Cardiff’s congestion charge slammed as ‘politically convenient’ for only charging drivers living outside city
Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Cardiff’s proposed congestion charge has been slammed as “politically convenient” for only charging drivers living outside the city.
The so-called ‘road user charge’ would see a fee, perhaps £2, paid by drivers to come into Cardiff. The money raised would be invested into public transport in the city.
Cardiff Council suggested the idea last year as part of an overhaul in the city’s transport network, with major investment in public transport like new trams and bus services.
But opposition councillors have criticised the idea of only charging those who don’t live in Cardiff, calling for more to be done to reduce short private car journeys within the city, and pointing out a lack of accountability: drivers affected won’t be able to vote for councillors in Cardiff.
Councillor Emma Sandrey, Liberal Democrat shadow cabinet member for transport, said: “We still seem to be coming from the point of view of just charging people who are coming into Cardiff rather than people who live in the city.
“How is this supposed to tackle short car journeys which are more easily able to be replaced by cycling, walking and public transport?
“It doesn’t sit very well to charge people who don’t live in Cardiff to pay for Cardiff’s transport infrastructure. It sends a message that the problem is people coming from outside into Cardiff, rather than the behaviour of people living in Cardiff that needs tackling.
“Obviously it’s politically convenient just to charge people who live outside of Cardiff who don’t vote for us.”
Road user charging was debated on Thursday, February 25, by councillors during a cabinet meeting.
The council has not yet decided to bring in the charge, but the idea is currently being studied. The charge is aimed at tackling climate change, reducing congestion, and improving air quality. About 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions in Cardiff come from transport.
Council bosses consider commuters driving into Cardiff daily more of a problem than short journeys by car within the city, and also easier to replace by trains and buses.
Cllr Caro Wild, Labour cabinet member for transport, said: “It’s still very early days. We’re undertaking a study into it. One thing we have said absolutely is to do with social equity, to make sure that things are fair.
“People coming from outside and people coming from inside of Cardiff are very different journeys.
“A commuter journey, often taking the same journey each day where there are alternatives, is a very different thing to people in Cardiff who might be going around doing more day-to-day journeys or shorter little trips.
“I don’t think it’s a fair representation to say that any people from outside of Cardiff will be funding the transport infrastructure in Cardiff. That’s not what we’ve said at all.
“We’ve said that any funds raised should be hypothecated against making sure that those journeys are easier to make by public transport, including things like new bus services from different parts of the region.”
The road user charge was one of many suggestions set out last year in the council’s ambitious transport white paper.
Before the pandemic, about 100,000 people commuted into Cardiff each day, according to the white paper, with 80,000 of them by car. Half of Cardiff residents drove to work, less than a fifth used public transport, and 37 per cent walked or cycled to work.
By 2030, the council wants just a quarter of Cardiff residents to drive to work, with a third using public transport, and 43 per cent walking or cycling.
But the decision to bring in road user charging is still some way off yet, and it remains just a proposal. The white paper suggested it would not be brought in until 2024.
Council leader Huw Thomas said: “There has been no decision at all taken on congestion charging, and even when the idea was put forward within the transport strategy, it was as a possibility alongside other options to raise the necessary funding to invest in the public transport infrastructure we wish to see in Cardiff and in the city region.
“But there’s an awful lot of road to travel before any decision is made.”