Travel in London is slower now than in 1912, with the volume of traffic at unprecedented levels. London’s growing population and its public transport systems bursting at the seams give rise to a nice little earner to justify making us pay for the freedom to move around.
The “consultation” exercise around a further river crossing in London has begun. Should there be another bridge or another ferry linking East to South East London? A bridge was first mooted under Ken Livingstone’s mayoral period and then sabotaged by Tories and Green politicians. A new ferry would sink the existing Woolwich Ferry which Greenwich Council, the Royal Borough, has a statutory obligation to provide free.
So a new toll bridge or a new charging ferry? Whichever way you look at it, the travelling public are going to be made to pay. A new toll bridge has given rise to Transport for London insisting on charging at the existing Blackwall Tunnel so as to ensure, in their ludicrous argument, that a fair balance of travel occurs between a free ride and a toll booth.
Similarly, central government wants to extend toll charges to all motorways and major highways. In fact, what they want is the technology installed so that every car is centrally registered for electronic payment or pre-pay arrangements, as already exist in London and other cities with congestion charge areas.
Toll booths and turnpikes were destroyed in the 17th and 18th century as this shackle on mobility was rejected by the workers of Britain. We must reject this latter-day attempt to privatise the roads and pavements beneath our feet. ■