The reintroduction of charging schemes in London will hinder economic recovery, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA).
The Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and Low Emission Zone (LEZ) were all suspended on 23 March when the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, asked Transport for London to help critical workers, including those working for the NHS, get around as easily as possible during the coronavirus crisis.
Natalie Chapman, FTA’s head of urban policy explains, the decision will have a detrimental impact on the sector’s efforts to help re-start the capital’s economy: “Logistics businesses are fully committed to assisting the restart of London’s economy, but today’s decision could actually have a detrimental effect on that work. Cash-hit operators that have not been able to work for the past eight weeks are themselves working hard to recover their own business finances but having to accommodate additional road charges will penalise that growth significantly.
“The suspension of road charging schemes was extremely welcome in helping logistics operators focus on dealing with the COVID-19 crisis and protected many of their livelihoods when the shutdown posed a threat to their future solvency as there was no work available for them to do. To reintroduce road charging without any notice smacks of opportunism on the part of TfL and threatens the green shoots of recovery across London’s economy, while also jeopardising many logistics businesses as they look to work their way out of the crisis and rebalance their books.”
Today’s announcement also includes a proposed increase to the daily Congestion Charge to £15 and extension to the hours of operation to 7am-10pm, seven days a week from 22 June.
FTA members believe these measures have totally ignored the needs of London’s businesses, and will operate as a direct tax on the logistics sector. “The proposed changes to the London congestion charge have completely ignored the needs of London’s businesses,” said Chapman. “How are shops to be supplied, restaurants and cafes to be stocked and the rest of the capital’s economy to obtain the products it needs when those charged with delivering these needs are to be punitively taxed at a time when their own industry is in recovery? Logistics, like the rest of London, is far from back to ‘business as usual’, and the capital’s supply chain should be exempt from these charges.
“The government payment of £1.6 billion to TfL was intended to help the organisation in its own recovery processes, and this should be used to encourage London residents to walk or cycle, creating increased cycling and walking access on roads and, where possible, move people safely back onto public transport, to discourage use of private cars. Logistics operators have been forgotten in this bailout and are being expected to stage their own financial recovery while facing punitive charges at a time when many have been unable to work for the past eight weeks.
The FTA wants enforcement operations to be suspended in the short to medium term, bearing in mind the short notice given to the industry.
“Logistics is a flexible, agile industry and we are certain that in the long-term, businesses will be able to adapt as road charging is reintroduced,” said Chapman. “But to reimpose punitive enforcement restrictions with immediate effect will hinder the sector’s ability to continue to support the capital in keeping people fed and watered and providing the items which the entire city needs to get back on its feet. We are urging TfL to reconsider its decision as a matter of urgency – without this, London’s recovery could grind to a halt as logistics businesses unable to afford to work.”
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