New auto-pay system will eliminate fines
30 July 2009

Drivers are to be offered a new way of paying London’s daily congestion charge, which will eliminate harsh fines of up to £180 for late payment.

New automated payment accounts will allow pre-registered drivers to enter and leave the C-charge zone and have the £8 fee automatically deducted from their bank accounts.

Hilton Holloway blog: common sense prevails with the congestion charge

At the moment about 100,000 fines are issued each month and a total of nine million late payment penalties have been issued since the charge began in February 2003. £94m in fine revenue has yet to be recovered, according to TfL figures.

The new scheme will be introduced next year after IBM takes over the running of the C-Charge scheme from Capita in November.

Sources say that the new, cheaper to run, set-up could make adoption of road tolls easier in cities that lack London’s volume of traffic.

Transport for London said: "The transition of the Congestion Charging contract to IBM will enable TfL to introduce automated payment accounts during 2010."

"Essentially these accounts will allow drivers to register their vehicle registration number(s) and a credit or debit card in advance, with payments processed automatically based on the detection by cameras of the vehicle in the zone."

The latest figures show that the Congestion charge costs at least £130m to administer and raises £89m per year for re-investment into public transport. Of that, around £55m is fine income.

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Even so, TfL said: "Thorough modifications to the overall operation of the Congestion Charging scheme, TfL assumes no overall loss of revenue." This suggests that IBM will slash the administration costs back to at least £75m, making cuts in administrative jobs likely.

TfL has already contracted six companies to introduce "Tag and Beacon" tolling system for London, similar to the system used on continental motorways. Drivers would have a windscreen-mounted charge card, which is detected by roadside sensors.

Sources say that a move to "Tag and Beacon" tech would allow the C-charge to either be cut back so it covers just peak periods or expanded to include the major A-roads and bridges in Greater London. TfL already has the legal powers to toll individual roads and bridges.

Hilton Holloway

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