Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Introducing a congestion charge makes real sense

By Murad Qureshi (China Daily) Updated: 2016-06-08 08:06

Now the geography of Beijing, with its various ring roads, would lend itself very easily to congestion charging in the London form. A congestion charge zone could be introduced within either the Second or Third Ring roads at the beginning and then be extended outward depending on the success of the scheme and the public's acceptance of it. Collection of the daily fee can be done by phone (mobile and landline), electronically or by cash depending what the authorities feel is appropriate.

As in London, in order to win public support, the funds raised from the congestion charge will have to be seen to be reinvested in public transport and walking and cycling initiatives. Some exemptions or at least a discount rate might have to be granted to residents within the charge zone and vehicles such as taxis. This is only right and proper as residents within the zone need to be able to continue their lives. In London, residents within the charging zone get a 90 percent discount, while taxis are exempt, as they are considered part of public transport.

The time period in which the charge applies also needs to be determined. At present in London it is maintained during the day from the start of the morning peak to the end of the evening peak, allowing traffic that would otherwise pay the charge to enter the city at night and on the weekends. This was set through public consultation in London and again helped to receive the public support.

A congestion charge can be put into operation very quickly using simple technology such as closed-circuit television at the entry points off the ring roads and camera enforcement using a database of car licenses as we have done in London. More sophisticated beacons can be adopted as used in Singapore.

Implementing a congestion charge, or another variant of road pricing, will improve the quality of life for Beijingers. This should be the icing on the cake, on top of the outstanding investment already undertaken by the authorities into the transport sector and would be consistent with the Chinese government's focus on people-centered and scientific methods of development.

The author is a former chair of the London Assembly Environment Committee.

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