Understanding The London Congestion Charge
The London congestion charge was introduced to alleviate traffic in the city centre. It is intended to deter drivers from non-essential car journeys and promote the use of London's many public transport links. As such, it applies to the majority of vehicles at peak times of travel, and failure to comply with the charge can lead to a fine of up to £130
The charge does not apply to all London boroughs, only those in areas such as Charing Cross, Holborn and London Bridge. If you are unsure if you are travelling into a congestion zone, this information can be found online. You will also recognize congestion zones from road signs and road symbols. The congestion charge sign is depicted by a large "C" in a red circle.
When Must The London Congestion Charge Be Paid?
The charge applies to periods when people are most likely to be commuting to work, namely Monday to Friday between the hours of 7am and 6pm. You do not need to pay the charge either at night or at the weekends, and the charge is suspended on Bank Holidays. The congestion charge also does not apply in the period between Christmas day and New Years day.
If you know that you need to travel in central London, it is easiest to pay in advance. This can be done up to ninety days before your date of travel. The latest you are allowed to pay is midnight of the next working day, following your trip into a congestion zone. After this period, the registered owner of the vehicle will automatically incur a fine.
Almost all vehicles are affected by the charge, but some exclusions do apply. Some electric and hybrid cars are exempt, as long as their emissions meet the Euro 5 air quality standard. This information can be found on your V5C registration document. Buses and vans with nine or more seats are also currently exempt, but you will need to register and pay a £10 annual charge.
Other forms of personal transport are permitted to travel in the congestion charge without paying a charge. This includes bicycles, motorbikes and mopeds.
How Much Do You Need To Pay?
As the London congestion charge is subject to change, it is always best to check the Transport for London website before you travel. At present, the highest amount you will pay is £14 for the day. This amount will be reduced if you opt to pay in advance or if you set up a recurring payment. Disabled drivers who hold a Blue Badge can register with Transport for London and pay a one off charge of £10 in order to travel for free in the city centre.
People who live in affected areas such as Covent Garden, Soho and Waterloo are eligible for a ninety percent discount. To receive this, you must be able to prove your residency before you register.
Further information can be found online. This includes more detailed terms and conditions, and the facility for Internet payments.