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Last Updated:  Tuesday, 25 February, 2003, 10:19 GMT
Ken's charge: The verdict
Since last Monday, motorists driving into central London have had to pay a 5 congestion charge. Now the dust has settled, how has it been received?

In the run up to the congestion, we asked four London commuters for their views on the controversial tax. Now the dust has settled, have those views changed?

NAME: Roger Winston
AGE: 55
OCCUPATION: Advertising producer

The maths is simple: since the congestion charge started, Roger has saved about 20 minutes a day driving to and from work. That's 100 minutes a week, at a cost of 25.

Not bad value, some might say. But Roger believes the school half-term has helped relieve congestion and journey times aren't much different to a typical school holiday.

He says he has been unfairly penalised for two reasons: he works only just inside the congestion boundary and he suffers from a condition that prevents him from standing for long periods, as he might have to on public transport.

We'll see in a couple of weeks if it's really helped traffic flow
Roger Winston

Unfortunately, he says, the condition is not enough to earn him a disabled badge, and therefore exemption from the charge.

"We'll see in a couple of weeks if it's really helped traffic flow but I'm still very unhappy about it. I'm going to try again to get a disabled badge for my car."

NAME: Jamie Owens
AGE: 36
OCCUPATION: Taxi driver

It's still too early to tell whether the charge has been a success or not, says Jamie. The half-term holidays straddle two weeks, so he thinks the picture will only become clearer next week.

"The traffic has been very light, but that's always the case during school holidays. And from what I hear, the Tubes and buses haven't been busier than normal," he says.

Jamie says he is still sceptical about the zone even though, as a cab driver, it promises plenty of benefits. His main concern is it will shift traffic jams to the perimeter roads.

"Last Thursday there was a dreadful snarl up around Marble Arch where the zone starts so this could be a taste of things to come."

NAME: Brian Simmons
AGE: 28
OCCUPATION: Software consultant

Brian Simmons' daily commute across town has not only become quicker, but safer as well. The motorcyclist, who travels from Islington, in the north of the capital, to Wimbledon in the south-west, usually threads his way through traffic jams to speed his journey.

But even slow-moving traffic can be dangerous, especially if drivers are distracted. Last week, however, the roads inside the congestion zone were gloriously empty, says Brian, who, as a motorcyclist, doesn't have to pay the charge.

"I'm really quite pleased with it. It's going swimmingly. I'm saving about 20 minutes to and from work each day," he says.

But he is worried by stories in the media about drivers trying to evade the charge.

"I've not seen one of those mobile camera units so far and I've heard people are dusting over their number plates to avoid the 80 fine."

NAME: Maria Eggleston
AGE: 45
OCCUPATION: Restaurant chain manager

"I will always hate him," is Maria Eggleston's verdict on London Mayor Ken Livingstone, one week after his congestion charge came into effect.

Maria's normal 90-minute commute from Woking, Surrey, to her office in the City was cut to about 70 minutes last week. But the credit, she says, should go to school holidays and not Mr Livingstone.

"It's been bad for our restaurants. Monday it was like a morgue. It's driving people out of town. One of our clients is moving out to avoid the charge."

On the positive side, Maria has had no problems paying the charge and it has freed up parking spaces near her work.

But in future she plans to save money by spending more time working from home.




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