The move will reduce traffic in crowded parts and control greenhouse gas emission levels

If the Union Urban Development Ministry has its way, Delhi and other metros could soon go the London and Milan way and charge motorists congestion tax. The move will serve a twin purpose: reduce traffic in crowded parts of the city and control greenhouse gas emission levels. The Ministry is particularly impressed by the manner Milan was able to control pollution. In 2008, the world’s fashion capital was one of the most polluted cities in Europe.

The Italian city then introduced a pollution-linked congestion pricing system called ‘ecopass’. It charged drivers on the basis of the engine emission to enter earmarked zones. The higher the emission level, the more the drivers were made to shell out. Extremely high polluting vehicles were banned completely in the restricted areas. The result of the graded congestion tax system was phenomenal, with air quality improving significantly. Milan has since moved to the conventional congestion pricing system wherein all vehicles, irrespective of the emission levels, have to pay to enter restricted areas.

The Urban Development Ministry wants to combine the features of ‘ecopass’ and the congestion tax method of London, Singapore and Stockholm and implement it in metros such as Delhi.

Delhi’s air quality has been deteriorating over the years. Dieselisation of cars and SUVs, the current fad among car buyers, is slowly negating the gains of CNG. Environment watchdogs such as the Centre for Science and Environment have been flagging this issue, but to no avail so far.

Congestion tax forms an integral part of the Ministry’s Intelligent Transport System (ITS). But, the Ministry has been struggling to implement the ITS as no State has so far come up with a model for introducing congestion tax.

There is also no consensus on how the tax will be collected, which areas will be designated as ‘restricted’ and how evaders will be fined.

The Ministry has now roped in a consultant, the Delhi Integrated Multi-Modal Transit System, which will have a foreign partner.

The consultant’s mandate includes drawing up a blueprint within 12 months for an overall transport management system.

The consultant will hold discussions and get feedback from the Ministries of Road Transport and Highways, Heavy Industries and Enterprise, Civil Aviation, Railways and State Governments.

“ITS is working in bits and parts in cities like Mysore and Bangalore. In Mysore, commuters can get the exact information about bus routes and timings on bus stands through the internet and on their mobile phones,” said S.K. Lohia, Officer on Special Duty, Urban Transport.

He said Delhi was supposed to introduce ITS before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, but that did not happen.

Cities with congestion tax

London – restricts traffic movement in the central business district and the standard charge is £10 for each day. The penalty for non-payment is between £60 and £187.

Singapore- first country to introduce the tax, which was levied on all roads leading to a 6 sq km central business district, called the restricted zone.

Stockholm—Tax is collected from vehicles entering and exiting central Stockholm. Aimed at reducing traffic congestion and improving air quality, the tax collected is used for infrastructure development.