With the pronouncement from Transport Secretary Alistair Darling that Britain will be gridlocked in the next 15 to 20 years unless widespread measures are put in place and the apparent success of the congestion charging scheme in London it seems only a matter of time before towns and cities like Brighton also embrace a charge to enter the city centre.
After a year in the job Alistair Darling has been put in the embarrassing position of having to admit that the governments 10 year transport plan is so hopelessly off track that it will be rewritten - a fact that has long been evident to those with an interest in transport planning. One of the key planks of the policy was to cut congestion by 6% but it now seems almost certain that congestion will actually have increased by the end of the plan period in 2010.
Although political leaders in Brighton have in the past ruled out congestion charging the rhetoric has now softened to it being considered as a package of measures that could be considered in the future. Central government is keen to let local authorities use the powers granted to them in previous transport legislation to introduce discretionary tolls on a town by town basis rather than introduce national guidelines that would compel all urban centres over a certain size to introduce congestion charges.
This could mean that more responsible authorities introduce charges which simply drive motorists to other competing centres that have avoided them. There would also a problem with out-of-town shopping centres like Lakeside and Bluewater where the major attraction of ample free parking would be enhanced by comparison with tolls to enter city centres.
If Brighton & Hove adopts city centre charging it would have to be part of a major overhaul of transport both within and outside the city
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