So, one of the possible revenue-raising measure proposed by Aberdeen City Council as part of its budget proposals
is city centre road tolls (or ‘congestion charges’ as they are euphemistically called).
This is the concept that was roundly rejected by the council only a few years ago, but, should we be surprised by a U-turn? Probably not.
What we should be surprised at is that such a measure should ever be suggested.
Aberdeen’s strength, for at least a couple of centuries, has been as the main commercial centre for a large rural hinterland in the North East of Scotland. To prosper from this role depends on people from that hinterland being able to get into the city quickly and conveniently, do their business, and head home.
Put constraints in their way (bottlenecks like Haudagain roundabout, hefty parking charges, unnecessary bus lanes, or road tolls) and we must not be surprised if they turn their backs on the city.
These days it is not necessary to patronise businesses in Aberdeen. With the internet you can have all the shopping and services you could desire delivered to your door. There are also prospering towns conveniently located around Aberdeen. I’m thinking of places like Stonehaven, Banchory, Inverurie and Ellon.
So, our councillors seem to be contemplating commercial suicide by proposing tolls. At the very time when there is less-and-less reason to travel into Aberdeen, they are bringing up the suggestion of implementing the biggest possible disincentive.
And we haven’t even mentioned tourism.
For as long as I can remember, Aberdeen has bemoaned the fact that it is not on the regular tourism trail of Scotland.
Well, it certainly won’t be if we start charging tolls for entering the city!
I used to have a business in the centre of Aberdeen. I vowed, at the time of the previous suggestion of road tolls, that we relocate out of the city if city-centre tolls were implemented. How many businesses would follow suit if tolls are introducedin the future.
I think we can be certain that the damage tolls, or “congestion charges”, would inflict on the city would be much greater than the £2.75 million they are estimated to potentially raise!