London Mayor Sadiq Khan defends congestion charge increase

London Mayor Sadiq Khan defended the increases in the congestion charge during a fiery debate on Good Morning Britain today.

On reintroducing the congestion charge and making it more expensive, he said: “Last Thursday, we reached a deal with the government... like other transport authorities we have been using our reserves to pay for our services because we have seen far fewer passengers… one of the conditions from the government was for us to immediately reinstate the congestion charge and the ultra-low emissions zone… and to widen the scope and level of charges. So, I am required to do so as a condition of accepting the grant and loan from the government.” 

Asked why the government has denied this, he stated: “The government says we have to widen the scope.”

Pressed on who set the extended pricing and hours, he replied: “It’s TFL, it’s us.”

On whether essential workers would have to pay the charge, he said that some health and care workers would be exempt but that all others essential workers would have to pay.

When Piers asked: “Is anything that goes on in this city that is actually your fault or is it always somebody else’s fault?”

“I’ve got to answer your questions honestly”, said Mr Khan. "You’ve asked me questions, I’ve tried to respond to. The buck stops with me, I’m the Mayor of London. One of the reasons I’m calling for an independent public inquiry is for all these issues to be examined, not just with the benefit of hindsight but in real time. But I’m frustrated Piers, by the lack of power I have. I want more powers and more resources.”

On whether track and trace will be up and running by 1st June, he said: “Well it’s crucial, the problem is so far the track record of the government making promises and keeping them is not great. In London, we have a window of opportunity because it appears the numbers of people testing positive is quite low. This provides an opportunity to test, trace and isolate, and support those who have the virus.”

He said this approach had been going on before it had been abandoned. He continued: “This is the only way to properly get on top of the pandemic. I’ve spoken to colleagues around the world and it’s quite clear you must have an effective test, trace and isolate support procedure in place before you can lift lockdown.”

Talking about people being on the beach in droves, he said: “We are still in lockdown, lockdown has not been lifted." He said people who have symptoms have to get access to a test very quickly.

Asked about people on packed tube trains, he explained: “There are going to be challenges but what we’re seeing in Seoul, which also has a very high population, bigger than London, it’s possible to do it but the key thing is to make sure the tests are done. You’re right we need the app working as well but also, in places like tube carriages or the beach, it’s very difficult to work out who you’ve been in contact with. That’s why you’re right, the app can provide a really important tool to do so because we don’t know the strangers we might have been in contact with… the app is part of the response.”

He added that we were still in lockdown and we shouldn’t have a “false sense of security”.

Quizzed if it was safe to go on public transport, he added: “As long as you keep your social distance, it is safe.”He explained they had enhanced the cleaning regimes across London’s public transport.

Challenged on politicians hiding behind scientific advice and on the number of deaths of bus drivers, he replied: “29 have died… we are protecting all our staff, all our bus drivers.” 

He said world leading experts were currently reviewing everything that they are doing to oversee whether they could do more.

Mr Khan was then quizzed about how anyone on the tube can reasonably be two metres away from other passengers. He said: “What we have been doing in London is making sure we are ahead of the curve in relation to the country… the measures on public transport in London are over and above the measures across our country or other parts of the world… to reassure myself but also Londoners, is why this independent work has been commissioned which will report within the next two or three weeks… we have to learn in real time.” 

He said they would be looking into the link between why these bus drivers have died but on the immediate report, he said: “To examine our measures, has what we’ve been doing so far been good enough, if not what more should we be doing and whatever they recommend we will be doing that.”