London's Congestion Charge to be reinstated at a higher price and extended to 7 days a week

The Mayor of London and TfL have announced that the capital's Congestion Charge, Ultra Low Emission Zone and Low Emission Zone will be reinstated on Monday 18 May at an increased cost.

The decision comes as Khan and TfL announced plans to transform parts of central London into one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world.

In what has been described as a "necessity" to enable safe social distancing on public transport in London as lockdown restrictions are eased, the plans are designed to help support increased walking and cycling and improve the city’s air quality.

Enabling social distancing to happen on the public transport network as lockdown restrictions are eased will require a monumental effort from all Londoners, TfL have said.

The Mayor’s air quality programme, including the introduction of the ULEZ, had already contributed to a reduction of 44 per cent in roadside nitrogen dioxide in central London between February 2017 and January of this year, the capital’s transport authority has confirmed.

Following the government announcement of coronavirus related travel restrictions, traffic levels on TfL roads fell by as much as 60 per cent and harmful nitrogen dioxide was down by around 50 per cent on some of London’s busiest roads. Traffic and pollution are now starting to rise again.

To prevent London’s roads from instantly becoming blocked with congestion, TfL has confirmed that the Congestion Charge and Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be reintroduced on Monday 18 May.

These schemes reduce congestion and pollution and help tackle the climate emergency, and the Low Emission Zone, which discourages the use of the dirtiest lorries and large vans, will also be reintroduced at the same time.

As a temporary measure and to support the transformation of London’s streets, it is proposed that the Congestion Charge will increase to £15 next month and the hours of operation extended as part of a package of temporary changes.

These changes will be monitored and form part of a wider review of the Congestion Charge as agreed with the government as part of the TfL funding deal.

Proposals include increasing the Congestion Charge to £15 and extending its hours of operation to 7am to 10pm, seven days a week, from 22 June.

TfL believe this would encourage Londoners not to make unnecessary car journeys, and is expected to reduce journeys within the Congestion Charge zone by a third. This would significantly reduce air pollution in central London compared to pre-Covid levels and help tackle the climate emergency.

TfL will be temporarily extending the Congestion Charge reimbursement scheme to continue to support NHS and care home staff, who are at the heart of the national effort in these unprecedented times.

NHS and care home employees who work in the Congestion Charge zone will be reimbursed for journeys relating to coronavirus, including for their journeys to and from work.

Shalin Shah, Vice Chair of the United Private Hire Drivers group (UPHD) London, said: As TfL struggles to close its budget gap we now see  a sadt truth emerge that the pandemic costs to society will not be borne equally. Precarious workers in a private hire industry already rife with exploitation will now pick up an unfair share of the pandemic burden. We are calling on the Mayor to rethink this plan and make sure that congestion and clean air costs are picked up by the travelling public not by already underpaid workers.

Jemima Hartshorn, founder of Mums for Lungs, said: “We are delighted that the Mayor and TfL are taking leadership in reinstating the ULEZ/CC and are excited about the new routes to make walking and cycling safe in these challenging times. We need pollution levels to stay reduced because pre-corona levels, caused primarily by traffic, stunts lung growths and are linked to many illnesses from cancer to diabetes.

“The need for safe travel – physically distanced from others and pollution-free - has never been as urgent as during this respiratory pandemic. We urge Government to support these measures with the funding needed to transform London into a city with clean air – to ensure Londoners and visitors stay healthy during and after this health crisis.”

Adam Tyndall, Programme Director for Transport for London First, said: “Increasing numbers of people will need to travel to work as we emerge from lockdown, and social distancing placing significant limits on public transport capacity. Londoners are going to need to walk and cycle a lot more and Streetspace is the right approach to getting London moving again.

“The ULEZ and Congestion Charge should be reintroduced to help prevent our roads from becoming congested and polluted. The objective should be to re-open London's economy in a safe and sustainable way, with these measures regularly assessed to ensure that they are still making movement around the city easier, not just for people but for the vital goods and services that support our lives and our economy.”

Image credit: Pixabay

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