The congestion charge cometh

Slipped out, under the radar, via that popular local publication Builder and Engineer, city council leader Helen Holland yesterday announced she intends to introduce a congestion charge in Bristol.

Brave Helen made the announcement to an exclusive audience of about three Labour activists and a couple of trade magazine hacks hundreds of miles away from Bristol at the Labour Party Conference in Manchester.

Is she hoping that this extremely controversial policy announcement will get lost among the endless guff, much of it generated by her own council staff, about the Cabot Circus opening?

This entry was posted in Bristol, Congestion charge, Labour Party, Local government, Media, Politics, Transport and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to The congestion charge cometh

  1. BristleKRS says:

    1: Planes/buildings
    2: Dead royals

    * Adds ‘opening of shopping parade’ to list *

  2. Chris Hutt says:

    The most interesting part of the report is “Manchester’s (TIF) bid heads towards a referendum in which the congestion charge element of the proposal is likely to be rejected. This would ensure the TIF money would be withdrawn.”

    The same has happened in Edinburgh and the same may well happen here. But HH & her retinue may be hoping the increased congestion from Cabot Circus on top of the seasonal increase will persuade people that “there is no alternative”.

  3. woodsy says:

    I think you’re being slightly unkind to HRH Helen of Holland about the (lack of) media coverage. The story was also covered in that mighty organ of the Bristol media, New Civil Engineer. 😉

  4. nick foster says:

    As someone with experience of living in London’s conjestion zone, I’d welcome it too.
    Shame that it looks like “Worst Late Western” are to continue to provide our totaly inadequate bus service.

  5. Des Bowring says:

    I haven’t any stats about the efficacy of the Congestion Charge in London – is it working i.e. succeeding in cutting traffic? If so, then it must be the right thing to do here in Bristol!

  6. I am in favour of congestion charging but such a controversial policy should not be ‘announced’ in this way.

    It does not help to make the case for congestion charging. We need an open, honest debate about all the issues related to it but this looks (and probably is) sneaky.

    I dont suppose there is another hidden announcement somewhere about the tripling of investment in local public transport, pedestrian and cycling facilities is there?? Thought not.

  7. Greengage says:

    I think it’s broadly a good thing (although will probably be monumentally arsed up by Holland and crew).

    The Greater Manchester scheme is going to spend “up to 3 billion” on transport improvements. The congestion charge isn’t going to be introduced until 80% of these improvements are in place. Could anyone really argue that a scheme like this would be bad for Bristol?

    [Awaits 43 comments arguing just that…]

  8. Dona Qixota says:

    On the subject of the hideous blight that cars put on our lives, streets, countryside and whole society …

    Local researcher and blogger, Josh Hart, has looked closely into one aspect of what the current domination by the infernal combustion engine is costing us.

    “Interviews with residents indicate that growing motor traffic has forced people to make major adjustments in their lives, to shield against the nearly constant noise, pollution, dust and danger outside their front doors. Many residents revealed that they experience sleep disturbances, no longer spend time in the front of their homes, and curtail the independence of their children in response to motor traffic. “Our 4-year-old girl has a constant cough and we limit the amount of time she spends outside…we’re constantly breathing in pollution,” said one father …”

    Yet more evidence to back UCL’s Prof John Adams work on excessive mobility and the social breakdown it causes, which impacts especially badly on the poor.

  9. I’m certainly not going to be one of the 43 commenters saying congestion charging under such circumstances will be bad for Bristol!

    That the public transport improvements will mostly be done before congestion charging is introduced in Manchester is in its favour. If the same is likely for Bristol that’s great and likely to enhance numbers supporting congestion charging.

    There is certainly an argument about whether the investent in public transport will be sufficient and whether resulting systems are sustainable and of good quality. ‘Up to 3 billion’ for Manchester is a very dodgy way for them to phrase it.

    The reported bid for £1.4bn for Bristol and Bath may sound a lot at first but when you consider that Bristol’s public transport spending has for years only been half the average of similar cities then you start to think again. For me we need an increase in spending on sustainable transport which is several times current levels (‘tripling’ or perhaps even more if it can be found) – is the £1.4bn figure of this order??

  10. Chopper says:

    It’s all a bit arse about face really…

  11. Ella says:

    I’m from London, but I spend week days in Bristol. The congestion charge in London is fantastic. Brilliant. Ken Livingstone is my baby. However, in Bristol it would be criminal. The bus service is unforgivable. I actually have stopped going out during the week because I can’t afford the bus! I’m stuck up in Patchway (eww) and it’s dreadful. The point I’m trying to make is unless Bristol’s transport system is made affordable, MUCH more affordable and much more regular (when I first waited for a bus in Bristol I texted all my chums my absolute horror) then a congestion charge is not acceptable. You basically cannot in any way, shape or form attempt to justify a congestion charge with Bristol’s transport as it is.
    To be honest, Bristol deserves a better transport system regardless of congestion charging. Fix up transport massively FOR THE PEOPLE, then try and tax them for it after it is seen as worthwhile. Why should Bristol be given better transport on a condition? It’s an insult to Bristolians.

