Temporary changes to the Congestion Charge to secure safe recovery
- Car traffic in the zone already back to pre-pandemic levels and without changes car traffic could double
- Temporary changes to support the Streetspace programme will make walking and cycling safer and essential bus journeys more reliable
- The temporary changes to the Congestion Charge could see trips taken by car fall by a third and pollutant emissions reduced by up to 11 per cent in newly charged hours
- Reimbursements extended to local authority workers and charity workers providing certain pandemic support services in the zone as well as vulnerable NHS patients
The Mayor and TfL have today confirmed temporary changes to the Congestion Charge, which were brought forward in accordance with TfL’s funding agreement with Government. These temporary changes will ensure the capital’s recovery from the pandemic is not restricted by cars and congestion.
The latest data shows that even with the Congestion Charge back in place and many people still working from home, there are as many cars in the zone as there were before the lockdown began.
If traffic is allowed to continue to grow, roads will become unusably congested. Analysis indicates that as the Government further eases lockdown restrictions, if those who would have used public transport instead choose to drive, car traffic levels in central London could double without any changes to the Congestion Charge.
This would mean that there would not be space on streets to accommodate the increased levels of walking and cycling needed with effective public transport capacity reduced to 13-20 per cent of normal due to social distancing.
Through temporary changes to the charge, and the rapid enhancement of walking and cycling infrastructure, the city can have a safe and sustainable recovery. Trips taken by car could fall by a third and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vehicles fall by up to 11 per cent in these newly charged hours.
At the Government’s request, TfL has urgently brought forward proposals to temporarily widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge. The proposed wider support measures that are to be introduced as part of the package of changes demonstrate that Mayor and TfL have listened carefully to stakeholders and the public, and examined what further changes can be made to ensure the scheme is fair in the current circumstances for people who need to travel to central London.
From 22 June the Congestion Charge, which covers around one per cent of Greater London, will temporarily increase to £15, operate 07:00-22:00 seven days a week and the residents’ discount will be closed to new applicants on 1 August. These temporary changes will reduce traffic in central London and enable more journeys to be made safely by foot or by bike while keeping the bus network reliable for those making essential journeys.
After inviting people to share their views on the proposed changes, the Mayor is extending the Congestion Charge reimbursement schemes to support those who could be most affected by the coronavirus pandemic and are at the heart of the response to the crisis. In addition to the already announced expansion of the NHS staff reimbursement scheme to cover additional trips made by staff at NHS Trusts, ambulance staff and those who work in care homes in the zone, the new arrangements also include:
- An expanded NHS patient reimbursement scheme for people vulnerable to coronavirus.
- A new reimbursement arrangement for local authorities and charities operating in the zone where they are providing certain support or services in response to the pandemic (including domiciliary care workers providing services on behalf of a local authority and volunteers supporting shielding residents).
Changes to the residents’ discount, which is now due to close to new applications on Saturday 1 August, have also been made giving residents who are not currently registered additional time to submit their application.
The expanded scheme for NHS patients will come into force on 22 June, with the new reimbursement arrangements targeted at supporting frontline local authorities and charities who are dealing with coronavirus being introduced in the coming weeks and backdated to 22 June. This is in addition to widening the NHS staff reimbursement and introducing new care home worker reimbursement when schemes were reinstated on 18 May.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said:
'The Government was absolutely clear that TfL must bring forward proposals to widen the level and scope of the Congestion Charge. Coronavirus continues to present our city with unprecedented challenges but I am determined to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic with a cleaner, greener and more sustainable transport system.
'The reality is that due to social distancing requirements public transport can only carry a fraction of the number of passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels - even when we are back to running completely full services.
'While capacity on the network needs to be preserved for those people who need it most, we can’t allow journeys that were previously taken on public transport to be replaced with car trips.
I am really proud that our world-leading Streetspace for London plans continue to move forward at pace, with 19,000m2 of additional space now created for walking and cycling. Alongside the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge, this will enable millions more journeys to be made on foot or by bike and will keep our roads moving for Londoners who need to make essential trips.'
Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said:
'It is not sustainable for London’s recovery to be dominated by cars. We are already seeing a surge in traffic and need to act now to stop the city grinding to a halt. The temporary Congestion Charge changes are supporting our Streetspace programme, which will make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle and keep the bus network reliable for those who need to use it. Our new reimbursement schemes will also ensure that those at the heart of the battle against coronavirus or who could be most affected by it can still make essential journeys by car. These temporary changes will also help ensure that those who can’t work from home can travel safely and make the city’s recovery from the pandemic sustainable and healthy.'
