The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have today confirmed temporary changes to the Congestion Charge, which were brought forward in accordance with TfL's funding agreement with Government.
It is hoped that these temporary changes will ensure the capital's recovery from the pandemic is not restricted by cars and congestion.
According to TfL the latest data shows that even with the Congestion Charge back in place and many people still working from home, there are as many cars in the zone as there were before the lockdown began.
If traffic is allowed to continue to grow, the transport regulators are concerned the roads will become unusably congested.
Analysis indicates that as the Government further eases lockdown restrictions, if those who would have used public transport instead choose to drive, car traffic levels in central London could double without any changes to the Congestion Charge.
At the Government's request, TfL has urgently brought forward proposals to temporarily widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge. They say the proposed wider support measures that are to be introduced as part of the package of changes demonstrate that Mayor and TfL have listened carefully to stakeholders and the public, and examined what further changes can be made to ensure the scheme is fair in the current circumstances for people who need to travel to central London.
From 22 June the Congestion Charge, which covers around one per cent of Greater London, will temporarily increase to £15, operate 07:00-22:00 seven days a week and the residents' discount will be closed to new applicants on 1 August.
TfL say that these new temporary changes will reduce traffic in central London and enable more journeys to be made safely by foot or by bike while keeping the bus network reliable for those making essential journeys.
After inviting people to share their views on the proposed changes, the Mayor is however extending the Congestion Charge reimbursement schemes to support those who could be most affected by the coronavirus pandemic. In addition to the already announced expansion of the NHS staff reimbursement scheme the new arrangements also include:
An expanded NHS patient reimbursement scheme for people vulnerable to coronavirus.
A new reimbursement arrangement for local authorities and charities operating in the zone where they are providing certain support or services in response to the pandemic (including domiciliary care workers providing services on behalf of a local authority and volunteers supporting shielding residents).
Changes to the residents' discount, which is now due to close to new applications on Saturday 1 August, have also been made giving residents who are not currently registered additional time to submit their application.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “The Government was absolutely clear that TfL must bring forward proposals to widen the level and scope of the Congestion Charge. Coronavirus continues to present our city with unprecedented challenges but I am determined to ensure that we emerge from this pandemic with a cleaner, greener and more sustainable transport system.
“The reality is that due to social distancing requirements public transport can only carry a fraction of the number of passengers compared to pre-pandemic levels - even when we are back to running completely full services.
“While capacity on the network needs to be preserved for those people who need it most, we can't allow journeys that were previously taken on public transport to be replaced with car trips.
“I am really proud that our world-leading Streetspace for London plans continue to move forward at pace, with 19,000m2 of additional space now created for walking and cycling. Alongside the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge, this will enable millions more journeys to be made on foot or by bike and will keep our roads moving for Londoners who need to make essential trips.”
Alex Williams, TfL's Director of City Planning, said: “It is not sustainable for London's recovery to be dominated by cars. We are already seeing a surge in traffic and need to act now to stop the city grinding to a halt. The temporary Congestion Charge changes are supporting our Streetspace programme, which will make it easier and safer for people to walk and cycle and keep the bus network reliable for those who need to use it.
“Our new reimbursement schemes will also ensure that those at the heart of the battle against coronavirus or who could be most affected by it can still make essential journeys by car. These temporary changes will also help ensure that those who can't work from home can travel safely and make the city's recovery from the pandemic sustainable and healthy.”