Durham Pioneers Congestion Charge
It was not cosmopolitan London but compact Durham that introduced congestion charging to Britain, though the English capital followed shortly afterwards, on February 17 2003. The configuration of Durham ’s ancient centre, forming a peninsula with access via single-track Saddler Street, had caused problems for traffic management and pedestrian safety for decades. In the 1990s the council began investigating the concept of charging drivers; following legislation in 2000 a toll scheme was put in place, operating from October 1 2002 onwards.
As ever with such changes there has been much grumbling from local traders, unhappy at paying the £2 charge themselves and claiming a decline in passing trade. But there is no doubting the effectiveness of the move in terms of traffic reduction: prior to the installation of the rising bollard that blocks departure until the toll is exacted around 3000 cars per day braved the bottleneck; this has fallen, depending on which source is believed, by between 50 per cent and 85 per cent. Accordingly, the ambience around Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle has become more relaxed for the thousands of pedestrians able to wander in greater safety and comfort around those World Heritage sites.
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