    Also lol at Cabot Circus + Recession + Congestion Charge= lolwtfbbq. Srsly.

    Allow Bristol.

  12. steve meek says:

    Well said Ella.
    In fairness I think even the congestion charge’s most bonkers advocates agreed that massive improvements in public transport must come first. To my mind it is still a regressive tax unless something really radical is proposed like making the buses free with the revenue raised. Do the numbers add up? People say not but it appears there is billions available for BRT!
    Frankly unless a rabbit that attractive is pulled out of the hat, congestion charging isnt going to happen in the foreseeable future, for the simple reason that the overwhelming majority of Bristolians will vote out any politician who publicly advocates it. As happened in Manchester in May.
    Unfortunately our great leaders think that being brave and forward thinking is massive distastrous engineering projects such as BRT or new roads (partly because HMG hands out funds in such a way as to ensure it all ends up in the coffers of big business).
    Even with such radical proposals as free buses, the devil is still in the detail…if my street in montpelier was just outside the zone, as I suspect, we would find outselves living in a hell hole….with or without residents parking. For free buses, I still might vote yes though…

  13. SteveL says:

    Steve Meek makes a point: if you are on the edge of the zone you suffer; you get the parking of people not wanting to enter, and all your journeys in one direction incur a charge. People who live further out can actually drive around much more conviently, as long as they ignore the billing zone. This is why Edinburgh imposed a two-tier system: anyone driving inside their ring road got to pay a bit, anyone entering the centre got to pay more. For bristol, having a CPZ ring around the charge zone is probably a prerequisite. Speaking of which, I hear people in Kingsdown may be in favour of becoming residents only.

  14. SteveL says:

    I should add that Edinburgh voted against the C-charge. Only London has it; Manchester is on the way -but they have working trams already. The TIF bidding process which lots of the BRT money was being sought under implied that you had to include congestion charging to get your bid accepted. Maybe Bristol Council have realised this and will include it in the bid for the Chocolate Path that will be due by the end of the year.

  15. Chris Hutt says:

    Manchester are also going to have a referendum on the TIF proposals and it looks as if the congestion charge element will get rejected, in which case they won’t get any of the TIF money.

    I’d expect much the same to happen here.

  16. Bluebaldee says:

    The only reason that Holland slipped her announcement under the radar via the august pages of the New Civil Engineer is that she knows that the imposition of a Congestion Charge in Bristol would be as popular as drowning a basketful of kittens in the College Green fountains.

    A Congestion Charge COULD be a good idea, except, as Ella and Vowlsie rightly point out, massive improvements have to be made to our public transport before one is introduced.

    So, will this happen? Holland, Bradshaw and Janke have all claimed at various points in the past that a C Charge would not be imposed until such massive improvements were made and until there was “a viable and reliable alternative to the car.”

    These “massive improvements” that will trigger the C Charge are already in the public domain, and have been since April, hidden away in the shockingly badly written transport section of the West of England Partnership website. They clearly don’t trouble themselves with proof reading down at the WEP.

    Here’s what we can expect before a C Charge is imposed:

    Page 3 of this pdf tells us the glorious future in store for the travelling public in our fair city.

    Basically it’s a Bus Rapid Transit route from Hengrove to the Centre and another from the Centre to Cribbs. A new Park and Ride somewhere near the M32 and another in Whitchurch.

    Apart from some extremely vague noises about more carriages on local rail services, that’s it. All £1.4 billion of it, apparently.

    When you consider that BRTs are actually just diesel buses that for a very short length of their route maybe segregated from the rest of the traffic, where in God’s name is the alternative to the car in all of that? They’re don’t even have a plan to reopen the railway line to Portishead.

    The total lack of imagination and the inability to provide an attractive alternative to the car is simply breathtaking – these people are supposed to be transport professionals, for Christ’s sake!

    Of course, these two new BRT lines and the rest of Bristol’s woeful bus service will continue to be run by Bristol’s most hated company, First Group, whose abuse of their monopoly position is simply criminal. If you think that their fares are steep now, just wait until the C Charge is brought in – you’ll have to get a second job just to be able to afford to commute to your first job.

    Contrast this with what Manchester are getting prior to the instigation of their C Charge, bearing in mind they already have the excellent Metronet light rail, competition in their bus service provision, truly integrated transport and much cheaper fares:

    35 kilometres of new line for the Metronet. A BRT from Manchester to Bolton. A fleet of yellow school buses. 30 rail stations to be upgraded. 8 new transport interchanges to be built.

