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Charges calculated to drive out London cars

MOTORISTS ENTERING central London could face tolls of £7.50 and a 200% increase in public parking charges by 2008 if new recommendations are accepted by the planned Greater London Authority.

The stark proposals are part of a package of jam-busting measures published today by the London Planning Advisory Committee.

A workplace parking levy of £5,000 a year and massive re-allocation of road space to buses and cyclists are also advised in the group's report Reducing road traffic in London.

The measures hope to cut traffic by up to 40% in central London, 25% in inner London and 5% in outer London. They are the result of a 10 month study commissioned by LPAC - the London boroughs' statutory planning committee - and carried out by transport consultants Halcrow Fox and the South East Institute of Public Health.

LPAC assistant chief planner for transportation Keith Gardner described the traffic reductions as 'mind blowing', but claimed that urgent action is needed to save the capital from gridlock and meet National Air Quality Strategy targets, in force from 2005.

'People have to know that if they don't reduce road traffic drastically they will never get the benefits of improved air quality and quicker travel times,' he said.

The report calls for government endorsement of the LPAC approach and says that road user charging and workplace parking levies should be implemented at the 'earliest possible' opportunity. Its key recommendations include:

Increasing public parking charges over the next two years and extending parking zones.

Introducing a central area cordon charge and workplace parking levy in 2003.

Extending cordon charges between 2003 and 2008 with cordons at the inner ring road, the North and South Circular Roads and the Greater London boundary.

Beyond 2008, replacing the cordon charging scheme with a more complex Londonwide congestion charging scheme.

Charges would be phased, with the central area charge starting at £2.50 in 2003 and rising to £7.50 by 2008. An outer area charge would be set at £2 in 2008.

The proposals are open to public consultation until 31 March. They were welcomed by environmentalists but given short shrift by motoring organisations. AA policy director John Dawson described the report as well meaning but ill thought out.

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