Prior to the introduction of the congestion charge, London was suffering from the worst traffic congestion in the UK. In central London average traffic speeds dipped below 10 mph in the period 1998-2000 for the first time since records began, and the delays were costing businesses and individuals vast amounts in time and money. There was a general consensus that something needed to be done in London to tackle the problem. When the Mayor of London was elected in 2000 he promised in his election manifesto to consult on a congestion charging scheme for central London. On 17 February 2003 the Mayor made good his promise and the Central London Congestion Charging Scheme was introduced.
The scheme covers the area bounded by the Inner Ring Road in central London (22 sq km), and operates on weekdays (bar public holidays) from 7.00 am to 6.30 pm. Drivers who enter the zone have until 10 pm on the day of travel to pay the £5 charge. Failure to pay the charge results in an £80 fine. The scheme is enforced using cameras in and around the charging zone. In the first year of the scheme's implementation, traffic delays in central London dropped by around 30% and around 65,000-70,000 fewer car movements come into the zone each day.
The congestion charge is a £5 daily charge for driving or parking a vehicle on public roads within the congestion charging zone between 7.00 am and 6.30 pm, Monday to Friday, excluding weekends and public holidays. When drivers pay the charge, they register their individual vehicle registration number. Cameras in and around the boundary of the charge observe the vehicle registration numbers of vehicles entering, parked and driving around the charging zone, and check the registration against the payment database. Failure to pay the charge and register a vehicle results in an £80 fine. Payment can be made by post, telephone, internet, SMS, at self-service machines, retail outlets and some petrol stations. The scheme covers 22 sq km in the heart of London, including the centres of government, law, business, finance and entertainment. The Inner Ring Road forms the boundary of the congestion charging zone, and no charge applies to vehicles using that route. Certain categories of vehicle, notably licensed taxis and minicabs, motorcycles and buses, are exempt; and certain categories of vehicle users can register for discounts - for example residents of the congestion charging zone can register for a 90% discount, and disabled Blue Badge holders are eligible for a 100% discount. The scheme has been undertaken as part of a wider transport strategy for London. Tackling congestion is a top priority and the congestion charge has delivered that, but a number of complimentary measures were necessary to ensure the success of the scheme.
Across London, measures have been implemented to improve bus services including increases in capacity (an extra 14,500 bus places have been provided), bus priority measures and extensive traffic management schemes around the perimeter of the zone.
Target groups: car users - all citizens
Fields: traffic calming / living streets - walking / pedestrians - cycling - public transport - responsible car use / mobility plans
This case study is one of 175 projects from the Smile Project Local Experiences Database listed on this website.