This page of our web site provides information on the London Congestion Charge system, and demonstrates how ineffective it has been in reducing congestion. In practice it has just become an enormously expensive way to raise tax to fund Transport for London and the Mayor’s other programmes.
The map below (source: TfL) shows the current limits of the London Congestion Charge scheme (as at July 2017). This scheme was installed in 2002 to the City and West End with a Western Extension into Kensington and Chelsea introduced in 2007 despite overwhelming public opposition in the previous public consultation exercise. There is a charge per day for driving anywhere within the zone boundary. This was originally set at £5 per day but rose to £10 at the end of 2010, when the Western Extension was scrapped. It was raised to £11.50 per day from June 2014, and to £15 from June 2020 plus extended to 24 hours per day every day.
The original justification for the charge was that it would solve London's perennial road traffic congestion (environmental benefits were not an argument used because it was known they would be minimal). But it did not solve the congestion problem with that soon returning to the same level as before and subsequently becoming a lot worse. The environmental claims made by some have also been shown to be false with air pollution within the zone basically unchanged as a result. Neither does it raise any significant funds for public transport improvements because almost all the revenue from the scheme goes in operating costs. Indeed if it was not for the accidental fines people collect from forgetting to pay the charge, it would lose money. Note that the Congestion Charge was introduced by socialist car-hating Mayor Ken Livingstone. It has impacted the poor more heavily than the wealthy and hence is a very regressive tax. His final parting shot before being ejected from office by the electorate was to sign up London for a multi-year contract with the operators which was too expensive to cancel.
Congestion Charging and Road Pricing
The following articles have been published on Congestion Charging (particularly the London Congestion Charge or "Tax") and on road usage charging (note: TfL have stopped publishing Annual Monitoring Reports for the Congestion Charge but reports up until the sixth one are still available):
This article was written on the London Congestion Charge after publication of the 5th Annual Monitoring Report: Congestion_Charge_Report_2007
The following article is a report by Roger Lawson on a debate on road pricing held in Cambridge in May 2008: Debate_on_Road_Pricing
After publication of the Sixth Annual Monitoring Report on the London Congestion Charge by TfL in August 2008 it was clear that congestion was back to where it was before the charge was introduced, with the Western Extension also providing no benefits at all since it was introduced.
Note that the campaign against a proposed Congestion Charge in Greenwich (which took place mainly in 2007) is covered on this web page: Greenwich
In January 2017 the London Assembly Transport Committee published a report on the congestion in London with some recommendations for action. That follows severely worsening congestion in recent years with more private hire vehicles, more LGVs delivering internet orders, and the general increase in the population and business in London. A summary of their recommendations and some comments on them are present in this blog post: Congestion-Report.
In July 2018, TfL published proposals to include PHVs in the Congestion Charge and remove some of the exemptions for low emission vehicles. This blog post explained the changes and how TfL deliberately lies about the benefits of the Congestion Charge: PHVs-Now-Included . Remember it’s all about money, not about reducing congestion!
The increase to £15 per day in June 2020 was necessary to fix the major deficit in the finances of TfL due to the financial incompetence of the Mayor and the impact of the Covid-19 epidemic on TfL public transport revenue. The private motorist and goods vehicle owners are now having to bail out public transport - an unjustified attack on your choice of transport mode and a tax on goods deliveries.
In December 2021 the Mayor announced further changes to the Congestion Charge effectively making the temporary increase to £15 permanent but cutting the hours slightly. See this blog post for more details: Higher-Congestion-Charge