The London congestion charge is a fee for motorists entering the Central London area. London was not the first city to adopt congestion charging, but as of 2006 it is the largest city to do so. The organisation responsible for administering the charge is Transport for London (TfL).
The stated aim of the scheme is to encourage travellers to use public transport, cleaner vehicles, bicycles, motorcycles or their own two feet instead of motor cars and vans, thus reducing congestion and allowing for faster, less polluting and more predictable journeys. TfL says that much of the money raised in the scheme is invested in public transport.
The fee was introduced on 17 February 2003.The daily fee of £8 must be paid by the registered owner of a vehicle on the day the vehicle enters, leaves or moves around within the congestion charge zone between 7am and 6.00pm, Monday to Friday.
The charge can be paid the following day at a cost of £10. If the charge is not paid by midnight the following day then a penalty charge notice may be issued which is currently £120. This falls to £60 if paid within 14 days.
Some vehicles such as buses, minibuses (over a certain size), taxis, emergency service vehicles (i.e. ambulances, fire engines and police vehicles), motorcycles, alternative fuel vehicles and bicycles are exempt from the charge. Technically, some of the exemptions are 100% discounts and still require registration. In the case of Hybrid vehicles, the registration fee exceeds the congestion charge for occasional visitors and requires considerable supporting documentation which is not included when the car is purchased. Residents of the zone are eligible for a 90% discount if they pay the charge for a week or more at once. In 2005 it was revealed that several London embassies were not paying the charge as they believed it to be a tax, which they are protected from paying under the Vienna Convention.
In September 2005, the western expansion of the congestion charge was confirmed, and it came into effect in February 2007.
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