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Friday, 14 February, 2003, 09:55 GMT
Ken's charge: Can we be won over?
Maria Jamie Roger Brian From Monday, motorists driving into central London will have to pay a 5 congestion charge. Here, four commuters ask what the charge will mean to them.

Click on the pictures above to find out what each has to say about the congestion charge, which is being introduced by London Mayor Ken Livingstone.

Next week we will go back to our four commuters to find out how they coped after day one of the charge.

NAME: Roger Winston
AGE: 55
OCCUPATION: Advertising producer

Roger Winston
Struck by a condition that prevents him from standing for long periods, Roger Winston says he has no choice but to pay the congestion charge.

For eight years, Roger has made the daily commute by car from his home in Purley Oaks, Croydon, to the south bank of the Thames in central London.

It's a journey that takes about 45 minutes in the morning - quicker and easier than if he were to go by train. But Roger says he has no choice anyway because a protein deficiency means he finds it painful to stand for the duration of crowded train journey.

Unfortunately, he says, the condition is not enough to earn him a disabled badge, and therefore exemption from the charge.

I can't afford the charge but neither can I not afford it

Roger Winston
At a cost of 5 per day - or 1,150 a year - it will wipe out a recent pay rise and on top of that is the fact he only just works, and parks, inside the congestion zone.

"I'm very angry. I don't even drive north of the river, where the real congestion is," he says. "I can't afford the charge but neither can I not afford it.

"My only alternative is to get a job outside the zone."

NAME: Jamie Owens
AGE: 36
OCCUPATION: Taxi driver

Jamie Owens
As a black cab driver, you might expect Jamie Owens to be a fan of the congestion charge. It should mean more punters and clearer streets will enable him to get around quicker. Also, cabbies are exempt from paying themselves.

But Jamie has mixed feelings. He believes 5 will not be enough to deter drivers who are used to stumping up 25 a day for parking and while it might ease traffic flow in the centre, he predicts gridlock on the zone's perimeter roads.

"It could be good for business but Ken Livingstone hasn't done his research," says Jamie, who lives in Welling, Kent.

I think Livingstone wants to prove something before he stands for re-election

Jamie Owens
"I think he wants to prove something before he stands for re-election. Why not wait and introduce it over the summer when things are quieter."

A cab driver for 12 years, Jamie says he has seen traffic get progressively worse as side streets have been closed.

"I don't let it get to me when I'm working - you've got to detach yourself from it. But my customers get stressed out by it. They want you to perform miracles - get across the West End in 10 minutes."

NAME: Brian Simmons
AGE: 28
OCCUPATION: Software consultant

Brian Simmons
Brian Simmons is actually looking forward to the charge. A motorcyclist, he cuts through central London every day as part of a complex journey from his home in north London to his work in the south-west of the capital.

Riding through dense traffic is hard work and he is always on the lookout for careless drivers, especially those on mobile phones - "they can just pull out in front of you". So less traffic will make his life easier and since motorbikes are exempt from the charge, Brian predicts a win-win result.

"I think it's a really brave move by Ken Livingstone. Something has to be done. At the moment it only takes one thing to go wrong and the whole core of the city shudders to gridlock," he says.

People are afraid of doing something for the common good - they think about themselves

Brian Simmons
"Of the cars I see in London, about 80% have just one driver. You could fit five bikes into the space of one car. I hope this encourages more people onto bikes."

Also no stranger to public transport, Brian hopes the charge will shake some sense into selfish car drivers

"People are afraid of doing something for the common good. They think about themselves too much. Hopefully, this will make them think about others."

NAME: Maria Eggleston
AGE: 45
OCCUPATION: Restaurant chain manager

Maria Eggleston
Maria Eggleston is no fan of public transport, which is why she spends more than an hour every day driving from her home in Woking, Surrey, to her office in the City.

"I can't stand being on a train. You're squeezed together with no room to breathe and everyone is coughing their germs into your face," she says.

She also has safety fears about travelling alone on the train, especially in the weeks leading up to the Christmas rush, when she doesn't finish work until late.

The thought of paying more than 1,000 a year on the congestion charge, on top of the 300 she shells out for parking, horrifies her.

I can only grit my teeth and hope Livingstone won't destroy our business

Maria Eggleston
"It's ridiculous. They don't even have the common decency to offer discounts to those who will pay up front.

Taking the train isn't an option, she says. She will drive in and pay the charge, but she also expects to spend more time working from home.

"Livingstone hasn't even thought it through properly. I can only grit my teeth and hope he won't be destroying our business."

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