There is a congestion charge consultation with Transport for London (TfL). It has been extended when the UK government needed to bail out TfL in June 2020 following the financial crisis brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. So, what are the new congestion charge proposals?
There is now an extension of the operational hours of the congestion charge which includes weekends and evenings. Also, the charge has been increased to £15 from £11.50. Dropping the congestion charge in the evenings were done to support the economic recovery of London.
TfL’s Rocky Finances
It hasn’t been easy for TfL since the onset of the pandemic. The London transport authority had to take orders from the UK government, and in exchange, the government gave emergency bailouts to TfL.
TfL stated that it still needs extra financial support apart from the bailouts. This suggests that the changes in the congestion charge are most likely a compromise they had with the government.
According to the first emergency funding agreement with the government, TfL presented proposals in order to widen the level and scope of the congestion charge in June 2020.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said that these temporary charges needed to be reviewed to make sure that it contributes to the strong economic recovery of London, that it’s also environmentally sustainable, and that it is fair to all.
What are the New Proposals?
- Opening the resident’ discount to new applicants. This has been closed on 1 August 2020 though.
- No charge from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day.
- The charge will still be in operation on bank holidays from 12 PM to 6 PM.
- The charge to be payable up to three days after travel, at £17.50
- Removal of the discount when using AutoPay due to high take-up of this option.
Goals of the Consultation
TfL’s consultation hopes to get different insights on the congestion charge’s future operation. There are proposals stating there shouldn’t be any charges during evenings so that London could recover. It also includes weekends from 12 PM to 6 PM.
The current charge of £15 will be retained though. According to TfL, the proposal for the new weekend charging hours targets congestion during the times that the streets are busiest.
Before the COVID pandemic, weekend traffic was higher compared to other days of the week. It made up about 70% of traffic within the charging zone on Sundays and Saturdays. In the event that the proposed weekend hours will take into effect, it will affect sustainable travel positively.
The proposal claims that there can be about 8,000 new public transport trips as well as 3,000 cycling and walking trips for each day on weekends.
The proposal to end the congestion charge by 6 PM during weekdays abides by the pre-pandemic hours rather than the 10 PM finish time that’s currently set. Data on evening traffic is still under review. Patterns on weekday travel are still uncertain according to TfL.
Along with the new congestion charge proposals, it was also proposed that there be no charge from Christmas Day to New Year’s Day. But the charge will be in operation during bank holidays, from 12 PM to 6 PM. The proposal also mentioned allowing paying up to 3 days after travel.
For NHS patients, local councils, care workers, and charities that need to travel during pandemics and epidemics, TfL is consulting on keeping the recently expanded schemes for reimbursement. The pre-pandemic Reimbursement arrangement for NHS patients and staff is going to continue.
A Green and Sustainable London
According to Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, it’s important to strike the right balance between working on London’s economic recovery and ensuring that it will be a green and sustainable one.
The Mayor added that the new congestion charge proposals support the capital’s businesses that have been affected by the pandemic. The proposals also encourage people to use public transport, cycle or walk.
He also emphasized the importance of preventing another health crisis to replace the current one because of polluted air. The Mayor mentioned creating more spaces for cycling and walking to address this. He encouraged Londoners to take part in the congestion charge consultation so that they can have their say on the matter.
If the proposals move forward after the consultation, the changes will take effect on 28 February 2022. It will give ample time for signage to be updated. The other proposals mentioned will be implemented as soon as there is a mayoral decision on the changes. The consultation with the TfL closes on 6 October 2021.