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In three months’ time, London goes to the polls to elect its next mayor. In a year rich with consequential elections, the mayoral vote has received surprisingly little attention. Sadiq Khan, the two-term incumbent, has let Londoners down badly on crime, disorder and public transport, and has chosen to wage war on motorists. A third Khan term would surely lead, among many other poor decisions, to more restrictions on law-abiding road users.
Despite Labour’s huge lead in the polls, a Khan victory is still not inevitable. Both Ulez expansion and low traffic neighbourhood (LTN) initiatives have already shown they are unpopular enough to overturn electoral expectations in swathes of the capital. If the Conservative Party puts all of its attention and resources behind its candidate, Susan Hall, it still has time to run a winning campaign.
The latest evidence that Khan would intensify his war on London’s motorists even further can be seen in Project Detroit, which is being developed at a cost expected to reach £150 million. Project Detroit is designed to bring in-house the technology for running existing road-use charging schemes. Worryingly, it is being designed to allow for the system to be repurposed in the future to operate a pay-by-mile road-pricing scheme across London.
Road pricing is, in theory, an efficient way to charge motorists for the infrastructure they rely on. Schemes in France, Florida and Singapore have all shown its potential. Yet it only works in the hands of administrators who want to keep traffic flowing. In the hands of an eco-zealot and divisive class warrior like Khan, it would inevitably be used to set punitive rates designed to drive motorists off the streets altogether.
Khan has vowed that road pricing will not happen while he is mayor. Yet he cannot be trusted to keep his word, as he has already shown by reversing course on Ulez expansion.
A new term for Khan would embolden his worst instincts, and be a disaster for London’s motorists. Tory HQ needs to find a new gear.