AFTER four months Ken Livingstone's much-derided congestion charge for central London has led to a reduction in the number of cars of 38 per cent and of 20 per cent overall, including vans, lorries, buses and taxis. The critics of this bold and imaginative scheme are now having to shift their attack to other targets. It would be remarkable if a project of this size could be implemented without side effects. Many of these are trivial and will be corrected in due course, but others are more serious. For instance, a survey of some 500 small retail businesses inside the zone by the London Chamber of Commerce has shown that just over half of these had experienced reduced takings since it was introduced. and one-quarter said they were considering a move to premises outside the zone. It is also already clear that because of its success the revenue from the charge will fall some £3 million below expectation; this is important because the money raised will be invested in improved public transport. Mr Livingstone is aware of these factors and will no doubt consider how the terms and conditions of the congestion charge need to be adjusted to take account of them. He will also have to give careful consideration to his plans for extending the area of the zone in the future. But, overall, he has good reason to be pleased with the outcome of this pioneering project.


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