What Is The Congestion Charge In London?

What Is The Congestion Charge In London?

In London, congestion charges are levied for the use of certain roads for a specific period. In this blog, we’ve done enough legwork to cover everything about the congestion charge, its effects, zones, timings, fees, penalties, discounts, and payment methods, along with the latest developments.

What Is The Congestion Charge In London?

If you drive within the congestion charge zone between 7:00 and 18:00 Monday through Friday and 12:00 to 18:00 on weekends and bank holidays, you will be charged £15 per day (as congestion charge). There are no fees between Christmas and New Year’s.

TfL (Transport for London) implemented the congestion charge in February 2003. It was implemented following considerable public and stakeholder input.

The London congestion charge zone is one of the most extensive in the world. The congestion charge aids in reducing traffic congestion on city streets. Furthermore, it minimizes air and noise pollution in central London.

This way, the congestion charge produces revenue for investment in London’s transportation infrastructure.

The congestion charge approach possibly has facilitated a 10 percent reduction in traffic volumes compared to baseline conditions. Between 2000 and 2012, the congestion charge plan resulted in an 11 percent reduction in vehicle kilometers in London.

Although the congestion charge cannot be solely attributed to these changes.

The congestion charge was suspended from March 23 to May 18, 2020, to allow critical workers to travel throughout the city during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What Is The Congestion Charge?

Congestion pricing, often known as congestion charges, is a method of taxing consumers of public goods who are subject to congestion due to excess demand. The users can be charged higher peak charges for the use of vehicles, electricity, telephones, and road pricing to decrease traffic congestion.

The goal of the congestion charge is to use the price mechanism to make users aware of the expenses that:

  • They impose when they consume during peak demand.
  • They should pay for the extra congestion they cause.

As a result, the congestion charge is likely to stimulate demand redistribution. This could also make users pay for the negative impacts they cause. Eventually, consumers may become more conscious of their environmental impact.

Congestion charging on urban roadways is now only available in a few cities, including London, Stockholm, Singapore, Milan, and Gothenburg, along with a few smaller towns like Durham, Znojmo, and Valletta.

Below is a table depicting the trends in congestion pricing in London:

Date Charge Levied Increase In Congestion Charge
February 2003 £5
July 2005 £8 60%
January 2011 £10 25%
June 2014 £11.50 15%
June 2020 £15.00 30.5%

Why Is The Congestion Charge Levied In London?

London has the worst traffic congestion in the United Kingdom and is among the worst in Europe. The congestion charge is intended to encourage commuters to take other forms of transportation or routes. As a result, steps have been taken to remedy this issue. 

Many parts of London are quite congested. One of the factors is the growing number of automobiles. Aside from that, as the population grows, so does the number of pedestrians, cyclists, and bus journeys.

Roads in London have been narrowed to allow for more bike lanes and walkways.

The congestion charge has contributed to London becoming the world’s only large metropolis that has moved away from private car use and toward public transportation, walking, and cycling. The congestion charge has impacted London in various other ways as well.

Let’s understand them in detail below.

What Are The Effects Of The Congestion Charge In London?

The congestion charge has reduced congestion while also improving transportation services, cleaner air, and safer roadways. The volume of traffic entering the congestion zone has stayed steady at 27 percent less than pre-charging conditions in 2002.

This implies that each day, roughly 80,000 fewer cars enter the initial charge zone. Cycling levels in the congestion charge zone have also increased by 66 percent since the scheme’s inception.

This way, the congestion charge continues to contribute significantly to London’s transportation network. The congestion charge’s principal goal has been to reduce traffic and congestion in London. And it has been a huge success in accomplishing the goal.

Although the congestion charge has led to specific effects in London, these effects can’t be attributed to the congestion charge solely. Some of the effects are as follows:

Traffic Speeds

Traffic for London (TfL) concludes that the levels of congestion in central London are close to pre-charging levels. However, the effectiveness of the congestion charge in reducing traffic volumes shows that conditions would have been worse without the congestion charging scheme.

Traffic Volume

TfL reported a 10 percent reduction in traffic levels from baseline conditions in February 2013, ten years after the scheme’s inception.

TfL determined that the scheme had a significant impact on shifting people away from driving. This led to an 11 percent reduction in vehicle kilometers in London between 2000 and 2012.

