The London congestion charge was introduced in February 2003 and is run by Tfl. (Transport for London). It was introduced to reduce congestion and also aimed to raise funds for London’s transport system. There are signs up and symbols on the road indication the congestion charge zone. The main reason was to discourage people from driving in central London.
The standard charge of £10 per day is applicable to most motor vehicles (including rental cars and vans) driving within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) in central London between 7am and 6pm during weekdays. People who fail to comply with this are fined between £60 and £187. Don’t think you can wriggle out of this, as it is enforced through automatic number plate recognition (ANPR.) The congestion charging zone lies within the area inside the London Inner Ring Road, including the West End and the City of London.
Several embassies have refused to pay this charge and are claiming diplomatic immunity. Their argument is that it is a local tax, which does not concern them, as they claim they are protected by the Vienna convention.
People who live and work in London find it hard enough to have to fork out money on top of what they are already paying, just to get to work. On the one hand: Petrol prices are constantly rising and it’s expensive enough to run a car. On the other hand: it is raising some much-needed cash for Tfl.
But it will make other people think twice about visiting London. Maybe they will rely on public transport instead. But it probably doesn’t affect tourism as much, as most tourists fly to London and use public transport. But some people just want to go on hiring a car when they are on holiday, or away on business.
Travelling in London can be very stressful. Some people have been charged fines after accidentally straying into the CC zone, unaware of it. If using Satnav, it should tell you when you are in the CC zone. But by the time you are in it, it’s too late. Some people say it’s a rip off, as for visitors to London a big C painted on the road means nothing to them. They incur charges and feel justifiably upset.
Exemptions are buses, the armed forces, breakdown trucks and car, two-wheeled motorbikes and mopeds, London council vehicles, London licensed minicabs and taxis. Emergency service vehicles, such as ambulances and fire engines are also exempt from the charges, as are NHS vehicles and registered disabled people. But for more people using their car to get to work or leisure activities, they have to pay up or cough up fines. Even the president of the United States couldn’t escape the charge when he visited London. Yes, Barack Obama was fined £120 when he omitted to pay his dues while driving his Presidential car to Buckingham Palace.
People are avoiding London more and taking public transport when they need to visit the centre. It has been viewed as a big park and ride scheme by some cynics.
Some people view it as a punishment for having a car, but the town used to be so gridlocked and it would take you ages to get from A to B. But in reality it has provided much needed revenue for Tfl.
There must be some benefit to the environment, as people are using public transport more and leaving their cars outside the CC zone. The scheme has made some difference to the centre of London, although it still does get pretty busy at peak times.