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Tuesday, 26 February, 2002, 11:25 GMT
Congestion charges explained
The proposed charging zone
Motorists wishing to drive into central London will have to pay a toll from as early as February 2003. How will the scheme work?

London's mayor Ken Livingstone hopes making drivers pay to enter the city centre will cut traffic by at least 10%.

Road tolls
Expected to raise 130m a year
This must be spent on public transport for first 10 years
As well as improving the lot of the city's pedestrians, cyclists and bus drivers, those motorists who pay the charge can expect quicker journey times. Reduced noise, air pollution and traffic accidents would also pay economic as well as social dividends, it is argued.

Having tweaked the scheme following consultation, the proposals are as follows:

In London, the heart of the city will be designated as the charging area from 0700 to 1830, Monday to Friday. It will not be levied on bank holidays.

Drivers will pay to venture inside a ring road - running from Victoria station in the west, to Fenchurch Street station (east), Elephant and Castle (south) and King's Cross (north).

The toll zone is eight miles square and covers 1.3% of the total 617 square miles of Greater London.

Starting at King's Cross, the exact boundary will run east along Pentonville Road, City Road, Great Eastern Street, Commercial Street, Mansell Street, Tower Bridge Road, New Kent Road, Kennington Lane, Vauxhall Bridge Road, Grosvenor Place, Park Lane, Edgware Road, Marylebone Road and Euston Road.

Car, lorry and van drivers will be charged 5 for entering or parking within the ring road. Motorists will be able to buy tickets in advance from 1000 to 2200 and some will be exempt.

Motorcyclists will be exempt from the London toll, as will the disabled and those drivers of licensed taxis and emergency services.

Clogged roads
The average speed in London is 9mph - slower than in the horse and cart era
Public service vehicles and community mini-buses will also be exempt but only if the organisation pre-registers the number plates. Drivers of "green" vehicles will get a 100% discount if they pay a 10 annual administration fee.

Drivers living within the charging zone will qualify for a 90% discount.

Concessions will also be available for low-paid education and hospital workers living or employed within the zone. NHS workers using their cars for work purposes will be exempt, as will firefighters driving between stations.

London drivers will be able to purchase daily, weekly (25), monthly (110) or annual (1,250) passes by post, phone, online, or in newsagents, shops or garages.

Tram, paid for with tolls
Trondheim in Norway has had tolls for 10 years
The registration numbers of those paying will be entered into a database. Fixed and mobile cameras trained on the number plates of cars entering central London will search out non-complying vehicles.

Such automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) systems arrived in the UK in 1997, and have been employed by the City of London police in an anti-terrorist crackdown. The cameras will use technology which enables them to see better in limited light conditions.

Wardens will patrol parking bays to locate those non-payers who don't actually hit the roads.

Those who don't pay will be fined 80, but a discount of 40 will be rewarded for prompt payment. The penalty will be increased to 120 if the fine is not paid in reasonable time.

Singapore employs a scheme whereby drivers pay money into an account from which the toll fee is deducted automatically when the "smartcard" tag passes a roadside sensor in the restricted area.

Oslo has installed automated booths (coin and card operated) to harvest tolls, although Norwegian commuters are also encouraged to buy smartcards. The toll zone sees revenues five times higher than the scheme's operating costs.

And in an Australian scheme, car users are given individualised public transport routes.

See also:

10 Jul 01 | UK Politics
Drivers face 5 London toll
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