Late road toll payers to face parking-style fines
DRIVERS who fail to pay Edinburgh’s planned congestion charge will be treated less harshly than in London - but still face penalties of £30 if they forget to pay the £2 toll by the day after they pass through a cordon.
Motorists who do not pay by midnight on the day after crossing a charging cordon will be treated like parking offenders - and receive a fine demand on a sliding scale: 30 if they stump up within 14 days, rising to 60 within 28 days and, after that, to a 90 charge certificate. Any appeal would have to be made within the four weeks. If fines remained unpaid after a further two weeks, the debt would be passed to sheriff officers for recovery, whose own costs could be added to bills.
In London, the fines for the same periods are higher - 50, 100 and 150 - and motorists have to pay by 10pm on the same day they cross the cordon or the 5 charge immediately rises to 10. However, penalty notices are sent out to drivers in London, which will not happen in Edinburgh until the charge certificate is issued after 28 days. This has led to criticism that simple forgetfulness can lead to a hefty fine - and that congestion fines are not like parking tickets, where there is immediate physical proof of an offence.
If the Edinburgh scheme follows the pattern of tolls in the English capital, such fines could account for nearly one-third of total charging revenue.
No non-exempt driver will be spared from charging in Edinburgh, with the council likely to pursue non-paying tourists and Festival visitors with as much vigour as residents.
Citizens will receive no discounts, unlike in London, because the charge is levied on inbound traffic, not vehicles driving within the two cordons. In London, residents inside its single cordon receive a 90 per cent discount because they pay to drive within it.
As in London, there will be no "honeymoon" period once charging starts in Edinburgh, which will be in the summer of next year at the earliest - if the city votes Yes in the referendum starting a week on Monday.
Motorists would be confronted with warning signs as they reached the edge of Edinburgh, within the city, and at each charging cordon point.
As they drove through these, cameras would photograph vehicle number plates, but there would be no barriers or toll booths. Drivers could pay the charge daily, monthly or annually, by a variety of methods - ticket machine, online, text message, phone, post or in shops. These are the same as in London.
Discounts could be offered for season tickets - London is considering giving three "free" days for monthly pass holders and 40 extra days for those with annual passes. The only dispensation in Edinburgh will be for residents of the rural west, such as Balerno and South Queensferry, who will not have to pay to cross the outer cordon, inside the bypass, operating from 7-10am. The inner cordon, around the city centre, would operate from 7am-6:30pm.
However, charging could be lifted between Christmas and New Year, as it was in London for three days last month.
The 29-31 December suspension, which will be repeated this year, followed calls from residents and businesses, and resulted in no extra traffic.
Edinburgh City Council said it would launch a major publicity campaign to inform drivers how it would work if the charging were to go ahead.
Transport for London (TfL), which oversees the city’s charging scheme, said some 6,200 penalty charge notices were now being issued per day, compared to 8,000 when charging started nearly two years ago.
Some 110,000 charge payments are made every day, with nearly one-third being made through shops - the most popular method.
A TfL spokesman said 70 per cent of drivers paid within four weeks, with some 10 per cent of cases being referred to bailiffs and the remaining 20 per cent being contested. Up to 10 per cent of unpaid charges were eventually written off, he added, as the vehicle owners could not be traced - though foreign cars are pursued by a European debt recovery agency.
In the first year of the London scheme, 50 million of the total 165 million charging income came from penalty notices. The scheme cost 85 million to run, leaving 80 million for transport improvements.
The Edinburgh scheme is expected to cost nearly 20 million a year to run, and generate 38 million a year for transport projects.
One in eight residents will be unable to vote in next month’s referendum on the issue because they failed to register for the postal vote after opting out of the main electoral roll to avoid junk mail.
A total of 42,000 of the city’s 291,000 electorate - or 14 per cent - will be without a vote, after a publicity campaign prompted 16,000 to re-register.
Meanwhile, there was confusion last night as pro-charging campaigners prepared to put up hundreds of posters on lamp-posts urging a Yes vote.
They said they believed they had permission, but the city council said no dispensation had been issued. Illegal posters can incur fines of 1,000.
The debate has aroused fierce passions and divided Scotland. Nine days before the congestion charge vote, where do you stand?
Post: Letters, The Scotsman, 108 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh, EH8 8AS.
No - I don’t believe there should be a congestion charge. Small businesses and shops in Edinburgh are dying as it is, due to the unreasonable parking restrictions in former bustling local shopping areas. Morningside is just one example of where businesses are failing because customers can no longer park and do their shopping. If you want to kill off inner-Edinburgh small businesses go ahead with your charges!