    I’d welcome a C Charge with open arms if Bristol could get just half of that, but no, our cretinous and servile Local Councils are so stupid and spineless they can’t even get a half-decent deal for our city, a city which has had virtually no meaningful investment in its transport infrastructure for a generation.

    In addition, Manchester will get a referendum on the C Charge – will we?

    Holland must explain to Bristolians, not Labour Party activists or journalists from New Civil Engineer, whether or not she will give us a referendum on this bloody ridiculous CON.

    Manchester is getting one in December. Edinburgh had one and rejected a C Charge by 76% to 24% – interestingly they are still getting their Tram system regardless, it’s being built right now. So if anyone tells you that transport investment from a C Charge is the only show in town, they’re simply lying to you.

    Additionally, Liverpool is being invited by the DfT to resubmit their proposals for their proposed tram system which was originally rejected by Alistair Darling when he was Transport Secretary, just like Bristol’s was.

    So why aren’t we resubmitting our proposal for a light rail system?

    Why in Bristol do we always have to put up with 2nd, 3rd and 4th best in public transport?

    Holland’s proposals for a CON Charge are nothing more than that – a gigantic CON.

    There’s no viable alternative to the car, no resulting impact in congestion, and no improvement to our woeful public transport “system”. Just a lot of unahppy people being forced onto First’s rubbish, unreliable and increasingly expensive services.

    Holland and Bradshaw: Either fuck off and come back with a decent plan before you try and foist this laughable proposal on us or preferably, just fuck off and don’t come back.

  17. redzone says:

    nice post bluebaldee, i particularly like the last paragraph!!
    could i suggest you maybe could add . . . . . ” & take the rest of the useless, incompetent tossers in the council house with you!!!”.

  18. Sam says:

    they basicly wont imrove anything unless they get back the money they gave out to do the improving. why should we only get better transport conections when they build some shopping mall in town… why dont we deserve a good bus service anyway. i live all the way out in patchway and the wonderful 75 quite good normally, the odd day absoulte bollocks… has a lot more going from town to the mall than has coming back…… complete mystery.

  19. Greengage says:

    Excellent post, Bluebaldee. If that is all they are offering, it is truly piss poor. Call me naive, but shouldn’t £1.4 billion go a bit further than that? It is hard to imagine there will be a single person in Bristol not under the Labour whip who will support it on those terms.

  20. Trouble is that Helen Holland and Co run the council.

    The poor woman is deluded enough to say that Cabot Circus ‘is a quantum leap’ beyond anyone’s wildest dreams!

    Cant she dream any wilder than shops? There must be socialists from Labour’s past turning in their graves!

  21. Chris Hutt says:

    But it’s the West of England Partnership, not just BCC, who are bidding for the funds. The politics are more complicated and the democratic control relatively weak.

  22. Dona Qixota says:

    Bluebaldee wrote: “The total lack of imagination and the inability to provide an attractive alternative to the car is simply breathtaking – these people are supposed to be transport professionals, for Christ’s sake!”


    Very probing analysis – not just a hobby, surely?

    Cannot say that I share everyone’s optimism that public transport is the answer, however.

    Too many people love their cars. Just watch people washing them lovingly on a sunny day. The car will get you a lot of places, and you’ve got a place to sit and … whatever … out of the rain, relatively private. A place with your music, even video. A space to impress. A great status symbol for showing off. Fun just to drive around, fast as you like.

    And I don’t even have one! But I can see the very strong emotional attachment that many people feel.

    No way are people just going to give this up to travel on a bus, often with annoying, smelly, noisy or just plain insane co-passengers.

    We have one hell of a big problem.

  23. Bluebaldee says:


    Absolutely a hobby! It’s something I’ve felt passionately about for a while now.

    With reference to your point about getting people out of their cars – driving, especially in Bristol, ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

    Offer people a reasonably efficient, fairly priced and generally reliable alternative and many of them will take it. Nottingham’s tram system was a massive hit from the off. Many comparable European cities have a fraction of the congestion of Bristol because they have well-planned public transport networks that people are happy to use.

    I’m not totally against cars by any means – I’ve just returned from taking my family for a lovely short break enjoying the pleasures of the North Devon coast – going by car enhanced the holiday greatly.

    However, the daily commute and other regular, relatively short range journeys should be undertaken using some form of mass transit, not by car.

  24. Dona Qixota says:

    “… the daily commute and other regular, relatively short range journeys should be undertaken using some form of mass transit, not by car.”

    Or by bike, or better still, on foot?

    Thanks for your response, I only wish I could happily share your optimism.

    Time will tell.

    Cars are not only a massive problem when they’re being driven. The huge amount of our space which private cars consume when standing still is also a serious issue – streets clogged with large metal boxes, constricting pedestrians especially children, more and more tarmac being poured onto land that we could be enjoying as greenspace or might soon need to grow food.

