A congestion charge is a payment that drivers make each day for the right to drive into a city center. The intention is the reduction in the number of cars travelling into London and the improvement in the quality of bus services, while encouraging public transportation.
The congestion charge was launched in February 2003 by Mayor, Ken Livingstone. It started by being £5 and today it is approximately £11.50 per day (Transports for London). Drivers have to pay between 7 am and 6 pm on Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays. However, some groups, as people with disabilities, residents living within the congestion zones are examples of groups exempt from paying.
The congestion charge zone (CCZ) addresses a large part of the central of London and has approximately 12 km². Thus, the limits of this zone are monitored by cameras, which make the surveillance process to be as accurate as possible. As a result, those who don’t pay are immediately noticed and properly fined.
Although it is firmly implemented in the present time, the introduction of the congestion charge was quite controversial. The supporters of the charge believe that in a city with the size of London it is important to have some kind of regulation and policies to reduce traffic. On the other hand, opponents of the charge claim that this charge is a “tax on the poor” since poorer motorist are the ones who suffer the most from this policy. These critics also claim that this charge made certain businesses to suffer financial losses and potential visitors may end up not visiting the center of London due to this unpleasant cost.
According to BBC News, the congestion process made the cost of public transport to rise in real terms by more than a third over the last decade, at the same time as the cost of motoring has dropped, which resulted in an unsustainable demand for the car and thus contributed to an unsuccessful attempt to reduce significantly carbon emissions. Consequently, due to all the facts stated before, it is believed that the cost of the congestion alone is equal to £20 billion a year and rising.
A Transport for London (TfL) review indicates that car numbers have fallen by 70,000 a day. Concerning the environmental subject, Transport for London has also recorded falling particulate levels within the original congestion charge area. Nitrous Oxide (NOx) fell 13.4% between 2002 & 2003 along with similar falls for Carbon Dioxide (CO2). However according to the New Scientist a new study showed that levels of pollution in the city’s congestion charging zone change little before and after the city implemented the toll.
The congestion charge has been implemented for 11 years. Since its implementation other cities have followed the example of London, as Stockholm, and others, as New York, have rejected it. After all this time there is no attempt to eliminate the charge since life in the center of London has improved in terms of security and health.
Maria João Silva