Erin Baker discusses the future for London motorists under Sadiq Khan

Erin Baker discusses the future for London motorists under Sadiq Khan
Former motoring editor at the Telegraph, Erin Baker, discusses London mayor Sadiq Khan's appointment and what effect this may have on the capital's motorists.

Forget politics. I’ve lived in London for 16 years, 11 of those as a motoring journalist, and Sadiq Khan seemed initially to be the first London mayor with a personal background suited to understanding the capital’s transport woes.

I don’t blame the others; what a logistical nightmare and political hot potato trying to sort London’s road network must be, not to mention an utterly thankless task. We’ll see how Khan fares (pun unintended); so far, with last week's announcement of a new T-charge for the "most polluting vehicles" entering the congestion zone, it's not looking great for motorists - best not to mention Bernie Eccleston's hopes of bringing Formula One racing to the streets of London to them yet.

The state of traffic Mr Khan is inheritting is so bad that RAC public affairs manager, Nicholas Lyes, has likened it to travelling at the speed of horse-drawn carts in some areas urging the new mayor to tackle congestion as a means of priority.

His background was enough to offer a small chink of hope: he served as Transport Minister in the last Labour government (remember them?), working on such dubious schemes as Crossrail but, more significantly in my book, his dad drove the Number 44 bus in London.

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That alone will have given him a firsthand view both of London’s public transport system and also its road infrastructure.

Which, bluntly, is a nightmare. Let’s get one thing straight: no one in their right mind now drives through the capital for pleasure, with the possible exception of Bahrain playboys keen to strut their gold-plated Aventadors outside Harrods. 

Ordinary motorists take on the capital through necessity. They might be key workers, operating outside of public transport hours (night buses are not the safest or most frequent option), or delivery drivers, or, like me, workers who need to shift company cars between the office and home.

I drove from Putney to Canary Wharf, where my office at The Daily Telegraph was, for seven years. As a test driver for the newspaper’s Motoring section, I had no choice but to take cars back and forth.

A nine-mile journey could easily take two hours in rush hour. Then the congestion charge came along, and the roads were slightly quieter, but at a cost to local businesses, and me personally of a tenner (now a staggering £11.50 a day). Where on earth is the fairness in penalising those who have no choice but to drive through the capital?

I was hoping Khan would agree, but here hope begins to fade: the revenue is clearly too tempting, so the congestion charge stays as static as the traffic it’s meant to free. Not only that, but he has announced a new levy on top of the congestion charge: a T-charge for those with the worst emissions - an extension, really, of the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ), proposed to start next year.

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