London Congestion Charge

London Congestion Charge Zone
London Congestion Charge Zone - © Nevilley

The London congestion charge has been in operation since 2003 and visitors to the city should be aware of what it is, the area is covers, how to pay it and other considerations before making their journeys. Essentially the congestion charge means drivers have to pay to drive their vehicles in to the congestion charge zone. The idea was to reduce congestion on London’s busy roads and raise revenue to improve London's transport network. There are varying views on the success of the plan depending on your point of view. Visitors to London are advised to read up on the charge and the impact it will have on their journeys.

Congestion Charge in London

What Is The Congestion Charge?
Where & When Is It in Operation?
How Much Does It Cost?
Payment, Exceptions & Tips

What Is The Congestion Charge?

The London Congestion Charge is a charge levied on vehicles going through London at certain times. The scheme is the first of its kind in a city the size of London, it was brought in to help the traffic congestion and pollution London suffers from. It was also brought in as a way to raise additional revenue to help improve the London travel & transport network.

There are no barriers on the roads or toll booths at the boundary to the zones, there is also no requirement to display any tickets, passes & permissions. The scheme is effectively managed by a large network of cameras located all over the charging zone. The cameras recognise the number plates of vehicles entering the zone to establish who is liable to pay the charge.

Where & When Is It in Operation?

The congestion charge is currently in operation in central London from 07.00 to 18.00 from Monday to Friday. To see the congestion charging zone see Charging Zone Map for more information.

Currently the charge is not in operation during the Weekends, English Bank Holidays and other designated days.

For those that are trying to travel through London rather than to it, there are designated roads you can use to drive through London and avoid having to pay the congestion charge.

There are possible plans to extend the congestion charge zone to include much of West London, there may be further plans in the future to change the zone or extend it to other areas of London depending on many factors.

There is the possibility other UK cities will look at introducing congestion charging in the future.

How Much Does It Cost?

The standard congestion charge amount payable is £11.50 per day. This entitles you to drive in and out of London as many times as you wish for that day.

You do not have to pre pay before you enter the zone, you must pay the charge before midnight 00.00 on that day to make sure you do not incur any penalty charges. There are graded fines if you pay after the allowable time. If you have been through the zone it is best to pay while you still remember to do so, leaving it means you risk a fine.

Ways to Pay:

There are a range of ways to pay the congestion charge, there are no tolls or check points across London to enforce the charge, rather a network of cameras check which vehicles have entered and left the capital each day. The payment methods include:

By Credit/Debit Card

By SMS Text

By Phone

At a Shop (you can find them where you see the congestion charging symbol & the pay point sign)

Self service machine (they are found in mainly in car parks)

Exceptions & Discounts:

There are number of exceptions that mean certain drivers and vehicles are eligible to pay a discounted rate or none at all. Among the exceptions are:

If you are a blue badge holder from the EU you can get a discount of up to 100%.

Residents in the zone may be eligible of a discount of up to 90%

Those with Auto Pay (Automated Payment System) can reduce the cost by £1. Note: Includes a £10 annual administration charge.

Alternative fuel vehicles i.e. powered by bio fuel/dual fuel and not exclusively by petrol or diesel as well as electronically powered vehicles are eligible for a discount of up to 100%

Motorcycles, scooters, mopeds & bicycles are exempt from the charge.

For further information & advice on the Congestion Zone please see: Congestion Charging

Payment, Exceptions & Tips

Always check you are aware of where the congestion charge zone is before you start your journey.

There are road signs when you are approaching the congestion zone, signs in the zone & signs when leaving the zone, look out for these.

If you go through the zone, pay the charge within the allowable time period to avoid further costs in fines.

Try to drive a vehicle that gets a discount on the charge such as an electric car or alternative fuel car such as hybrid cars, if you are going to be driving through the zone on a regular basis. For visitors to London, it is worth checking with car hire firms you may use if they have hybrid vehicles for hire.

If your hiring a car, check with your car hire provider if the congestion charge is included in the price, some add it others do not. If they do not add the cost, you will have to remember to pay the charge on time & budget for the extra cost.

If possible drive to London when the congestion charge is not in operation i.e. at weekends.

If you are choosing a route to drive through London to avoid the congestion charge, check the route thoroughly first & check no part of your route is in the congestion charge zone.

Drivers should note that using a route to avoid the congestion charge may mean a longer journey in distance & time taken and more fuel used losing some of the savings made by not driving through the zone. In this case using public transport may be a better, cheaper & more efficient option.

Travellers may wish to weigh up the cost of paying the London congestion charge to drive to London, against the cost of going by public transport & see which one is cheaper & better suits their needs.

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