London mayor Boris Johnson has denied reports claiming that he will go back on his pledge to scrap the western extension of the London congestion charge zone because of the recession.
Johnson had promised to get rid of the western extension zone (WEZ) by spring 2010 as part of his election campaign, but one of his aides said the mayor had now gone back on this and no firm date for its removal was given.
Johnson, speaking on Twitter, said: "I said I would listen to Londoners, and they said they don’t want it. Whatever you hear otherwise, I will be removing the WEZ.
"Let's be crystal clear about this. The WEZ will be removed by the end of next year. Amen."
Earlier, Kulveer Ranger, the mayor's transport adviser, said: “We always wanted to remove it at the earliest possible opportunity, but it was aspirational and these are difficult times.
“The mayor has made clear his determination to sustain the vital investments that are required in the capital's transport system, and ensure that TfL [Transport for London] has a balanced business plan.”
The extension was introduced in 2006 by then mayor Ken Livingstone. The removal of the zone would cost TfL around £70 million annually, but Johnson claimed this could be found elsewhere within its budget.
Speaking in November 2008, Johnson said: “I want to remove this tax by 2010 and hopefully before. It will be great for this part of London, which is already struggling, and it is absolutely the right thing to do, especially from an economical point of view.”
A public consultation on the issue was carried out last year and the public backed the mayor’s pledge to remove the western extension zone. At the time of the results being announced, he said: “The people of London have spoken and we have listened.”