Ken's c-charge blamed for West End store slump

The controversial congestion charge in London has kept shoppers away, with customers heading instead for regional shopping centres.

Footfall in the congestion zone during the 34 weeks since the charge has been implemented fell 4.4 per cent year on year, double the 2 per cent fall across the whole of the UK.

But at Bluewater, Lakeside, Brent Cross and Milton Keynes, retail traffic rose by 2.9 per cent over the same period. The figures, from shopper traffic monitor SPSL, suggest that mayor Ken Livingstone's two Totally London campaigns, aimed at luring people into the city, only made a minor impact.

It is unclear whether the fall in shopper traffic can be attributed wholly to the congestion charge. In the six months before the charge was introduced, footfall was down 3.4 per cent, against a national drop of 0.7 per cent.

Tube problems on the Central line and fewer tourists visiting the city after September 11 may have added to the decline of the West End.

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