I am against congestion charges as I feel it is just another way of raising taxes from the people of Edinburgh and Scotland. None of the proposed changes to public transport have been put into place to reduce congestion, so to charge beforehand is just madness. Put the proposed changes in first, then when people are assured they can travel into the city without their cars, charge those who will not use public transport. To implement the charges now is just raising taxes.
The people will not believe the present government until changes are in place. The people also need to be assured any monies raised in the future will go to making necessary changes and not in other areas where there may be a shortfall.
I feel that congestion charging in Edinburgh would create an additional tax on local commuters and increase the degeneration of Edinburgh’s inner-city shopping, which would be a cumulative deterrent to tourists visiting the city.
I think congestion charges should not be enforced in Edinburgh. I have to travel into work every day by car for my job and to add these charges on would significantly increase my costs.
Although I could get public transport this would add another two hours on to my journey time which I do not think is reasonable.
Pain in the neck
I live in London and was a supporter of the concept of the congestion charge here. However, in reality it is a serious pain in the neck, because so many of us get punished disproportionately if we are forgetful in not paying immediately.
The penalty charges are ridiculously punitive here and deeply resented by many drivers, and it is simply not easy enough to pay. If we do not pay by midnight on the day of travel, we get slaughtered with fines. Furthermore, the administrative processes within the agency charged with the penalty notices and payments are wickedly slow and incompetent unless you pay electronically by the internet or a pre-arranged mobile-phone procedure. The penalty notices arrive by post many days after the date printed on them, and if you make the mistake of sending payment by post, they take days to open the envelope and days to pay the cash in. By the time the money hits their account, you can easily be past their initial deadline and they come after you for an additional penalty charge.
One colleague recently received a visit from two heavyweight bouncer-type bailiffs with a demand for several thousand pounds.
Our experience has been that remonstrating is frustrating because you get formulaic responses a week or so after you write.
If you are going for a congestion charge in Edinburgh, make it easier for honest, willing citizens to pay on time. When I was last in Oslo, you tossed coins into a bucket to raise a barrier to drive into the central area. In France and the US, the toll system for motorways works fine. In London the charge is a licence to print money for penalty collection, and the administration is deeply hostile to drivers as though we are all criminals.
This must stop
There is NO way Edinburgh should have a congestion charge. Do we not already pay the government and local council enough with taxes on fuel, car purchases, income, council tax, tax on purchased goods, and every other little thing that the government can think of to screw the honest worker out of in Scotland. This regimented way of living has got to stop.
Salamander St, Leith
As a sufferer from the London congestion charge, residents of Edinburgh would be mad to go ahead with such a scheme.
It was argued before the London scheme was put in that it would subsidise public transport, but in fact the net revenue has turned out to be peanuts (hence the proposal to increase the charge to 8!). No doubt exactly the same will happen in Edinburgh.
Also, it has not reduced pollution as many people expected, and is a nightmare to use, with innumerable people incurring penalty charges which have been wrongly claimed.
In fact, it takes longer to pay the charge than most people save in time from the reduced congestion.
Do the right thing
Edinburgh can carry on like Glasgow and allow its streets to be increasingly congested with traffic that then causes air pollution to rise, affecting public health locally and climate change globally.
Or it can set an example and take concrete action to reduce the number of smog-spewing vehicles, while improving not only the attractiveness and efficiency of public transport but also the ambience of the city.
Do the right thing.
Denbrae Street, Glasgow
I accept there is some congestion in Edinburgh, but not nearly as much as in other UK cities (eg Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle). The current level of congestion could be reduced if the council took action to end poor parking and inappropriate closure of traffic lanes. On Sunday, two eastbound lanes of Earl Grey Street were closed to allow "window cleaning". One lane in Semple Street has been closed for months by a construction company’s hut. Long-term double parking is rife (Leith Walk and Polwarth particularly). Sainsbury’s vans regularly block a lane at the Lothian Road end of Morrison Street. Edinburgh residents will know of many similar instances. Pollution could be significantly reduced if engines were turned off when buses were stationary.
Finally, the proposed charge will not reduce congestion - at best it will merely shift it to other areas of the city.
Economic tools for reflecting the true cost to the environment caused by today’s consumerist society are absolutely needed. But I feel firmer information is required regarding the area to be included; for instance, excluding the new parliament from the congestion zone would, I imagine, fuel a justified civil uproar. After all, our taxes pay for the building and the salaries of those working there, why should they also pay for the MSPs to commute free?
Have drive-through city centre users been considered? Having worked for a construction company I had to drive through Edinburgh city centre frequently to audit sites. Would I have had to pay the charge?
I believe a strict "no car zone" with enhanced public transport links and free peripheral parking are what Edinburgh centre really needs. A limited number of licences should be available for justified applications by people who must access the city centre by car. Naturally, this would not apply to emergency services and doctors on call, who would have 24-hour free of charge access regardless.
