The Evening Standard splashes today with an exclusive that the Mayor of London Boris Johnson has abandoned his pledge to scrap the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge. It quotes Kulveer Ranger, the Mayor's transport advisor, as saying that ditching the extension was now just an "aspiration."
But City Hall has responded with a robust denial. In a statement Kulveer Ranger says:
"Boris Johnson has promised to abolish the Western Extension of the Congestion Charge and he will do so next year. This was a central part of his manifesto, and is in accordance with the wishes of Londoners as expressed in a detailed consultation last spring. The details for the date of removal are being finalised, but there is absolutely no suggestion that this policy is being dropped."
The denial comes as a relief – not least to my borough of Hammersmith and Fulham. Any backsliding would have been a great source of dismay after the consultation showed overwhelming support for the extension to be scrapped. Well I remember the excitement last November standing in Portobello Road market and hearing Boris proclaim:
The people of London have spoken. We have listened. In the words of General de Gaulle 'Je vous ai compris'.
Boris adds in an email:
You may have heard the scurrilous rumour that I have reneged on my promise to remove the Western Extension of the congestion charge. I am writing now to tell you that is emphatically not true.
When I was elected, I promised to give Londoners the consultation they never got. Londoners expressed the overwhelming view that it should be removed, and I promised to honour that judgement. I maintain that promise today, and to make it absolutely crystal clear; we will be
removing the Western Extension next year.
We have to jump through a number of tedious bureaucratic hoops before the axe can fall, but fall it will. The extended zone will be no more. It will be an ex-zone, the area formerly known as. It will be a dead zone!