Tag Archives: Congestion Charge

Smeed’s Law

With a name like Reuben Jacob Smeed one could be forgiven for thinking that he’s a Dickensian character. In fact Professor Smeed devised a formula which advanced a theory, much derided at the time, of how London’s traffic would always travel at 9 miles per hour. Using the formula [below] Smeed’s Law calculates that when traffic speeds fall below this magical number of nine drivers’ patience evaporates and alternative modes of transport are sought.

[I]t was Smeed we can now blame for the Congestion Charge when he chaired a committee which recommended road pricing in 1964, it was finally introduced into London in 2003 when average speeds in the capital rose from 8.7mph to a blistering 11mph, but only for short duration before it declined to its optimum 9 miles per hour.


Now for 50 years his theory has stood the test of time, that is, until the rebuilding of London’s roads, a project so vast and far reaching it has not been equalled since the Second World War.

In its annual traffic score-card INRIX found that Londoners wasted more time in traffic than any other European city: 101 hours in fact. The nearest European city was Stuttgart, in Germany at a mere 73 hours. Even Los Angeles, a city where other forms of locomotion have passed it by, scored 81 hours.

So has Smeed finally been defeated by Boris? Are there just no viable alternatives to driving now that the elusive 9mph has been breached? The A2203 Blackwall Lane northbound registers an average of 3.8mph in the morning rush hour, with Tottenham Court Road close on its heels at 3.9mph. In fact the 10 slowest roads in Britain, all scoring fewer than 5mph are to be found here in London.

Fare Trade

So the Western Extension Zone Congestion Charge has been abolished and from my cab I say not before time. The City and West End still retains this punitive toll which to enter the zone the charge has been raised considerably higher than inflation by a whopping 25 per cent. The original area covered, the City and West End, has a fairly low number of domestic dwellings, while the Western Extension considerably more homes than businesses are to be found.

[B]ut when the Western Extension Zone came into force residents of Chelsea and Fulham could drive their Chelsea Tractors throughout London by only paying this annual nominal charge. As a consequence the West End has slowly ground to a snail’s pace and all the benefits promised by Ken Livingstone when he bravely introduced the scheme were lost. Buses and cabs had fewer passengers as more people started using their own cars.

Now since Christmas, even with the best endeavours of the utility companies to produce the interminable road works, we seem to be able to drive again through the City unimpeded to the benefit of every professional driver who works in that area. The £50 million of annual revenue that Transport for London are expected to lose will soon so doubt be clawed back from the Citizens of London one way or another, but for me that’s a fair trade off to be able to drive again in London.

The Congestion Charge seems to have had another unexpected benefit; anecdotal evidence suggested by Sebastian Shakespeare, writing in the Evening Standard, has emerged from enforcing the Congestion Charge. He put forward his belief that there was a correlation between lower burglary rates and the introduction of the Congestion Charge in Chelsea and Fulham. Areas of London covered with enforcement cameras have seen a significant decrease in burglary being reported and in the City, where almost every street is covered, crime of this nature is almost non-existent, although some might argue the crooks are working inside the City banks and not outside.

At this rate Boris might get my vote in 2012, even though he has threatened to take my cab off the road due to its age, at least driving around London promises to be a more pleasant experience.