It is grossly unfair to introduce a charge while the state of public transport into and through Edinburgh is in such dire straits. Trains into the city from the west are dirty, overcrowded and very unreliable, buses are infrequent and dirty.
I see councillors "aim" for performance targets so the average wait for a bus should be no more than ten minutes. Do they spend ten minutes waiting for buses when they need to get somewhere?
Charges are set at 2 initially; look at London, due to go up from 5 to 8. Local politicians cannot be trusted to keep the initial charges for any length of time. They always think we have an inexhaustible supply of money. We don’t - and all the money they have comes from us. I understand Edinburgh City Council intends to introduce trams? What century do these people live in? Trams are inflexible and expensive.
Both my grandfathers were miners. My father was a fully paid-up member of the Labour Party. This government has taxed and taxed me and my family to the point that I have no more to give. I would vote for Maggie Thatcher if I thought that it would oust arrogant New Labour local politicians.
A straight no
Definitely no to congestion charges.
The Shore, Leith
Passing on the cost
I have to work in Edinburgh on a regular basis and I will have to pass on the cost of this charge to the customer. It already is the most expensive place in Scotland to work due to the excessively high charges for parking.
I already inform the customer the amount due for parking will be added to their bill. The congestion charge will also be added.
War on drivers
The city council foolishly declared war on the motorist some years ago. Not only are they forcing businesses like mine and my clients to relocate outside the city, but they make it difficult for me to come back to the city when I have business meetings there. If they had the integrity to put an realistic alternative in place prior to charges, they might make it work. Even Ken Livingstone has warned them not to rely on it as a money-making scheme, but only rely on it to do what it is supposed to do - cut traffic.
BRIAN G BLACK
Blame it on the buses
I’m all for a congestion charge ... on the slow procession of buses that congest Princes Street, travelling at 2km a hour churning out diesel fumes. The rest of town doesn’t need a charge.
West End, Edinburgh
A roundabout way
In my opinion, congestion in Edinburgh has been created by the proliferation of street furniture, traffic lights at every junction and narrowing our wonderful main thoroughfares. This traffic control has resulted in logjam. Take the new "no left turn" from Dalry Road on to the Glasgow Road at Haymarket; you have to go through four sets of lights to get back to where you started. If all traffic lights at four-way junctions were replaced by mini-roundabouts, the city would be free of congestion and there would be no need to raise tax by the introduction of a congestion charge which will ruin business and do nothing to improve the overall traffic movement. Count the number of times your journey is halted, and you will soon see where the real problem is.
Can plan help me?
I’m in favour of reducing the terminal problem of one-person, one-car that all city commuter traffic seems to suffer from. A reduced cost for car pooling would be a reasonable concession within the congestion charging framework. I’d also like to see a comprehensive integrated transport scheme in a reasonable timeframe. I do not want to wait at bus stops forever. My midweek journeys are a little more than house to work and back again. They usually consist of an evening trip to a training venue, the furthest being Hillend and Colinton. If I am to leave my car at home and use public transport, I need to be able to get from Leith to Fairmilehead in 35 minutes. Currently, this is barely achievable - will it become achievable with this initiative?
Quicker to walk
I walk from Churchill to my work in Tollcross. After 8:15am, the traffic is so congested I can get to work quicker walking than by bus. I have seen static queues of traffic stretching back down Morningside Road. The fumes can be unpleasant for walkers but cars aren’t totally to blame. On a day, when motorists were blamed for congestion on Princes Street, I was waiting for a bus at the West End. There wasn’t a car in sight but almost total congestion caused by two solid lanes of buses!
Many drivers, including myself, leave Edinburgh, drive along the bypass then re-enter Edinburgh. If tolls are introduced, drivers will start using roads just within the outer cordon - leading to a large increase in traffic. I am worried about my daughter’s safety as she crosses such a road when she walks to school and I don’t understand how anybody (especially the Green Party) can support a scheme which increases traffic on residential roads.
Tryst Park, Edinburgh
Time running out
On the same day your newspaper launched the congestion charging debate, you had a story "Time running out for Earth". It stated: "Global warming could reach the point of no return in as little as ten years, and urgent action is needed now before it is too late."
This is surely an argument in itself for congestion charging - better air, a cleaner environment and the biggest investment in public transport since Victorian times. Yes, opponents of the scheme may say it is the wrong scheme or too early, but I do not see the saving of this planet as starting tomorrow but yesterday.
The Lib Dems are supposed to be the party of the environment, but I see their stance as being more about votes at the next election than the health of this planet and the children and families of Edinburgh. As a Lib Dem voter for 20 years I am ashamed to even be associated with them. Let’s back the scheme, cut congestion and make Edinburgh a pioneering city where we all contribute to a better environment.
Lothian Road, Edinburgh
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