Transport for London (TfL) has launched a consultation on plans to drop the congestion charge in the evening 'to support London’s recovery'.
New proposals include reducing the hours of operation to 07:00-18:00 during the week - rather than the current 22.00 finish time - and 12:00-18:00 at the weekend with the charge remaining at £15.
TfL's finances have been in rocky shape since the pandemic, with the London transport authority having to effectively take orders from the Government in exchange for emergency bailouts.
The operational hours of the charge have been extended
TfL has said it still requires extra financial support from the Government, despite recent savings - suggesting the congestion charge changes are possibly a compromise with central government.
In accordance with the Government’s first emergency funding agreement, TfL urgently brought forward proposals to temporarily widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge in June 2020.
The operational hours of the charge were extended to include evenings and weekends, and the charge was increased from £11.50 to £15. Since then, mayor Sadiq Khan has argued that 'the temporary charges should be reviewed to ensure a strong economic recovery in London and one that is environmentally sustainable and fair to all'.
The new proposals include:
- Opening up the 90% residents’ discount to new applicants. The discount has been closed to new applicants since 1 August 2020.
- No charge between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day inclusive
- The charge to be in operation on bank holidays from 12:00-18:00
- Being able to pay up to three days after travel - at £17.50
- removal of the discount for using AutoPay will be removed, after high take-up of the option
TfL is also consulting on retaining recently expanded reimbursement schemes for NHS patients, care workers, local councils and charities during epidemics and pandemics. The pre-pandemic NHS staff and patient reimbursement arrangements will continue.
Mr Khan said: 'The Government insisted on the widening of the level and scope of the Congestion Charge last year as a condition of TfL’s emergency funding agreement – which was only needed because of the pandemic.
'As we look to the future it’s vital the charge strikes the right balance between supporting London’s economic recovery and helping ensure it is a green and sustainable one. These proposals support the capital’s culture, hospitality and night-time businesses which have struggled so much, as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport.'
Centre for London chief executive Nick Bowes said: 'You can see from today’s announcement the bind City Hall finds itself in on the Congestion Charge.
'Trying to tackle congestion and generate income, yet support the revival of central London’s economy involves a tricky balancing act, but this is made all the more difficult by the Congestion Charge being an ageing and clunky technology.
'Transport for London should make the most of new technology and develop a simpler, smarter and fairer system of road user charging in the capital. It will take bold political leadership but, done properly, a smart road user charging scheme would improve air quality, promote active travel and reduce congestion, and play a key role in filling the hole in Transport for London's budget.'
If these proposals are taken forward following the consultation, the changes to hours will take place on 28 February 2022, giving time for signage to be updated. Other proposals will be implemented immediately after a mayoral decision on the changes.
The consultation closes on Wednesday 6 October 2021. To respond, visit: tfl.gov.uk/ccyourview.