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Congestion Charging

As the name suggests congestion charging is meant to reduce the number of cars entering a particular area – thus reducing congestion. The idea is that some motorists will use alternative means of transport as a result of the charge.



Brief History of Scheme

In February 2003 a congestion charging scheme was introduced in central London.

Initially there was a 20% reduction in the traffic.  However congestion levels have crept up again.

In February 2007 the scheme was extended by the then London Mayor Ken Livingstone to include parts of West London. There was a large scale consultation which showed that only 23% of residents and 11% of businesses in the western extension actually supported the proposals.  Despite the massive opposition Ken Livingstone decided to go ahead anyway. It was reported that Ken Livingstone said he was obliged only to carry out a consultation rather than abide by its result! The current Mayor Boris Johnson carried out a further consultation and on 24th December 2010 the Western extension section was switched off. So from the 2nd January 2011 only the original central section remains.

The original charge was £5 and Ken Livingstone said at the time he didn’t see a circumstance when it would need to increase. However a couple of years later he increased it to £8 and In January 2010 Boris Johnson increased the charge to £10. Luckily he didn’t get to serve another term! We think that rather than keep increasing the charge and enlarging the zone he should have stopped increasing the cost of alternative and more environmentally friendly means of transport such as Buses and the London Underground where fares in 2006 increased by up to 50%!. And in 2007 by up to 25%! It is a fact that if you give people a viable alternative that many will take it. Ken Livingstone also said he would increase the daily charge to £25 for vehicles with larger engines if he was re-elected. We believe that this was why he lost the election as the result was quite close. We think that it was utterly wrong that residents, who had the congestion zone forced upon them by Ken Livingstone, would have to pay thousands of pounds a year for driving such cars as audi tt’s and certain ford mondeo’s in the area where they live. Why should residents of such a very small part of one of our cities pay up to £6,250 a year to drive their own cars whereas residents in the rest of the country pay nothing? In fact it is usually the case that residents of cities drive many fewer miles than residents in the country.

Transport for London generate a huge amount of income from the penalty regime. In 2009 they issued a whopping 1,423,144 congestion charge penalty charge notices at £120 each and actually collected £77m in fines. Having investigated certain locations on behalf of motorists who have received penalty charge notices we can see how they are still issuing so many tickets. Many signs are missing or facing the wrong way and very rarely is the scheme advertised.


Some interesting facts:

Guests of the Dorchester and Le Meridian Grosvenor House Hotels will be able to use the main entrance on Park Lane for free but lorries delivering supplies have to pay the charge to use the tradesmen’s entrance, which is in the Zone.

Transport for London has published information on the charges in Braille, presumably for the benefit of blind drivers?

Ironically, the system designed to reduce the number of cars in central London relies on those very cars to pay for itself. It could be a victim of its own success.

The Mayor has jurisdiction to operate the charge anywhere within the M25   There was also talk of extending it to Heathrow Airport!

Under current legislation the charge can be increased up to £15 per vehicle.

TFL ads claimed that the monies from congestion charging would be reinvested in Public Transport, but they were warned to change the wording as they cannot guarantee that this will be the case. A large portion will be spent on administering the system.

Many critics of the congestion charge are keen to point out the following comments made by London mayor Ken Livingstone to the press .

‘I hate cars. If I ever get any powers again I’d ban the lot’. – Ken Livingstone, Sunday Times, 21st of November 1999.

Ken Livingstone only learned to drive a few years ago!

Ken Livingstone’s first car was a Toyota Prius


Details of the London congestion charging zone:

Hours of operation

The hours of operation are currently 7am – 6pm Monday to Friday excluding bank holidays and at least the first 3 charging days after Boxing Day.


From January 2011 the daily charges are as follows

£10 per vehicle if paid either in advance of the day of entry into the zone or on the day of entry.

£12 per vehicle if paid before midnight on the day following the day of entry into the zone.

£9 per vehicle if autopay is set up. (see below)

Residents of the zone pay  90 pence per day if registered with autopay  or £1 per day, £20 per month or £252 P.A.

You cannot pay after midnight on the day following the day of entry into the zone. If you have not paid you may well receive a penalty charge notice in the post. The current cost of a congestion charge penalty charge notice is £120 reduced to £60 if paid within 14 days.

If you have received a penalty charge notice we would suggest that you see our section “contraventions for congestion charging” which may well assist for in fighting your congestion charge fine.The link is near the top of this page on the left. There is also a useful section showing adjudicators decisions.


There are various discounts available as follows:

1.) There is a 100% discount if you drive a car that emits less than 100g/km of CO2 emmissions and which meets the euro 5 standard for air quality. (You must register for the discount at a cost of £10 P.A.)

2.)Plug in electric hybrid vehicles also qualify for 100% discount subject to prior registration with TFL
3.) If you drive an alternative fuel vehicle you may receive a 100% discount if you were registered before the end of 2010.
4.) There is no charge for motorcyclists (subject to certain rules on dimensions being met).
5.) There is no charge for registered disabled drivers displaying a blue badge.
6.) There is no charge for vehicles with 9 seats or more.(Subject to prior registration and a £10 annual fee)
7.) Residents living in the congestion zone who have registered will receive a 90% discount.
8.) Taxi’s and licensed minicabs do not need to pay.
Electric and alternatively powered vehicles:

Electric cars do not have to pay the congestion charge but you need to be registered with the Driver Licensing and Vehicle Agency (DVLA) and have a fuel type of ‘electric’. You can check this on the car registration document the DVLA sent you.You also need to register with TFL to receive the 100% discount.

