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LATEST: Congestion charge plans in Maidstone

Friday 12th July 2019

A COUNCIL-funded investigation into battling pollution in Maidstone has suggested slapping congestion charges on buses, taxis and lorries.

The four month study, which ran from December to April, discovered that Upper Stone Street has some of the worst air quality in the country.

In a drastic attempt to remedy this, the report suggests a raft of measures, including congestion charges and the creation of a no-stopping Red Route, to prevent idling traffic from pumping out fumes in the centre of town.

Controversially, its authors recognise Liberal Democrat-led MBC’s aspirations of “achieving modal shift to walking, cycling and public transport”, but they go on to propose moves that could see bus and taxi services torpedoed by hefty charges.

Citing a scheme in Birmingham, the report suggests buses and coaches could be hit with £50 bills to access central Maidstone, while taxis would face £8 charges.

However, members of the borough’s strategic planning and infrastructure committee, who discussed the findings at their July meeting, were less than enthusiastic about congestion charging.

Cllr Patrik Garten said that, faced with a £50 bill, some HGVs would take their chances squeezing through Leeds, instead of using the designated north/south truck route through Maidstone.

He said: “I prefer the Red Route option… all that would take is a public consultation, a couple of metal boards and a pot of paint.”

The report’s authors, Arcadis and Integrated Transport Ltd, believe congestion, the carriageway’s gradient and the ‘canyon’ effect of buildings lining the road, are behind Upper Stone Street’s poor air quality results.

Councillors say they have noted the report’s findings, and have asked borough officials to gauge Kent County Council’s thoughts on introducing a Red Route to the town.