The charge was introduced to cut traffic levels in central London by forcing commuters out of their vehicles and onto public transport. And it seems to be working. In the first week, 20-25% fewer people than usual drove into the central London zone.
The problem, however, is that contractors have no choice but to drive into central London. There’s no alternative means of transport for a subcontractor if their tools are so bulky that they fill the back of a Transit van.
The costs to the industry are deceptively large. Joe Vice, strategic transportation director of the Corporation of London says that the charge could add £50,000 to the cost of a typical central London project. The concrete trade association Construct says that with administration costs the charge would cost its biggest members a minimum of £800,000 a year, rising to £6.4m if contractors fail to pay their fines on time.
It could soon be getting even more expensive for contractors. Ken is looking at increasing the charge zone to Chelsea and Canary Wharf, and other city councils will soon adopt congestion charging if the London scheme continues to reduce traffic.
An array of contractors, specialists, unions and clients such as strategic forum chief Peter Rogers are already backing our campaign. Skanska director Keith Clarke says that the charge will stymie development in Central London. “It’s effectively a logistics tax, and it’s inconsistent with the policy of increasing density in the inner cities,” he says.
Paul Corby, national construction officer at M&E union Amicus, says the charge would have a huge impact on small firms that employ people on relatively low wages.
The failure of the industry to lobby before the implementation of the scheme has not helped construction’s case. Joe Vice, strategic transportation director of the Corporation of London, said that nobody in the building industry had contacted him before the charge was implemented. He says that the industry would have had a good case if it had found its collective voice a little earlier in the year.
So construction is now desperate to make up for lost time. National Federation of Builders chief executive Barry Stephens has lobbied for concessions through the Construction Federation, which he says is holding talks with Transport for London about possible exemptions and discounts.
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