they are seen to be alleviating the perceived congestion.

A big concern would be for local business owners who should not be liable for their regular deliveries if their shop is located within a zone. These cases should be treated as any owner who lives within a zone, and they should be exempt from charges against their deliveries of stock, or deliveries to customers. Penalising local businesses would have a negative affect and perhaps move them from the city.

Obviously, public transport including Taxis, Council vehicles (on Council Business such as Works, Environmental Services, etc) excluding Public Office, Executive and Ministers, all Emergency Service vehicles and members of the Emergency Services travelling to and from their workplace, should all be exempt and no charges made.

Question:

Do you agree with the procedures that we have specified to enable road user charging schemes to enforce payment of penalty charges? If not, what procedures would, in your view, be more appropriate and why?

If it is clear that vehicles are exempt if they are parked and only break this Regulation when they pass the barriers of a zone heading towards the central zone without paying the appropriate charge, then this would be deemed a Police matter. If the car is then discovered, then the vehicle could be uplifted and charges for uplift, storage and return could be made by the Company in authority, would such a situation provide enough funds to make this a viable solution and to assist in recouping the costs of the scheme?

If vehicles vehicles that are parked within the chargeable zone would be liable for charging under the Regulations, they would not only be liable for parking fines, but also the congestion charge, and could mean that either authority could uplift this vehicle and demand a further payment for uplift, storage and return. If this were the case then the authority previously responsible for uplift of vehicles under contravention of Parking Regulations would then begin to lose vehicles, and therefore funds, to the new and competing authority. The question would then be raised if this was enough for both authorities to co-exist.

However, the proposed penalties seem very similar to those of the penalties in place for illegally Parking, and it would seem that keeping these two penalty systems identical would assist the Registered Keepers of vehicles in understanding and adherence.

Question:

Do you agree with the duties on charging authorities that we propose in these regulations? If not, what would be a suitable alternative and why?

Recovering of all operating costs through the scheme does suggest that the cost for Congestion Charges would be quite high, if we assume that the number of vehicles breaking the Regulations would be low, then the Authority would have to recoup their costs through the zone charging. To do so for all the equipment, road signing, etc required would require a large amount of funding, none of which seems to be made by the Executive.

In the case of the London Authority, the equipment required has been offset by the charges and a high number of vehicles travelling through the zones and paying the charges. It would be a concern that the same equipment and resources would be required, albeit on a slightly smaller scale, but with much less revenue being generated from vehicles entering the zones.

Interestingly I received an extremely prompt letter to say that my response had been received and that I was allocated a response reference. I hope this isn’t made up of a sequential number given to each respondee, if so it appears I was the 23rd respondee, and that was one day before the closure of the paper.

Now, if I see anyone complaining about the Congestion Charge, I can cite that very fact! Still, it would seem that we have the referendum to go through and perhaps another consultation on the detailed points, one would hope so anyway, so these shouldn’t be the only responses. If they are though, then there’s only 23 people in Scotland who have spoken about their views on Congestion Charging to the Scottish Executive!

On the referendum, I picked up a leaflet on the bus about it. It appears if you have opted off the public version of the Electrol Register you will not be contacted for the referendum. I would have assumed that any such Government related task such as this would be allowed access to the complete Register, but not so, they will be using the Register which is freely available to all members of the public and private Companies – this is the list they use for mailshots. Just something to bear in mind if you want to be included.

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