Public Transport

Public Transport in London

Credit: Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash 

Bus route changes were made when the initial congestion zone was started to take advantage of the expected higher traffic speeds and increased demand for public transportation. New routes were added, while some existing ones were expanded. Bus frequency on other routes was also enhanced.

TfL reported in 2007 that bus patronage in the central London region (not the congestion charge Zone) had climbed from under 90,000 pre-charge to 116,000 journeys per day by 2007.

TfL also revealed that Underground usage has increased by 1 percent above pre-charge levels, after falling significantly in 2003-2004. 

Road Safety

TfL estimated that the congestion charge resulted in a slight decrease in road traffic fatalities against a background trend of improvement in London and the rest of the United Kingdom over time.

Cars and motorbikes have had the most accident reduction. On the other hand, bicyclists have witnessed a slight increase, which may be because of their increased numbers.

The number of injury crashes within the zone decreased from 2,598 the year before the plan to 1,629 by 2005. TfL said that the pricing zone may have prevented some injuries each year.

The remaining drop was ascribed to other developments to the road network that favored its capacity to move people.

Air Quality

A 2020 study of London discovered that the London congestion charge reduced pollution and driving. However, it increased pollution from diesel cabs and buses, which are not subject to the congestion charge.

What Are The Congestion Pricing Zones In London?

The current congestion charge zone covers the area within the London Inner Ring Road, including the City of London (the primary financial district) and the West End (London’s main commercial and entertainment center). Pentonville Road, City Road, Old Street, etc are the main roads within the congestion pricing zones.

Other roads within the congestion pricing zones in London include Commercial Street, Mansell Street, Tower Bridge Road, New Kent Road, Elephant and Castle, Kennington Lane, Vauxhall Bridge Road, Park Lane, Edgware Road, Marylebone Road, and Euston Road.

How Does The Congestion Charge Work In London?

The congestion charge is a daily price of £11.50. The payment allows cars to drive around, leave, and re-enter the congestion charge zone as many times as necessary in a single day.

There are no toll booths or barriers. Drivers instead pay to have their Vehicle Registration Number.

The Vehicle Registration Number (VRN) is registered on a database.

Cameras read a vehicle’s license plate as it enters, exits, or drives through the congestion charge zone and compare it to the database. It specifies who has paid the charge and who does not have to pay (as they are exempt or registered for a 100 percent discount).

When a VRN is matched, the vehicle’s photographic photos are automatically erased from the database.

How To Pay The Congestion Charge In London?

The congestion charge In London can be paid through telephone, text message, online, post, Fleet Auto Pay, and Congestion Charging Auto Pay. The daily congestion charge can be paid in advance or on the day of travel, by phone, text message, online, or post. 

Drivers have until midnight on the day of travel to pay the £11.50 charge, or £14.00 if they pay on the following billing day after entering the zone.

Fleet Auto Pay or Congestion Charging Auto Pay can also be used to pay the charge. This is an automated payment mechanism with a daily charge rate of £10.50. To use Auto Pay, drivers must first register with TfL.

Each month, the number of charge days a vehicle drives within the congestion charging zone is automatically computed, and the driver’s debit or credit card is billed.

Where Does The Money From Congestion Charge Go?

The net revenue from the congestion charge is required by law to be spent on additional improvements to London’s transportation system. Thus, the money accumulated from the congestion charge is used for transport development in London.

Are There Fees And Penalties On The Congestion Charge In London?

If the congestion charge of £15 per day is not paid in advance, by midnight on the day of travel, or through Fleet Auto Pay or CC Autopay each month, then £17.50 has to be paid by midnight on the third day after travel.

Moreover, failure to pay after the third day after travel leads to the issuance of a Penalty Charge Notice for £160, which is lowered to £80 if paid within 14 days but increased to £240 if not paid within 28 days.

How To Get Discounts And Exemptions From The Congestion Charge In London?

