Transport for London (TfL) has announced that the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge in 2020 as an emergency measure in the pandemic will now be made permanent – and the higher charge will remain.
In addition, the fleet autopay discount has been removed.
The original aim was to ensure traffic was reduced so that essential journeys could continue to take place.
This was in line with a condition in the May 2020 funding settlement, and included raising the charge from £11.50 to £15, and increasing the operating hours to include evenings and weekends.
Prevent car use from rising
Now, after a 10-week consultation that saw nearly 10,000 responses, TfL has confirmed permanent changes that will help prevent car use from rising above pre-pandemic levels.
The main measures mean that from 21 February, there will be no charges in the evenings after 6pm, and operating hours on weekends and bank holidays will reduce to 12pm – 6pm.
The current charge level of £15 will be retained.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “The Government insisted on proposals to widen the level and scope of the Congestion Charge last year as a condition of TfL’s emergency funding agreement – which was only needed because of the pandemic and the collapse in fares revenue.
“These new changes strike a balance between reducing traffic and congestion and supporting London’s economy and residents and helping ensure our recovery is a green and sustainable one.”
Removal of the fleet autopay discount has been criticised
However, the move to revert back to the capital’s original weekday times have been welcomed by one trade organisation – but the removal of the fleet autopay discount has been criticised.
Logistics UK’s head of policy – south, Natalie Chapman, said: “Logistics UK welcomes the announcement confirming the operational hours of the Congestion Charge will revert back to the original weekday timings in place before the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This will provide additional flexibility to retime deliveries to less congested times – with the potential to reduce emissions, improve the safety of vulnerable road users, and increase operational efficiency – and is supported by Logistics UK members.”
She added: “However, Logistics UK is disappointed that the charges will apply on weekends and bank holidays, and that the £15 charge level will be retained, but the fleet autopay discount removed.
“This simply amounts to an additional tax for logistics businesses who currently have little alternative but to use lorries and vans to keep London stocked with all the goods the population needs.”
‘Encourage people to travel sustainably’
The TfL‘s director of city planning, Alex Williams, said: “As London continues its recovery from the pandemic it is essential that we encourage people to travel sustainably.
“These changes are targeted at reducing traffic at the busiest times where we have seen a long-term trend in high levels of car travel. We expect to see growth in the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport in central London as a result.”
He added: “The removal of the charge in the evening will help shift workers who perform essential roles at the heart of the city and support London’s vibrant cultural and hospitality sectors who are still recovering from the pandemic.”