Originally drivers were charged £5 to enter London's road charging zone

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Road tolls prove a success
in cities around the world

By Sherrill Nixon, Urban Affairs Editor, Sydney Morning Herald*

5 July 2006: London’s congestion charge is probably the best-known in the world, but it has not been the most successful. That honour appears to go to Durham, a city in northern England noted for its cathedral and castle. Durham introduced a cordon-based pricing scheme in 2002, the first in the United Kingdom, and a year before London.

Traffic has fallen by 90 per cent since motorists were hit with a £2 (US$3.5) fee to drive in the World Heritage-listed city centre between 10am and 4pm, from Monday to Saturday. In comparison, London's congestion charge has reduced its considerably higher traffic levels by about 20 per cent, and has led to a 29,000 rise in bus passengers going into the city centre during morning peak.

From February 2007, the area that falls under London's congestion charge - which is £8 per weekday for unlimited travel between 7am and 6.30pm - will almost double in size to take in the Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea districts.

Britain's Commission for Integrated Transport released a comparison of 22 road-pricing schemes in 14 countries last month, saying their success had produced a new political confidence in congestion charging.

Its case studies included:
• Singapore: introduced in 1975, the Electronic Road Pricing scheme charges motorists for using CBD roads between 7.30am and 7pm, or expressways between 7.30am and 9.30am.

• Stockholm: a trial scheme levies motorists between 10 and 20 kronor ($1.90 and $3.80) depending on what time between 6.30am and 6.30pm they drive into the city centre. Tolls are collected electronically and revenue is to be used to improve public transport.

• Santiago: motorists using a network of roads pay according to the distance they drive and the time of day. Three levels apply - the basic level (the equivalent of eight cents per kilometre) during off-peak periods, the second level (16 cents) during peak periods and when speeds drop below 70kmh, and the third level (24 cents) when speeds consistently drop below 50kmh.

• Toronto: the all-electronic 108-kilometre 407 Express Toll Route opened in 1997. Charges vary depending on time of day, with peak hours (6-10am and 3-7pm) tolled highest. Heavy vehicles are charged three times as much as cars.

• Oregon, US: drivers pay a charge equivalent to about a cent a kilometre instead of the state's fuel tax. The scheme is being trialled with 300 motorists, who pay the charge when they fill up at the service station, which can read their in-car mileage counting equipment. The state fuel tax no longer raises enough to pay for road maintenance.

*This article was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald on 4 July 2006.

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