Livingstone wins road toll battle

MOTORISTS can be charged £5 to drive into central London, a court ruled yesterday, in a landmark finding that will boost plans to levy a toll on drivers entering Edinburgh.

Westminster Council lost its High Court battle to block a project by Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, to introduce congestion charging in the capital in February.

The council had joined forces with a local residents’ association to mount a 3 million, six-day appeal against the plan.

It claimed the congestion charges would push traffic out to surrounding residential London boroughs, increase air pollution and breach residents’ human rights by adversely affecting the quality of city life.

With the support of Kensington and Chelsea Borough Council, it had hoped Mr Justice Maurice Kay would rule against the Mayor’s decision and halt the plans because there had been no public inquiry or environmental assessment.

It clears the way for Edinburgh City Council to proceed with its plans to charge motorists 2 to enter the city.

The council claims its two planned toll cordons around the bypass and city centre would raise 50 million a year and cut chronic congestion in the centre of Edinburgh.

The plans are now out to consultation involving 250,000 people and questionnaires have been distributed throughout the Lothians and Borders area.

Transport experts at Edinburgh Council claim that a majority will back the scheme when they see the proposals in full.

Mr Livingstone welcomed the High Court ruling. He said: "We now look forward to being free to proceed with addressing the problems of congestion in London without the distraction of legal proceedings."

Green groups welcomed the court decision. Paul de Zylva, campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth, said: "Reducing car use and providing clean, efficient and affordable alternatives are essential if we want to get the capital moving and ensure that London remains a world-class city."