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The Impact of Congestion Charging Schemes

City congestion charging schemes aim to reduce and redistribute urban traffic, improve journey times or make them less variable, and lessen the environmental impact of transportation. The key to a successful charging scheme is maintaining flow, as congestion can hardly be improved if drivers have to stop and pay for access to a town or city centre.

The Technology

Congestion Charging is a tool used by urban authorities to reduce the level of congestion caused by vehicles travelling inside the city. It is a means of introducing a decision-making process with drivers when they contemplate making a trip into the city. Do they want to pay the charge and make the trip? Can the trip be taken at a later time of day when there is less traffic? Can they take public transport instead? Do they need to make the trip at all? The aim of congestion charging is not to stop people from entering cities but to influence how, if and when they go.

Congestion in cities is becoming more and more recognised as a major problem for environmental, safety and economic reasons. Air quality in cities is at a dangerous level and is harming people living and working there. Steps are being taken by authorities to prevent polluting vehicles entering city centres with the introduction of Low Emission Zones, and the idea of reducing the volume of all traffic in cities is high on the political agenda, hence the importance of congestion charging schemes. Introducing new congesting charging schemes is however not simple, despite the awareness of the need to clean up our cities and reduce congestion. Irrespective of the strong arguments in favour of a charge, there is always a strong lobby against from the public, businesses and opposition political parties. 

Q-Free can offer a solution that gives a small footprint in cities, thus reducing any harmful impact on the cityscape. Our equipment can be mounted on poles, gantries, bridges to make the most of existing structures. The resulting reduction in congestion shows the society the benefits from better air quality as well as improved mobility. If revenue from the congestion charging scheme is funnelled into funding improved public transport services, cycle paths and the like, then this can only benefit society by becoming less reliant on the private vehicles. 

With the experience, technology and references Q-Free can give customers the confidence that we can deliver and meet their requirements. Q-Free’s solution will give high accuracy thus helping to keep errors to a minimum and preventing unwanted bad publicity from charging the wrong vehicles. Our solution has high automation rates, especially for ALPR, which keeps operational costs for customers to a minimum. Our solution has high availability which is important both for the general performance and also to reduce service and maintenance activities. The latter is also beneficial to road-users who do not want any lanes closed for service work. Our clients want a solution that is of benefit to them, road-users and the society that they represent. Therefore, the aspects of our solution that are beneficial to road-users and society as a whole are applicable here too.

For Road-users it is important that the system works and is accurate. The multilane freeflow installations mean that users can pass the Charging Points as if they didn’t exist. If OBUs are required, then our products are small and barely noticeable, and can be installed or removed with ease. The accuracy of our system means that users are unlikely to be wrongly identified and therefore incorrectly charged. The resulting reduction in congestion will give those users who decide to drive a better journey and, less wear and tear on their vehicles. 

The overall impact of our solution on society will depend on the nature of the scheme itself and how it is planned to be used by the authorities. This includes the size and location of the charge, the enforcement regime and how the revenue from the scheme will be used. Q-Free’s solution is designed to follow the customer’s requirements.

The Techspert

I am one of those employees who has been in Q-Free twice. In total I have worked for Q-Free for almost 16 years, which includes some time employed as a freelance consultant. But my current employment started in January 2008. Working for Q-Free is a bit like supporting a football team. Q-Free is a great club, with a great squad of players. It has won some fantastic games and had some good cup runs, but it has also had a few mid-table scraps. It has not reached its true potential and lacked stability and predictability. What I feel now is that actions have been put in place at the technical, commercial and financial level to correct this. Furthermore, the industry in which Q-Free is active is a most exciting one which offers new possibilities and challenges. Q-Free is very well-placed to be a competitive player in this market with a clear strategy and a timetable to measure the progress.

Having recently moved to a new house this Summer, I am spending a lot of my free time putting our stamp on the new property and making it our home. The house comes with a nicely sized garden too which needs frequent attention, but the main work on that will start in the Spring. Otherwise, my wife and I own a house in the South of France that we rent out. This takes much time with arranging new guests and the regular maintenance. We visit there occasionally as it’s a lovely place on the border to Italy.  

Also, in my futile attempt to hold back the ageing process I can be found training on a rowing machine several days a week. I have as my goal to complete a marathon row before next Spring.  i.e. 42195m. I’ve already completed two half-marathons so the full one is my next goal for “sometime next year”. I am also someone who slept through the chance to see The Beatles play a concert in my home town in the 60s. OK, I was only 4 months old at the time and blissfully unaware of the event, and pretty much everything else.   

Q-Free has long track-record of delivering congestion charging systems, here is an ad from 2006.

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