Last month Westminster City Council and the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea failed in their legal challenge to congestion charging for London.

The TSA had supported that challenge on behalf of our industry and pressed the business case for a full public enquiry into mayor Ken Livingstone’s proposals.

While the legal challenge has failed, the London mayor has conceded an important point, saying that the scheme will be scrapped if it does not demonstrably reduce traffic congestion in the capital.

The scheme comes into force on 17 February 2003 and will operate from 0700 to 1830, Monday to Friday, except bank holidays.

It will apply to all roads within the inner ring road: Marylebone Road in the north; Park Lane/Vauxhall Bridge in the west; Tower Bridge in the east to Elephant and Castle in the south.

Licenses will be available at the rate of £5 per vehicle for a single charging day, with no discount for advance payment.

The scheme has questionable environmental credentials and has been introduced with minimal consultation or consideration for the adverse effect it will have on London’s economy.

By refusing to extend the exemption (granted to taxis, motorcycles, buses, emergency vehicles and alternative powered vehicles) to all commercial vehicles the mayor has turned what could have been a progressive tax against private cars to the benefit of public transport into an all-out attack on industry and commerce.

The charge will do little to ease congestion, but much to add cost to doing business in London.

The TSA has supported the Freight Transport Association’s call for the total exemption of goods vehicles and the introduction of a low emissions exemption for vehicles meeting the Euro 3 standard regardless of fuel.

London is not alone in facing the spectre of congestion charging. Edinburgh has just announced its own consultation on a similar scheme.

Other cities will be watching the outcome – and the reaction from business to yet another stealth tax.