Full details of the above and any other discounts can be found on the congestion charge web site (external link)


Payment can be made at selected points like news agents and garages, over the phone (0845 900 1234) on the internet (external link) or by text message which you will need to set up on the website (external link)

For a PDF map showing the charging area click here (external link).

There are “free routes” through the London congestion charging zone including, Park Lane, and Vauxhall Bridge Road.

Access to these routes is shown on the website. However the signage at some locations is confusing. TFL issue many thousands of penalty charge notices to motorists trying to access the free routes each year. So please be careful. Some satellite navigation systems warn you when you are about to enter the zone.



Transport for London now offers an auto pay facility. We highly recommend this. Once registered your credit card will automatically be billed each month for the number of days you actually enter the zone. It should mean that you will not receive a penalty charge notice again. Paste the following link in your browser to go straight to the Autopay section of the TFL website.



Cameras with number plate recognition software record every car entering the charging zone. Number plates are cross referenced against a database of payments made.  If a number plate isn’t on the database, details will be collected from the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and the registered owner fined £120 (£60 if paid within 14 days) In the event of three or more unpaid fines further action can be taken although the practice of lorries combing the streets for offenders and towing vehicles away or clamping them has been stopped. You will not necessarily receive a penalty charge notice if you do not pay the congestion charge. The system is not 100%.


Durham City Road User Charge Scheme:

This is referred to as congestion charging although really it is a toll road into the world heritage site on Durham’s peninsula.

The following is taken from the Durham county council website. If you require any further information please see the council’s website.

The historic World Heritage site on Durham’s peninsula can be accessed by a single road subject to a charge of £2.00. The road gains access to the Market Place, Cathedral, and castle. It serves access to the Cathedral Chorister School and some Durham University colleges.

The charge is payable on exit from the area between 10.00am and 4.00pm Monday to Saturday. (Excluding bank holidays) Entrance and exit from the area is free at all other times.

Exit during the restricted period is controlled with an automatic bollard, which is linked to payment and permit detection apparatus. The pay machine is a modified Designated pay on foot machine. No change is given from the machine.

The payment machine also accepts exemption permits that are issued to users by the establishments on the peninsula that have access to their own parking space. There is limited public parking space held by the University at Palace Green. This is subject to a charge of £5. (March 2004). No other public parking is available on the Peninsula.

Permanent vehicle mounted detection apparatus has been issued to a limited number of essential regular users such as Public Transport vehicles and residents.


Use of the System

Drivers wishing to access the peninsula will be faced with a charge on exit. Drivers must stop at the stop line and the red traffic indicator located alongside the payment machine. Following a successful transaction, the bollard will lower and, only when fully retracted, the traffic signal will change to green and the driver can proceed safely.

When a vehicle enters a safety loop around the bollard the signal will change to red and on leaving the safety loop the bollard will rise. It is extremely important that any following vehicle does not attempt to drive close to the vehicle in front and all drivers adhere to the signing and signals. Failure to comply with the instructions can led to impact with the bollard.


Who is Exempt from the Charge?

A limited number of exemptions apply to those requiring access to the Peninsula. These include:

Residents: A permanent resident can be issued with both types of permit. Students in temporary accommodation are not eligible.

Public Transport Vehicles: Two new vehicles have been provided and a frequent service runs from the City’s Rail Station, Bus Station and car park areas. These buses carry transponder devices, which allow the bollard to lower without payment.

Security and Postal Delivery Vehicles in the Service of a Universal Service Provider: These vehicles are exempt from meeting the charge by contacting the NCP Parking Shop via the intercom system who can remotely lower the bollard.

Emergency Service Vehicles: All emergency service vehicles are exempt from payment. This can be gained via the intercom system or by the emergency service vehicle exiting through the inbound side of the carriageway.

Disabled Persons: As part of the scheme provision is made for disabled persons through subsidy of the existing Shopmobility project and the introduction of a high quality easy access public transport link to the City’s Rail Station, Bus Station and car parks. The disabled persons parking bays have been removed from the Market Place. Disabled persons can be issued with exemption permits by the establishments they choose to visit or can reserve a permit in advance by contacting the NCP Parking Shop on 0191 3846633, provided they have pre-arranged a parking space. Please note, Permits are not available where the purpose of the journey is to set down or pick up passengers.


What about Service and Delivery Vehicles?

Vehicles servicing establishments that do not hold parking space meet the charge if servicing during the restricted period.

The Market Place is reserved for loading and unloading at all times with the retention of an existing taxi bay outside the restricted period. The loading restriction has been relaxed for Saddler Street allowing loading within the period 10:00am to 4:00pm.
Loading is no longer permitted between 8.00am to 10.00am and 4.00pm to 6.00pm.

If you require further information on exemption permit issue, please contact:
56 North Road
Tel: 0191 384 6633


Penalty Charge/Abuse

Drivers who fail to meet the charge will be permitted to proceed through the bollard system. However, a £30 charge notice is issued to the vehicle owner. Vehicles will be recorded on the CCTV system and owners traced through the DVLA.

Drivers attempting to avoid the charge through driving out of the uncontrolled entrance will commit a traffic offence. This is monitored by the CCTV system and appropriate action will be taken against them.

The Road User Charge Scheme was introduced to remove a large proportion of unnecessary traffic from Saddler Street during times of increased pedestrian activity. The scheme has successfully removed 85% of the traffic from Saddler Street and there has been a 10% increase in footfall, dramatically improving the environment on the Peninsula.


The government is now pressing ahead with more congestion charging pilot schemes around the country.

Next: Received a congestion charge?