Back in June 2020, the London Congestion Charge was increased to £15 a day and its operating hours were extended to ten o’clock in the evening, including weekends.
However, recently Transport Secretary Grant Shapps wrote to the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, it was proposed as a condition of providing further financial help for Transport for London (TfL), extending the London Congestion Charge area during 2021 to cover exactly the same area as the Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ).
Next year, the ULEZ will extend to the London North and South Circular, these are the orbital roads that ring the inner boroughs of London, so this proposed extension to the Congestion Charge zone could potentially affect an additional four million Londoners, plus millions of other motorists and businesses that travel in to the area.
If adopted, the proposal would mean that drivers of the most heavily polluting new and used cars, including those who work in the motor trade industry, could be charged £27.50 a day to drive in a vastly extended area of London, approximately 18 times the size of the area previously covered by the Congestion Charge.
Sadiq Khan announced his intention to ‘stand firm and fight for a fair deal for Londoners’, who face increased costs above and beyond fuel, road tax, and insurance policies for the second time since Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered police to enforce a strict coronavirus lockdown back in March 2020.
TfL has been severely hit by the Covid-19 pandemic leading Sadiq Khan to call for a rescue package worth £4.9 billion over 18 months, although Boris Johnson was keen to lay the blame on the Mayor of London, whom he claimed ‘had effectively bankrupted TfL before coronavirus had even hit’.
Sadiq Khan was supported by Deputy Mayor of London, Heidi Alexander, who poured scorn on Government proposals to charge people £15 to drive a mile from Wandsworth into Clapham, or Catford into Lewisham.
RAC Head of Roads Policy, Nicholas Lyes was equally critical, describing the government proposals as ‘totally unreasonable‘, insofar as they ‘would hit drivers and businesses hard in the pocket at the very worst time.’
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Elsewhere, London Assembly Member for Greenwich and Lewisham Len Duvall said the proposals would be ‘disastrous’, adding that, ‘Introducing punitive conditions that would hit Londoners’ pockets is about the cruellest thing the UK Government could do, and at the worst possible time.’
Sadiq Khan announced in November, ‘I am pleased that we have succeeded in killing off the very worst Government proposals’, which included extending the Congestion Charge. He added, ‘This is not a perfect deal’.
Nonetheless, he succeeded in securing £1.8 billion in Government funding to keep TfL services running until March 2021, without punishing Londoners financially for doing ‘the right thing’ during the Covid-19 pandemic.