Congestion charge sign London

The idea of implementing a congestion charge in central London goes back to 1964. Since then the basic plan has gone through various transformations, including being shelved in favour of increasing public transport provision. It was finally introduced in 2003 after a decade in which London experienced some of the worst traffic volumes in Europe. The aims of the scheme were two fold, firstly the reduction of congestion in central London and secondly to boost investment in London’s transport system. It would appear that despite a few hiccups, the scheme has had some success. Although TFL or Transport for London, manages the scheme, since 2009 the task of administering it has been down to IBM.

The scheme raised £148 million in the year 2009/10 towards improving transport and has made a profit of £900 millionsince its introduction nine years ago. Whilst this is not as much as was expected, it does represent 8-10% of the annual revenue of TFL and has no doubt contributed to ensuring the city’s public transport system remains sound. The recent Olympic and Paralympics’ games put an immense strain on London’s bus, tube and rail network, however the system proved itself more than capable of rising to the challenge, delivering spectators, games makers and athletes alike, safely and on time.

Impact on London’s air quality

Coupled with reducing the volume of traffic passing through the city, it was also hoped that reduced emissions from vehicles would improve the cities atmosphere. Unfortunately, this has not been the case, a recent study by Kings College London found that air quality in London remains at a consistent level.

The problems of recouping costs remain significant, over £170 million remains outstanding in charges and fines. As well as everyday motorists forgetting or putting off payment, criminal elements continue to seek ways of avoiding number plate recognition and foreign diplomats wrongly assume they are exempt from payment under the Vienna Convention as they consider it a tax. TFL maintains it will chase all monies owed, even taking cases to the International Courts of Justice to pursue non payments.

Increased demand for public transport

Whilst London’s streets have not undergone a radical conversion, the number of buses, taxis and cycles in the capital have risen significantly. Bus patronage has risen by 6% inside charging times, with the use of cycles also rising. Congestion may not have been lowered considerably, but the volume of cars on the road has instead been stabilised. TFL have reported this increased demand for public transport is mirrored by a small decreased in road traffic accidents. Significantly, the only group which have suffered more casualties on the road are cyclists, which is probably due in part to their increased numbers in the capital.

It appears the congestion charge can curtail the use of cars within its zone, whilst simultaneously supporting other forms of transport through funding and increased road space. However, even brief observations on a day trip to the city, will show traffic quickly mounts to levels which would be considered heavy in outlying areas. TFL notes that the essential works of utility companies coupled with increased road provision for other road users, i.e.; bus and cycle lanes as well as pedestrianised areas, have added to car traffic congestion. With so many considerations, it may take some years before we can say with certainty that the London congestion charge model has succeeded in its initial aims.

For more information visit the Transport for London official website.

This article is written by Paul O’Hara. Paul is an automotive blogger with, Manchester. Over the last ten years Concept Car Credit has helped 1000s of customers to a newer car wherever they had a good or a bad credit history.

Image by EURIST e.V. on Flickr

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