    Not to mention the fact that the major energy and resource consumption involved in cars is during the manufacturing process.

  25. SteveL says:

    Edinburgh is not getting its trams through TIF funding, which seems to require C-charging. Edinburgh’s trams (that are leading to a fair bit of conflict with the bike paths that used to use some of the routes) are coming out of scottish office funding. TIF is for England only.

  26. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Will the CONcharge operate on Saturdays as the traffic was stacked up all the way to Eastville roundabout today. If so, could BCC offset the revenue from this against our council tax so Bristol citizens can actually get some benefit from the Carboot Circus?

  27. Chris Hutt says:

    I believe that the congestion charging zone would be inside Bond St (the old Inner Circuit road) so traffic down the M32 and around the perimeter of the charging zone would probably be increased.

    The Carboot circus car park would be outside the zone but other central car parks (like the Galleries) would be inside it. This would also tend to focus more traffic onto Newfoundland Circus unless car park charges are adjusted to neutralise the impact of congestion charging.

    If traffic is regularly backing up to Junction 2 (Eastville) then the new £3 million bus lane that only extends a short distance from Newfoundland Circus towards Junction 3 (Ashley Road) is not going to do much for buses.

  28. Dave says:

    I assumed the M32 bus lane only went to Junction 3 because that was where the bus was going to join the motorway (if you look at where the bus lane “lines up” with the sliproad), plus the fact there isn’t space for one on the overpass between junctions 1 and 2 unless they removed the hard shoulder.

    It’s a shame they couldn’t do this – remove the hard shoulder on the overpass (as it’s only a short distance over the junction 2 roundabout) and extend the bus lane all the way out to a park and ride right by the motorway, so the buses have a long, completely clear lane from the park&ride car park to the centre. It would surely be a huge success. As it stands, I think people will be dubious about using it if either it goes through all the back streets of Easton (and gets caught up in the congestion there) before joining at Junction 3, or it does use the whole motorway, but only has a dedicated lane from junction 3 onwards.

    I cycle to work so I don’t think the congestion charge would affect my commuting. However, whilst the routes I take in the car to see my girlfriend/parents probably wouldn’t be covered I can’t help but feel the traffic would be worse on these routes as people avoid the centre.

    However like most citizens of Bristol my biggest grudge is paying BCC a congestion charge for congestion that has nearly all been CAUSED BY THEM through woeful traffic management and road/junction design, and decades of underinvestment in public transport infrastructure. Charging its residents for its own mistakes is not going to go down well, I feel…

  29. Martyn Whitelock says:

    My concerns are that Cabot Circus could amplify the current traffic congestion at Junction 2 which affects its adjoining neighbourhoods (Eastville, Fishponds, Easton, Greenbank, Stapleton) caused by the hoards of people visiting Ikea at the weekend. It’s very annoying for local people like me who want to use a car to get OUT of the city and into the countryside as there are certain periods (generally 11am to 1pm) when travelling is not viable (unless you just don’t care about adding to the traffic and global warming). Since bus lanes exclude cars and squeeze them into the remaining lane/s the traffic on the M32 could actually get a lot worse for the local residents already affected by the South West’s weekend retail commute. Furthermore, I just don’t see the type of people who Cabot Circus is aimed at leaving the comfort zones of their cars for the sake of a mile or two (especially in our climate) when BCC have built a car park ‘heaven’ into the retail destination (deviously promoted as a multi-use complex which essentially promotes shopping and the consumer ethic).

    Dave – I totally agree; local residents SHOULD be exempt from the CONcharge. We all know the primary cause of traffic in this city!

  30. Chris Hutt says:

    It’s not only Carboot Circus that’s going to clog up junction 2. The Chocolate Factory development at Greenbank will add hundreds of journeys a day to the surrounding roads, particularly Rose Green Road and Royate Hill junctions.

  31. Martyn Whitelock says:

    Chris – absolutely. This peaceful haven of Bristol exists because of the current road restrictions. BCC must be insane to change this and destroy the quality of life there. I used to live at the end of Greenbank Road and what I also liked was the ability to walk around the area in the road, where there’s generally less dogs’ mess! Also, being a pedestrian is quite dangerous these days as there are so many obstacles on our pavements, particularly the plethora of refuse and recycling bins. They are such an eye sore and ruin the visual amenity of our streets too.

    Back to Rose Green Road: I never understood why BCC reduced it to one lane underneath the viaduct (and Royate Hill Nature Reserve), other than to piss everyone off, cause more road rage and make the driving conditions more dangerous. Regards cycling underneath the viaduct – forget it! It’s much safer to use the pavement.

  32. Dave says:

    I’ve been passed some rather interesting information on the CONgestion charge (and other measures!) planned.

    Details on blog.

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