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Bus firms call for congestion charging to get cars off the roads

Bus operators tell MPs London-style congestion charging should be extended across the country so there is more room for buses on the roads

Bus operators say car drivers should be charged to use the roads, in a bid to cut congestion.

They told MPs that cities and towns should introduce a congestion charge similar to the one operating in London, to get cars off the roads.

And they suggested that employers could be forced to charge their own staff for using company car parks.

The proposals came from bus firms Arriva and Stagecoach in submissions to the House of Commons Transport Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into urban congestion and how to cut it.

Arriva operates buses in Sutton Coldfield and Erdington, in Birmingham, as well as Walsall, Cannock, Telford and Stafford. The firm also runs buses in Wales, the North East, Yorkshire and Hertfordshire.

And it told MPs in a written submission: “London’s Congestion Charge has helped to facilitate a significant modal shift of people from cars to buses. Other cities should look at the experience of London in developing road pricing measures as part of a holistic anti-congestion strategy.”

It also suggested the that a workplace parking fee introduced in Nottingham should be extended to across the country.

“Schemes such as workplace parking levies can deliver sizeable improvements to journey times in urban centres. Nottingham’s Workplace Parking Levy, which has placed a modest charge upon the use of commuter parking places, has proven particularly effective in reducing traffic levels and raising revenue for further transport improvements.

“The scheme’s success is due, in part, to the fact that any proceeds are invested directly back into public transport in the region. This in turn has encouraged people to make the modal shift from using their cars to using public transport.

“More local authorities should adopt workplace parking levies to help manage road space and contribute to the further development of integrated public transport solutions.”

"Urban congestion creates serious problems for the operation of bus services2, says bus firm
"Urban congestion creates serious problems for the operation of bus services2, says bus firm

It added: “Given the scale of the urban congestion problem, Arriva urges local and devolved government to seriously explore this option and for central government to remove any barriers that may be preventing them from doing so.”

Arriva said action was needed because traffic congestion was affecting bus services.

It told MPs: “Urban congestion creates serious problems for the operation of bus services and the disruptive effects it has on passengers, businesses, high streets and communities are considerable.”

Similar warnings came from Stagecoach, which operates buses in Warwickshire, Coventry and Worcestershire, as well as other regions of the country.

Stagecoach managers told MPs: “In some areas some system of congestion charging / road pricing may well be necessary. Measures such as increased parking regulation, more control over taxi operations, bus lanes and signal priority, will be required almost everywhere.”

The firm admitted the policies would be unpopular but said they should be bought in anyway, telling MPs: “The measures needed to tackle this issue will not be popular or easy to deliver. Hence the very first and most vital requirement will be the political vision and will to genuinely tackle the issue.”

Traffic congestion near The Scott Arms in Great Barr.
Traffic congestion near The Scott Arms in Great Barr.

Stagecoach also warned that road congestion was damaging bus services, telling MPs: “Increasing congestion levels can only create a vicious circle for bus services of longer journey times meaning rising operating costs, fewer passengers, hence less revenue available for investment, leading to more cars on the road, creating a further increase in congestion.”

London’s congestion charge was launched in 2003 and the standard daily fee to drive a car into central London in working hours is £11.50.

The Transport Committee, which includes Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs, is looking at possible ways of managing urban traffic, including bus priority measures, road-pricing, parking schemes, cycling and walking infrastructure and trams.

It is considering evidence and will publish its conclusions in a report later in the year. The Department for Transport will then look at the findings and publish a response.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced he was offering councils £690m to cut congestion and get local networks moving. They will be invited to bid for a share of the cash.

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