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2004 World Technology Awards Winners & Finalists

Mayor Ken Livingstone

Please describe the work that you are doing that you consider to be the most innovative and of the greatest likely long-term significance.

Central London had historically suffered from one of the worst levels of traffic congestion in the United Kingdom. Average traffic speeds were less than 10 miles per hour throughout much of the working day. This congestion was damaging London's economy as people and goods spend unnecessary time in traffic rather than in productive activities. This congestion worsened the environment of London and made conditions unpleasant for other road users, in particular for walkers and cyclists. Something drastic needed to be done.

As new roads generate more traffic and in any case it is completely impractical to build new roads in such a densely developed area as London, a novel solution to rectifying this problem was required. As part of his 2000 election campaign the Mayor put forward his proposals for the central London congestion charge.

The scheme relies on people purchasing the charge, which can be obtained from shops and petrol stations, over the phone, via the web, 100 pay stations in car parks or by mobile phone text messaging. We also provide a fleet scheme used by 11,000 fleet vehicles per day. Their registration number is entered onto a database for that day. The scheme is enforced by cameras, which record the vehicle registration mark of all vehicles entering the zone. These are checked against the database of those that have paid, and if the registration mark is not included the owner of that vehicle will receive a fine. The technological issues in providing an efficient, reliable and integrated payment, monitoring and enforcement system were immense. However, it was essential for this to work well, otherwise it could jeopardise the scheme itself, and given the world-wide scrutiny of this initiative, could lead other towns and cities deciding not to take forward similar schemes for their areas.

The scheme has been an enormous success. No other transport scheme has had such a positive impact on the traffic of a city. Detailed monitoring of its effects has been undertaken, with the key impacts being:

• An immediate 30% reduction in congestion within the charging zone, which has been sustained since • An 18% reduction in traffic entering the zone, with the number of cars down by a third • An encouragement of other modes of travel - both cycling and travel by bus is up by 20% • A 60% reduction in delays to buses due to traffic impacts and a 30% improvement in overall bus reliability • A 12% reduction in emissions of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) and fine particles (PM10) • A reduction in road accidents (although too early to quantify) • No detrimental traffic impact on the boundary road or surrounding areas • On-street surveys show that people perceive the charge to have improved the environmental quality of the area

The lessons we learnt for the successful introduction of Congestion Charging were:

• The political commitment from Ken Livingstone, the Mayor was essential. • Consultation was genuine with a readiness to amend the scheme in the light of reasonable representations. • Public transport, especially buses (as we did not control the trains), was greatly improved. • *Traffic management was utilised to ensure the inner ring road around the zone ran freely. • Residential parking restrictions were introduced where it was thought motorists might park just outside the zone. • Extensive public information using most media (including local radio and TV) to inform motorists of the practicalities for how to pay the charge and also to keep the public informed on progress. (We did not want the communication channels swamped on the first day with motorists asking basic questions). • First class project management.

A key test of the scheme's success is the degree to which the public support it. Ahead of the introduction of the charge there was a massive and sustained media campaign against the charge, although the balance of public opinion remained fairly even, with around 40% for and 40% against the charge. After 6 months of its operation almost 60% were in favour of the scheme compared with around 25% against. Probably the best test is that on 4 June 2004 Ken Livingstone was re-elected Mayor of London for another 4 years with more votes than previously and a margin of 11% above his main rival who threatened to abolish the Congestion Charge.

Brief Biography

Kenneth Robert Livingstone was born in Lambeth in 1945 and educated at Tulse Hill Comprehensive School. After eight years working as a technician at the Chester Beatty Cancer Research Institute in London, he entered Phillipa Fawcett Teacher Training College, qualifying in 1973.

He was a Labour member of Lambeth Council between 1971 and 1978, holding the position of Vice-Chair of the Housing Committee from 1971 to 1973. From 1978 to 1982 he was a member of Camden Council, where he was Chairof the Housing Committee from 1978 to 1980.

In 1973 he was elected as a Labour member of the Greater London Council. Ken was Vice-Chair of Housing Management from 1974 to 1975 and was elected Leader in 1981. He remained Leader until March 1986 when Margaret Thatcher abolished the GLC.

From 1987 to June 2001, he served as Labour Member of Parliament for Brent East. He served on the Northern Ireland Select Committee after Labour's election victory in 1997, and was a member of the Greater London Authority Bill Standing Committee.

Livingstone was elected as member of the National Executive Committee of the Labour Party representing Constituency Labour Party members between 1987 to 1989, and again from 1997 to 1998, after which Members of Parliament were not able to stand for election in this section. He was expelled from the Labour Party in March 2000 when he stood as an Independent candidate for Mayor of London and was elected Mayor of London on 4 May 2000, with 58 per cent of votes cast - 776,427.

Ken Livingstone was readmitted to the Labour Party in January 2004 and selected as its London mayoral candidate. At the election on 4 June 2004 he was returned for another 4 year term with 55.4% of the votes cast -- 828,380.

Ken has never feared being unpopular if he felt that the cause was a worthy one. He has shown this on numerous occasions over his political career, the most recent of which of course being his leading role in getting the Congestion Charging scheme on to the street and making a difference. He has written two books, “If Voting Changed Anything They'd Abolish It” (1987) and “Livingstone's Labour” (1989).