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City of London Expands and Fine-Tunes its Congestion-Charge Program

In 2007, London is almost doubling its congestion-charge area with the orange-shaded extension to the left. The original C-charge area is to the right. Click to enlarge.

At the turn of the century, London was choking in traffic. The average vehicle speed was 14 km/h (8.7 mph), and vehicles spent half their time in queues. Emissions and fuel consumption were soaring.

In 2003, the City of London implemented a congestion-charge program for the city center as one of the strategies designed to address the problem. The program, which levied a flat-rate, all-day area charge of £5 (now £8) per day for drivers entering the zone between 7:00AM - 6:30PM, Monday-Friday, has proven effective. By the end of 2005, total traffic had been reduced by 15-18%, congestion was down 30%, and emissions of PM10 and NOx were down 12%.

The City is now in the process of expanding and fine-tuning the C-charge program. In 2005, it announced that it would extend the original charge-area westward, the extension to take effect 19 February 2007.

The City has also just announced a Pay-Next-Day scheme for its Congestion Charge that will give drivers, starting on 19 June, until midnight on the day to pay the £8 Congestion Charge, or pay £10 until midnight on the following charging day.

Currently, drivers must pay the £8 (US$15) charge by midnight, or face an immediate £100 (US$185) fine, reduced to £50 on prompt payment.

And now Mayor Ken Livingstone is indicating that he may seek an increase in the congestion charge to as much as £20 (US$37) per day for high-emissions cars. The Mayor indicated that work is already underway to see if the C-charge enforcement technology could be fine-tuned so that cars which emit the largest amount of greenhouse gases pay more.

In an interview to be broadcast on this weekend, the Mayor said:

We’re already working on whether we can bring in a more sophisticated congestion charge. It’s not questioning the size of the car, it’s the carbon emissions they produce...I would very much favour the idea perhaps of the £20 charge for cars that emitted two or three times the normal level of carbon emissions.

We’ve got a target to try and reduce carbon emissions by 20% in this city from the 1990 level. Now, we’re three-quarters of the way there, but that last quarter is going to be the difficult one.

Earlier in the week, members of the Alliance Against Urban 4x4s delivered a petition bearing 5,000 signatures to the Mayor urging a £20 daily London congestion charge to be levied on vehicles rated at over 225 g/km of CO2.

The Alliance calculates that one-fifth of cars would be affected by the higher charge, which could raise up to an extra £34 million (US$63 million) a year. From 2004-2005, the City had total revenues (charges and enforcement) of £190 million (US$352 million), with net revenues of £97 million (US$179 million)



Rafael Seidl

How come they have to jump through these hoops to collect this tax? Surely with all the CCTV they have and some software, they could identify vehicles entering the city, cross-reference that with the vehicle registration database and debit the amount due directly to the owner's bank account (with the owner's consent, of course, this would be a convenience option)

More reliably, vehicles could identify themselves at entry points via an RFID that gets polled as they drive through. Such devices are cheap and in use in the SF Bay Area for their Fast Track lanes on the bridges. They are also used by trucks in Austria and Italy to automate freeway toll collection.

However, I do like the idea of charging a higher access fee for older (diesel) cars. I hope that includes older commercial vehicles as well. Charging at the city level for CO2 emissions seems incongruous, but UK fuel fuel taxes are already among the highest in the world. The following comparison (for Aug 2005) was put together by a particularly irate driver. Note that fuel tax levels appear to correlate poorly with economic growth. European prices are generally 2-3x those in the US.


As far as charging at the city level, some drivers may give up their big machines comletely unless they want to keep one high co2 vehicle for country driving and one low co2 vehicle for city driving. In any event, charging for city driving is better than nothing. Just like attempts at the city level in the U.S. is better than nothing when you consider the federal government is not committed to cutting greenhouse gases.

In any event, the real message is get out of your cars, use public transit, and you won't have to pay any congestion tax.

Automated tolls are slick and are also used in Denver on C470. On the other hand, maybe it's better to make them a hassle; that's just one more incentive to avoid the tax altogether by getting out of your car.

In any event, kudos to the Mayor as someone who is serious about co2 and other emissions.

allen zheng

Congestion pricing and car pool toll lanes could benefit US. NYC could also use the revenue from those who work and get their paycheck in NYC, but live in Conn, or NJ, or Upstate, or on non-NYC counties of Long Island, or in the exburbs.

allen zheng

Add to that CCTV with speed detection tech (video anaysis, radar, laser) for safety/law enforcement (and a small revenue side dish) reasons.

