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15/02/2013 11:37 | By Ian Dickson, senior editor, MSN Cars

Why the congestion charge won’t stop me

The congestion charge is 10 years old and in that time has risen from £5 to £10 a day. One man who drives in London explains his reasons for taking the car.


The congestion charge is 10 years old and in that time has risen from £5 to £10 a day. One man who drives in London explains his reasons for taking the car. (© AP)

Every day I pay £10 to travel 500ft in London. The roads surrounding our base in Victoria are primarily outside the congestion zone – except for one side road where the car park is.

That princely sum adds up to £50 a week, or £2,500 a year, and that’s before the cost of fuel and other related expenses.

So why do I, like thousands of other motorists, pay a significant amount of money to effectively torture myself with the wretchedness of driving in London? It’s hardly a pleasurable experience grinding along in first gear in constant tailbacks for up to three hours a day.

Not much difference in price between car and train

But what are the options? Public transport. Pah! I live out in the wilds of Hertfordshire, several miles from a train station, and by the time I have paid for parking and bought a season ticket there really isn’t a huge difference in cost.

It takes about the same amount of time, too – on average one hour 30 minutes door-to-door regardless of the mode of transport.

At least in the car I can relax in relative comfort, with a stereo full of music and chat and a chance to mull over the day ahead in private, instead of crammed into a barely cleaned carriage with other despair-racked commuters, many of whom haven’t had a wash that morning.

In the car, I can also sit down and, when there are delays, listen to the radio for traffic bulletins. With train delays you are at the mercy of the overhead signs and the driver’s ability to press a button and speak into a microphone. Some are better at this than others.

Once in London commuter mode people lose track of themselves

People reckon driving in London is stressful, but have you ever tried travelling in London at peak times on public transport?

In the car you don’t feel like part of the rat race. You’re spared the anxiety of fellow rail users who clamber dispassionately over one another in the rush to get to their desks on time. I’m sure they are nice individuals but once in 'London commuter mode' people lose track of themselves.

A typical journey might include a rough push from the person behind, being cut up by the fast-walking pin-striped suit next to you, and tripping over the suitcase-wheeling, confused tourist, who will stop without a moment’s notice causing you to clatter straight into them.

Don’t get me wrong – I think the congestion charge is a total scam and doesn’t contribute one iota to reducing congestion. If it did, why base the levy on a car’s carbon dioxide output? But to avoid the alternatives – namely travelling by public transport – I’ll happily continue to pay a tenner.

Ian Dickson is the senior editor of MSN Cars. Follow him on Twitter @MSN_roadtester

SO WHAT DO YOU THINK? HAS THE CONGESTION CHARGE STOPPED YOU DRIVING IN LONDON? SHOULD THE CONGESTION CHARGE BE ROLLED OUT TO OTHER UK CITIES? TELL US IN THE COMMENTS SECTION BELOW AND JOIN THE DEBATE ON TWITTER WITH #SOCIALVOICES...

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