On 22 June, London’s congestion charge will rise to £15 a day up from £11.50; it’ll apply from 7am to 10pm seven days a week – up from 7am to 6pm on weekdays, only. Furthermore, the residents’ discount will be closed to new applicants on 1 August 2020.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, and Transport for London have both confirmed these temporary changes are set in place to “ensure the capital’s recovery from the pandemic is not restricted by cars and congestion.”
The latest data from TfL indicates that shows that while people are still working from home, traffic levels in London have increased; whereby there are as many cars in central London as there were before lockdown began.
As such, if traffic levels continue to rise with people coming out of isolation, the road will become unusually 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.
This would mean that there would not be space on the streets to accommodate increased levels of walking and cycling, which is a result of up to 13-20% reduction of public transport capacity due to social distancing rules.
Sadiq Khan said: “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.”
He went onto say that “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”
Through the temporary changes trips taken by car could fall by a third, and nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions from vehicles could drop by up to 11% in these newly charged hours. To help NHS staff, Sadiq Khan has announced that he will be expanding the reimbursement scheme to cover additional trips made by staff at NHS Trusts, ambulance staff and those who work in care homes in the zone.
The expanded scheme for NHS patients will come into force on 22 June, with the new reimbursement arrangements targeted at supporting frontline local authorities and charities who are dealing with Covid-19.
Giulio Ferrini, Head of Built Environment for Sustrans London, said: “Allowing traffic levels to rise even further risks central London grinding to a halt with toxic traffic and long queues for public transport, while at the same time making conditions worse for active journeys.”