In certain situations, you can get discounts and exemptions from the congestion charges in London. The relevant conditions are listed as follows:

  • If you pay the congestion charge monthly or annually but your commute plans change, you can get a refund.
  • If you’re an NHS patient too ill to travel by public transport, an NHS employee using vehicles on official business, or a care home employee, your congestion charge will be reimbursed.
  • If you live in or near the congestion zone, you are entitled to a 90 percent discount charged through CC Autopay. Please keep in mind that this discount plan has been closed to new registrants on August 1, 2020.
  • If your registered car produces 75 g/km or less of CO2 and fulfills the Euro 5 emission criteria, you will receive a full refund.
  • The congestion charge is waived for vehicles with nine or more seats, motor-tricycles, two-wheeled motorbikes and sidecars, mopeds, licensed breakdown firms, and roadside recovery vehicles.
  • All-electric vehicles (BEVs) and qualified plug-in hybrid electric cars (PHEVs) are exempt from the congestion charge. 
  • Taxis and private hire vehicles (PHVs) that are wheelchair-accessible vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge. 

Is Greener Vehicle Discount Still Available?

Green Vehicle parking spot

Credit: Photo by Michael Marais on Unsplash 

No, Greener Vehicle Discount is no longer available. TfL proposed ending the Greener Vehicle Discount in November 2012. Mayor Boris Johnson approved the idea in April 2013. The Greener Vehicle Discount mostly benefited vehicles with small diesel engines. 

These vehicles are exempt from the congestion charge since their engines emit less than 100 g/km of CO2. When the Greener Vehicle Discount was phased out, the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) took effect on July 1, 2013.

The ULED imposed stricter emission rules. It limited free admission to the congestion charge zone to all-electric automobiles, some plug-in hybrids, and any car or van that produced 75 g/km or less of CO2 and fulfilled Euro 5 air quality emission standards. 

What Is The Toxicity Charge?

On October 23, 2017, a toxicity charge (also called T-charge) was implemented. This charge operates during the same hours as the congestion charge (7:00 am to 6:00 pm on weekdays). Older and more polluting automobiles and vans that do not meet Euro 4 standards pay the charge.Old vehicle

Credit: Photo by Vickesh Sharma on Unsplash 

These vehicles must pay an additional £10 T-charge in addition to the congestion charge.

The toxicity charge applies to diesel and gasoline automobiles registered before 2006. It impacts up to 10,000 vehicles. The toxicity charge reduced the number of these high-polluting cars by approximately 1,000 per day.

The T-charge has been superseded by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) charge, while it is still imposed on residents’ discount holders.

Latest Developments In Regards To Congestion Charge In London

Many people intended to work from home during the London rail strikes in June 2022. But, many had to commute within or from London. They were less likely to be able to handle the situation with the rail strikes, especially if they did not have cars and relied on train transit.

In such a situation, congestion charges were just another burden of heavy costs on these commuters.

The business minister, Paul Scully, urged London Mayor Sadiq Khan to waive the congestion charge and halt non-essential roadworks during the coming week’s train strikes.

Furthermore, James Sunderland, MP for Bracknell, requested the London Mayor to take the temporary step of stopping congestion charging until the train strikes ended.

Following that, the Mayor advised Londoners to cycle and walk wherever feasible to decrease pollution and congestion. Furthermore, TfL predicted increased congestion on London’s roads until the train strikes ended. People were advised to travel only when absolutely necessary.

Final Words

The congestion charge is intended to reduce traffic congestion in some areas of central London.

Congestion charging is in effect from Monday to Friday from 07:00 to 18:00 and on Saturday and Sunday from 12:00 to 18:00.

Congestion pricing, however, does not apply on the days between Christmas and New Year’s, when traffic is lighter.

The congestion charge continues to reduce traffic congestion while also improving transportation services, cleaner air, and safer roads.

FAQs

What are the timings for the congestion charge in London?

The timings for the congestion charge in London are Monday to Friday 07:00-18:00 and Saturday-Sunday 12:00-18:00.

What are the days for the congestion charge in London?

The days for the congestion charge in London are Monday to Sunday, except bank holidays, Christmas, and New Year’s Day.

What is the area for the congestion charge in London?

The current congestion charge zone covers the area within the London Inner Ring Road.

How to avoid paying the congestion charge in London?

If you want to avoid paying the congestion charge in London, you should be driving a London-licensed taxi, wheelchair-accessible private hire vehicle, motorcycle, bicycle, or vehicle with nine or more seats licensed with the DVLA as a bus. Only then, you’ll be given a 100 percent discount on paying the congestion charge in London.

Swati Jaiswal

Swati Jaiswal is a dedicated traveler and an even dedicated individual who specializes in travel, digital marketing, & health and fitness niches. Passport stamps and coffee stains are her badges of honor.

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