Red Ken In Brussels

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Mr Livingstone was in Brussels at a transport award ceremony for the introduction of the congestion charge in London in 2003.
 
The scheme was extended further to West London in 2007, it ensures that the transport network as a whole will benefit from the charge, as by law all net revenue raised must be invested in improving London transport. The city’s transport authority, Transport for London, issued a report in June 2007 stating that the level of traffic of all vehicle types entering the central Congestion Charge Zone was 16% lower in 2006 than the pre-charge levels in 2002. Upon accepting the European Railway Award 2011, Livingstone outlined his philosophy behind the decision to implement such a revolutionary policy.

“The London congestion charge has been clearly effective in encouraging people to switch to public transport and less-polluting alternative modes of transport. Applying the ‘polluter pays’ principle clearly demonstrates the benefits that can be achieved through the proper charging for external effects of road transport, and I encourage other cities to follow.”

Together met with Mr Livingstone after the ceremony for an exclusive interwiew.

Together: What do you think is not going so well in London under the new mayoral administration?

KL: Basically, my successor cancelled all my plans for projects such as the extension of the tram and the light rail system there weren’t contractually committed. So, in four or five years, there is the real danger that we won’t have any projects under way, whereas the projects I began have been finished. A great world city needs always to be innovating, making changes and developing and, if Boris Johnson is elected for a second term, the Mayor elected in 2016 will inherit a system in which there are no projects under way.What do you think about the environmental situation after the crucial meeting in Cancún?

My feeling is that things can get catastrophically worse, politicians are too weak to make the decisions to change the way we live. The most pessimistic scenario is that by the end of this century there will be around ten billion
people on the planet – we have passed the point where we could stabilize at a two-degree Celsius increase, now the
question is whether we can stabilize at three, four, five or six. This is a desperate struggle of which very few politicians seem to be aware – most of the scientists in the field are desperately trying not to scare people, but I think it’s time to alarm the population.

Together: Which politicians are on your side in this battle?
KL: National politicians all over the world are just notdoing what they should be doing, but we have set up an organization involving the 40 largest cities in the world, where Mayors are desperately trying to achieve progress,
because they see the debate as being their own problem, whereas politicians in their national parliaments are busy with passing laws. Mayors all around the world have been often spineless.

Together: So, the key is being close to the people?

KL: La Guardia, New York Mayor in the 1940s said: ‘There isn’t a Republican or Democrat way to speak to the street.’ It’s a fact that, if you are a Mayor of a city, you are so focused on daily administration and problems while presidents and prime ministers are busy discussing treaties and passing laws, so they are not involved in the ‘day-to-day business’.

Together: From an environmental point of view in London, what decisions do you see as being negative?

KL: The current Mayor has reduced the Congestion Zones by half and he is not carrying on a policy of cleaning up the atmosphere by attacking polluting vehicles, so we run the risk of being fined millions by the European Commission because our air quality is the worst of any city in western Europe, and we know that somewhere
between three thousand and six thousand people die prematurely every year because of this. And Boris Johnson (the current mayor) will not tackle the problem, because this means saying to drivers: ‘You must improve the quality of your engine.’ so, the British government is not doing enough? do you see any good progress elsewhere in europe?
They are making it worse – their social spending cuts will create more casualties in communities that are just left behind, so we are becoming more and more detached from the mainland European example and following the US. In Europe, the mayors of Stockholm, Berlin, Paris, in fact right across Europe, mayors are doing a good job.

Together: What’s next on your agenda?
KL: To be re-elected London Mayor next year.