IT is instructive to see how quickly the central London congestion charge on motorists has been accepted despite the initial protests against it and the subsequent complaints by shops and other commercial operations that it was affecting their income.

As with other radical changes, such as the pedestrianisation of streets and areas once dominated by vehicles, the advantages are quickly recognised by the users of the streets and local businesses.

London's mayor, Ken Livingstone, and his Transport Commissioner, Bob Kiley, have seen the technical success and wide acceptance of the congestion charge and are now planning to extend it to other areas adjacent to central London, such as Kensington and Chelsea.

There will be a fuss which will die down when the benefits are felt. More significantly, they are planning to introduce a new kind of charge for badly congested roads and town centres outside central London; the North Circular Road and a busy interchange centre such as Hammersmith are examples.

The charge for driving in these areas would vary according to the time of day and the route used while the technology would be based on roadside beacons that read tags on the windscreens of passing cars.

The system has recently been tested in East London and proved to be successful. Mr Kiley believes it is a more practical form of charging than the use of satellite monitoring favoured by the British government which he thinks is at least ten years away.

Unless public transport is exponentially improved in all cities, the increased use of road charging is inevitable everywhere.
By Monitor.