£5 Congestion Charge in Cambridge Abandoned

Though campaigners are cautious that the Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) could come back in another form at the next election.
£5 Congestion Charge in Cambridge Abandoned
A young woman walks through the streets of Cambridge, England, on March 30, 2021. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
Owen Evans

A proposed £5 congestion charge on cars in Cambridge has been dropped amid a lack of political support.

On Thursday, a proposal for Cambridge's Sustainable Travel Zone (STZ) that would have cut the number of car journeys within the town by 50 percent was dropped.

The proposals would have seen car drivers pay a daily fee of £5, van drivers £10, and lorries £50 to enter the zone or drive in the city between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays.

The £5 daily charge would have raised £26 million a year to pay for future funding for the bus network as well as infrastructure for walking and cycling.

'Unfair or Punitive'

In a public consultation, some people said the charge would be “unfair or punitive," with 58 percent of respondents opposing the charge.

Local residents also pointed out that this will impact the local economy, as well as key workers accessing employment.

After a meeting on Thursday, Greater Cambridge Partnership (GCP), a body of elected representatives from local councils and university and business representatives, said it is now not taking the proposal forward.

Elisa Meschini, chairwoman of the board, said: “It seems completely clear from the debate that’s gone on that we are not in a position to recommend that the county council receive the scheme for further work.

“As a result that recommendation today will not be made,” she said.

She said there are “problems in our region, we’ve got to fix them,” adding: “Those who say we absolutely can do that, then step up your game.”

Labour councillor Mike Davey, of Cambridge City Council, said that “four weeks ago the South Cambs Lib Dem group made a decision” not to support the congestion charge proposal.

He said it was “pointless proposing something that could not possibly happen” so did not feel the proposal should go forward to the county council.

Andy Neely, university representative on the GCP, said: “I think it’s clear there’s not political consensus at this particular point in time.

“It’s a shame the politics have got in the way.

“This is, as we talked about, a controversial thing.

“I think when you look at the data and the number of people in the younger generation that supported the proposals, the comment made earlier was that in 10 years' time people won’t necessarily thank us for this.

“But at this particular moment it seems to be there’s not enough consensus to go forward,” he said.

Cars Off the Road

Kieron Johnson, leader and chair of the Cambs Against Congestion Charge group, told The Epoch Times that this was good news, but was he cautious as he believed the scheme could come back in another form after the next election.
This year, he launched a petition to call for a referendum against the scheme as he and the group believed the STZ would cause “untold hardship and inconvenience for the majority of our community” within the city and beyond.

"I don't trust the GCP, I do believe that they will come back with something. They very much want cars off the road," he said.

Howard Cox, London mayoral candidate for Reform UK and the founder of the Fair Fuel UK campaign told The Epoch Times that "one by one these senseless purely anti-driver policies will fall by the roadside."

Mr. Cox is running on a campaign to scrap London Mayor Sadiq Khan's Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) zone.

"Shame it is taking an imminent General Election for the Prime Minister to recognise UK’s 37 [million] drivers vote," he said.

"It is time for the government to step in and overrule green political idealism with a pragmatic sensible long term road user strategy. Now that would be a first," he added.

A GCP spokesperson told The Epoch Times by email: “The GCP Executive Board collectively decided that while the aims of Making Connections to make travelling in and around Cambridge simpler and faster by saving time and money, would have eased congestion and offered better, fairer, and greener travel choices, the Sustainable Travel Zone is not able to progress to a Full Business Case due to a lack of political consensus."

PA Media contributed to this report.