A new probe has revealed that TfL has been earning more from Congestion Charge fines than legitimate payments in the last year
Motorists were handed fines totalling up to £130million by Transport for London over the course of a year for failing to pay the capital’s Congestion Charge.
That is more than double the £52million in revenue it earned from those who did observe the daily rate to drive into Central London over the same period, a new report has revealed.
And records show a massive surge in penalties being issued to drivers after the daily charge was hiked by £3.50 and the operating period extended to seven days a week.
More than 60 per cent of the penalties issued to motorists during those 12 months to September were handed out after mayor Sadiq Khan increased the daily rate from £11.50 to £15 and extended the charging window by five hours to 6am to 10pm and during weekends.
A total of 4,022,208 London Congestion Charge payments were made for vehicles between October 2019 and September 2020, TfL figures show.
With a payment of £11.50 until 22 June and £15 thereafter, this totals £52,773,772.
During the same period, TfL issued more than 817,000 Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) to vehicle owners for failed payments.
With fines amounting to as much as £160, motorists faced up to £130million in penalties.
Even if all drivers paid the PCN within 14 days and had the fine halved to just £80, TfL would still have pocketed £65,360,000 from motorists in penalties alone – some £12.6million more than valid Congestion Charge payments.
The report also revealed that more than three in five of all fines were dished out during the final four months from June, after the increased cost and charging period was introduced.
Citroen UK, which issued a Freedom of Information request to TfL said the surge in fines was likely due to drivers being caught out when making weekend trips to the capital in the summer, when coronavirus restrictions had been somewhat relaxed.
This comes as little surprise, given that the Congestion Charge has historically only operated on weekdays since it was first put in place in February 2003.
Under the latest rules activated to boost the capital’s funds, the charging zone is live seven days a week, with the only exception being Christmas Day.
The daily Congestion Charge was hiked by London Mayor Sadiq Khan from £11.50 to £15 on 22 June 2020
The investigation into TfL’s Congestion Charge earnings comes just weeks after a leaked email from officials revealed the full extent of the financial boost to revenues for TfL last year as a result of the hiked daily fee.
In an email seen by Autocar, it said the move to a £15 daily charge raised an additional £86million for TfL in 2020 and is projected to boost revenues by £113million for the full financial year if the higher charge is retained until April.
The correspondence from Heidi Alexander, the deputy mayor for transport, said that £113million would be taken ‘as a consequence of implementing the temporary changes to the Congestion Charge, if they were to be in place for the rest of the financial year’.
The email confirmed that the boost in revenues ‘takes account of the cost to TfL of implementing the temporary changes as well as the reduction in traffic volumes and temporary suspension due to the pandemic’.
Alexander’s email also added that TfL is now forecast to bring in £232million in total from Congestion Charge payments made by motorists this financial year.
Having contacted Transport for London for comment, This is Money was told that ‘all revenue from the charge is reinvested into transport’.
A spokesperson told us: “The Government required TfL to bring forward proposals to widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge.
‘These temporary changes are essential to prevent London’s recovery from the pandemic from being restricted by cars and congestion. They also support changes to London’s streets to facilitate greater numbers of people walking and cycling at a safe social distance.
‘Analysis showed that as the Government eased restrictions last year, if people chose to drive instead of using public transport, car traffic in central London could double – damaging the economy, health and air quality.’
The Congestion Charge usually operates between the hours of 7am and 6pm on weekdays only
The Congestion Charge is currently levied on any car unless the vehicle emits less than 75g/km of CO2 and has a minimum 20-mile zero emissions range – meaning only pure EVs and hybrids are eligible to avoid the charge.
Failure to pay the daily rate results in a fine of £160, reduced to £80 if paid within 14 days.
A fine can be avoided completely if motorists remember to pay the London Congestion Charge within three days of traveling within the specified zone.
Citroen conducted the research in a bid to encourage sales of its own electric vehicle fleet, including the new e-C4, e-SpaceTourer and e-Dispatch van
‘Not only do they help drivers save significantly on running costs, but as our latest research shows, they also eliminate the chance of unexpected and expensive fines for forgetting the Congestion Charge Zone payment and other low emission zone tariffs,’ said Eurig Druce, Citroen UK’s managing director.
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