Robert Schwartz

Disambiguation: "At the turn of the century,"

Do you mean 2000-2001 or 1900-1901? C.E. in either case.


2000-2001. :-)


Next step would to require Londoners to knee five times a day to enter urine-infested Tube.


From what I know a friends company had planned to build near london before this strarted and as soon as it did they reevaluated the plan and moved to a second site. Not so much because of its direct effect but because they were disturned what else might come about during the life of the company in that area. As thier cost models were rended useless they HAD to drop london or face unknowable cost dangers.


Well, if you are a resident, or happen to own a certain breed of cars (Hybrids, Electric, CNG-only) which are proven to be extremely low polluting, you can get an exemption from the CC. The one year registration was 12 Pounds when the Charge was still 5 Pounds/day, so even for foreigners that pays off when going to the city for more than 2 days (a friend of mine used to lived within the CC zone).

However, I disagree with the general assemesment of "clean" diesels as made on the page linked hereto by Rafael... Diesels NOx and PM levels are an order of magnitude higher than those of gasoline engines. And cleaning up the mess downstream from the engine (or within the engine) drives up it's CO2 emissions to equivalent levels with ordenary (!) gasoline engines (which is stll about 13% less consumption by volume of diesel fuel, due to it's higher density and energy (~= Carbon) content. This later fact is typically not expressed anywhere (ie. that a diesel has to have at least 13% higher mpg in order to compete with a gasoline engine on CO2 emissions.

Also the fact, that the cleanest diesel engines a certain german car manufacturer can come up with are not fulfilling even the temporary FTP Tier 2 emissions categories, and therefor will no longer be sold from MY02 onwards should also shed some light on the myth of the clean diesel (Note that the temporary Bins 11 to 8 will time out over the course of the next few years, when all cars have to fulfill at least Bin 8. And the diesel engine care wouldn't even make it into a Bin 11 classification.

As comparison, only Battery- or Fuel-Cell vehicles would make it into Bin 1, the Toyota Prius is (with Californian rating) in Bin 2, everywhere else (and all other Hybrids) are Bin 3, and most other gasoline cars will probably classify as Bin 5-9 nowadays...

Nevertheless, I do agree that the taxation on fuel should be levelled all across europe and especially the tax break for diesel, as seen in many countries of europe, should be eradicated. The numbers on stated page were at least 1 year old, and depending on country, the raw material price of diesel is significantly higher than that of gasoline - but diesel nevertheless is cheaper at the pump due to much less tax being collected on that fuel.

In the view that there is now a EU ruling requiring bio-fuels to be equivalently taxed like fossil fuels, it's not understandable that this breaking of normal market forces (by boosting diesel unproportionally) is not investigated by EU regulators.


I got a £50 fine for driving in this by accident. I would have been more than happy to pay the charge. If they can send you a fine they can send you a bill so why pay at certain stations.

Good idea in theory. Bullshit in practice.


Is it? According to Wintermane it forced a company to locate elsewhere thereby suceeding in reducing congestion by forcing companies to locate in less congesteda areas of the country. I'd say that was directly successful.

I live and work 60miles (100km) to the North of London. I had a meeting in the City last week and it took me 59min to get there on train and tube and cost 26quid return. No contest about taking a car: it would have been pointless.

Job done. Driving in London is a pointless waste of time and I LOVE driving. If you've ever driven in the new proposed area of South Ken/Chelsea you'd realise that the congestion charge extension is a good thing.

Taxes are there to force the market in directions that are for the public good, not to legislate on change directly. They are a good thing.


I agree about driving in London being stupid. But I was taking a mate to a uni interview. Four and a half hours in traffic.
Worst part is another mate later told us it would have only taken about an hour on the tube.

I agree that it serves it's purpose at times but the way they implement it could be a lot better.


Yes it is working but the side effect will be london losing tax rev. Mind you I dont know for sure how england handles taxes but I assume like elsewhere the taxes inside the city help pay for the costs of the city... Other well thinking groups have managed to hose a city thusly.


That's not how tax works in the UK. It is National. London is overcrowded and overpriced as it is. It's productivity might actually improve were it to become less congested.


Ah thats why it works then. In america all it would do is mess up the city that did it. Only a few cities in america have much room for this sort of idea and those get the room basicaly by stealing from the rest of thier state. BUT the rest of the state gets rather angry about it and most of those cities today face loss of that stolen money and one hell of a payback.

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