Changes to the Congestion Charge to support long term traffic reduction and a sustainable recovery
After an extensive public consultation, a number of changes to the Congestion Charge have been announced. TfL introduced temporary changes to the Congestion Charge in 2020 as an emergency measure in the pandemic to ensure traffic was reduced so that essential journeys could continue to take place.
This was in accordance with a condition in the May 2020 funding settlement, and included raising the charge from £11.50 to £15, and increasing the operating hours to include evenings and weekends.
Following a 10-week consultation that saw nearly 10,000 responses, TfL has today, Thursday 16 December, confirmed permanent changes that will help prevent car use from rising above pre-pandemic levels.
The main measures mean that from 21 February, there will be no charges in the evenings after 18:00, and operating hours on weekends and bank holidays will reduce to 12:00-18:00. The current charge level of £15 will be retained.
These changes will directly address the traffic challenges in central London. They will also support London's culture, hospitality and night-time businesses, which have been some of the hardest hit during the pandemic, and also ensure gains made in reducing car dependency over more than 15 years are not lost.
This will help make sure that the capital's recovery from the pandemic is a green and sustainable one. Trade body UK Hospitality has forecast that takings will be down by as much as 40% for December, usually the most lucrative month for venues.
Supporting families and visitors
The Congestion Charge will also be suspended between Christmas and the first working day of the New Year, supporting families and visitors over the festive period in what is traditionally a time of increased engineering work on the rail network and a quieter period on the roads.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: 'The Government insisted on proposals to widen 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 and the collapse in fares revenue.
'These new changes strike a balance between reducing traffic and congestion and supporting London's economy and residents and helping ensure our recovery is a green and sustainable one.
'The removal of the evening charge will 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. It's vital we do not encourage a car-led recovery and replace one public health crisis with another due to filthy air.'
Alex Williams, TfL's Director of City Planning, said: 'As London continues its recovery from the pandemic it is essential that we encourage people to travel sustainably. These changes are targeted at reducing traffic at the busiest times where we have seen a long-term trend in high levels of car travel.
'We expect to see growth in the number of people walking, cycling and using public transport in central London as a result. The removal of the charge in the evening will help shift workers who perform essential roles at the heart of the city and support London's vibrant cultural and hospitality sectors who are still recovering from the pandemic.'
Silviya Barrett, Head of Policy, Research and Projects at Campaign for Better Transport, said: 'Reducing car use is key to tackling congestion and improving air quality in the capital.
'We're pleased that the congestion charge is being retained at £15 as measures like this, coupled with investment in public transport, are a proven way to reduce traffic levels and clean up the air.'
Tina Johnston, Coordinator for Blackfriars Positive Ageing Services, said: 'The Congestion Charge reimbursement scheme has been a godsend to me. My team provides services for older people in Southwark and beyond.
'Our befriending services support isolated older people with telephone calls and home visits by trained volunteers. We also provide lunch clubs and a programme of activities, including for a group of visually impaired people.
'We shop for the clubs, travel to see isolated people in their homes and offer transport to members who are unable to get to get to our sessions. The scheme has allowed us to serve the community during the most challenging of times - we are so grateful.'
The Mayor's target is for 80% of trips made in the capital in 2041 to be by walking, cycling or public transport, and the target for central London is 95% of trips to be made by these sustainable types of travel.
High levels of traffic make deliveries less reliable, delay bus journeys, worsen air pollution and make it less safe for people walking and cycling.
The new weekend charging hours are targeted at reducing congestion at the busiest times. Weekend car and private hire traffic before the pandemic was higher than during the week and made up 70% of traffic in the charging zone on a Saturday and Sunday.
It is estimated there will be an increase in sustainable travel compared to before the pandemic, with around 8,000 new public transport trips and 3,000 walking and cycling trips each day on the weekend.
The pandemic has brought into sharp focus the need to protect the vulnerable and those involved in caring for them.
Reimbursement arrangements will be retained to facilitate essential trips made by certain NHS patients, care home workers, local councils and charities during epidemics and pandemics. The expanded NHS staff reimbursement arrangement will also continue.
TfL has listened to feedback following the introduction of the temporary changes last year and will now reopen the 90% residents' discount for new applicants.
Other permanent changes being implemented include:
- The deadline will be extended for making a delayed payment to three days after the day of travel. The delayed payment charge is £17.50
- The Auto Pay and Fleet Auto Pay discount will be removed
- The ability for residents to pay by App or online for multiple consecutive charging days will be removed
The majority of the changes will come into force on the 20 December, aside from the changes to hours of operation, which will take place on 21 February 2022. This is to allow for changes to operational systems and to alter the signs that inform drivers of when the charge is in operation.
- No charge will be applied between Christmas Day and New Year's Day Bank Holiday inclusive. This means the period from Saturday 25 Dec 2021 to Monday 3 January 2022 (inclusive) will not be charged
- As part of the first emergency funding with Government in June 2020 TfL urgently brought forward proposals for temporary arrangements, which widened the scope and level of the charge. The operational hours of the charge were extended to 2200, seven days a week, and the charge was increased from £11.50 to £15. The plans now being taken forward follow an extensive public consultation, which saw close to 10,000 responses
- Reimbursements are claimed from the relevant organisation, rather than TfL. More details can be found on the TfL website at: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/driving/reimbursements-of-the-congestion-charge-and-ulez-charge
- A full copy of the consultation report can be found at: tfl.ov.uk/ccyourview
- A summary of the changes are as follows:
|Pre-pandemic scheme up to 22 June 2020||Temporary Changes to the Congestion Charge from 22 June 2020||Permanent changes to the Congestion Charge|
|Auto Pay||£1 discount||No discount||No discount|
|Pay next day charge||£14 next day charge||£17.50 if paid up to three days after travel||£17.50 if paid up to three days after travel|
|Charging period||Mon - Fri, 0700-1800||Mon - Sun, 0700-2200||Mon - Fri, 0700-1800; Sat, Sun & bank holiday, 1200-1800|
|Non-charging days||Bank holidays and the days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day||Christmas Day||Christmas Day to New Year's Day bank holiday (inclusive)|
|Residents' discount||90 per cent for all residents following registration for discount||90 per cent residents' discount closed to new applicants from 1 August 2020||90 per cent for all residents following registration for discount|
|Reimbursements||NHS staff and patient reimbursement arrangements||NHS staff and patient reimbursement schemes extended, and new reimbursement arrangements for care home workers working at care homes in the Congestion Charging Zone and charities and local authorities' workers providing certain services||
Extended NHS staff arrangements.
Extended NHS patient reimbursement for patients vulnerable to risk of infection during an epidemic or pandemic.
Reimbursements for care home workers working at care homes in the Congestion Charging Zone and charities and local authorities' workers providing certain services during the current and any future pandemic or epidemic prevalent in Greater London.