Giulio Ferrini, Head of Built Environment for Sustrans London, said:
'The temporary changes to the Congestion Charge are critical for keeping London’s streets moving while public transport capacity is so drastically reduced.
'As more people start to move around the city, space on public transport must be preserved for those who need it. The most efficient way of ensuring that Londoners are able to travel while avoiding public transport is to reduce the demand for road space and make it easier for people to walk or cycle where they can. Allowing traffic levels to rise even further risks central London grinding to a halt with toxic traffic and long queues for public transport, while at the same time making conditions worse for active journeys.'
Alison Cook, director of external affairs at Asthma UK and the British Lung Foundation, said:
'We know that air pollution is bad for everyone’s health and we must take action to protect those most vulnerable to its effects, including people who are recovering from coronavirus, children and the millions of people in the UK with existing lung conditions, such as asthma and COPD.
'As we start to recover from COVID, it's vital we don't see London's streets fill up with cars, which is why we support this action to encourage people to take more sustainable travel options. This must be alongside an expansion of the ULEZ, and action from all boroughs to support people to walk and cycle where possible. For the sake of Londoner’s lungs lets hang on to the cleaner air we have seen over the last few months, and keep pushing pollution levels even lower.'
Work to improve conditions for people walking and cycling is continuing at pace. Over the last few weeks alone, TfL’s Streetspace for London programme has delivered larger pavements at a number of locations, including Waterloo Road, Borough High Street, outside Victoria Station and on Upper Street in Islington. In total, TfL has completed new Streetspace schemes at 23 locations across the capital with an additional 19,000m2 of space for people walking and cycling created.
Upgrade works have also been carried out on Cycleway 8 between Chelsea Bridge and Vauxhall Bridge. People cycling are now physically separated from motor traffic and the junction from Grosvenor Road to Chelsea Bridge has a new banned left-turn for vehicles to protect people cycling. Work has now started on the second phase of this upgrade which will also cover Vauxhall Bridge to Lambeth Bridge along Millbank.
Work on Cycleway 4 in southeast London and Cycleway 9 in west London has restarted and construction work to improve CS7 in Balham will get underway shortly. Cycling is already playing a key role in the city, with data showing that it has increased significantly in recent weeks and that more Santander Cycle hires were made last month than any other May. TfL has set out plans to expand the scheme to keep up with unprecedented demand, and the creation of improved cycling infrastructure will complement this.
Car traffic in the zone in the evenings is now almost as high as during the day, and at weekends is even higher than during the week. Clogged up roads are a major barrier to economic recovery while also disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable. The cost of congestion in London is £5.5bn per year with the capital’s drivers losing more than 200 hours per year due to being stuck in traffic. Blocked roads push up the costs to business, with unpredictable journey times and deliveries running late.
Emergency service vehicles – including police cars - are exempt from the charge. Tackling congestion also allows emergency services to be able to get around the capital and help the people that need them.
Data shows that households on low incomes are less likely to own a car but are more likely to be exposed to higher levels of air pollution. Lowest income households are more than three times less likely to own a car than highest income households. In 2013, in the most deprived areas the concentration levels of NO2 pollution were on average 24 per cent higher than those in the least deprived areas.
Notes to editors:
- The temporary changes will be kept under review to ensure they remain effective in light of the transport challenges created by the coronavirus pandemic.
- Customers will also now temporarily have up to three days after the day of travel to pay the daily charge at a slightly higher rate of £17.50.
- More than 75 per cent of central London households do not own a car. The temporary removal of the residents’ discount to new applicants from 1 August is to act as a deterrent to car ownership in central London.
- Only 0.5 per cent of cars entering the Congestion Charge zone do so on a daily basis (five to seven times per week) and just over half of vehicles seen in the zone only enter once every six months.
- Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, entries to the zone peaked after charging hours in the evenings and overall entries were higher at weekends than during charging hours.
- The world’s first Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) has contributed to a reduction of 44 per cent in roadside NO2 in the central London ULEZ zone. In January there were 44,100 fewer polluting vehicles being driven in the central zone every day with 79 per cent of vehicles in the zone now meeting the ULEZ emissions standards – up from 39 per cent in February 2017. TfL has also seen additional improvements in air quality during the coronavirus lockdown as traffic fell to around half pre-lockdown levels.