Livingstone's congestion charge would have made a loss without late fines
12 November 2007

The capital’s much-hyped congestion charge would have slumped to a defecit in the last financial year were it not for massive fine income, Autocar can reveal.According to figures released to the Greater London Authority, just £157.4m was raised from charge payments in 2006-07. However, spiralling administration costs totalled £151.1m.The tiny £6.3m profit it made was wiped out by the £12.2m administration cost of the western extension of the charging zone. Before taking into account revenue from congestion charge fines, then, the scheme was looking like falling £6m into the red.Luckily for Transport for London (TfL), it managed to raise a massive £95m from fines – an incredible 60 percent on top of what was raised from the £8-a-day fee. This fine revenue, therefore, managed to pull the Congestion Charge back into the black, to the tune of £89.1m.

Other failures

Meanwhile, TfL has had to admit that average rush hour speeds inside the charging zone are now worse than before the scheme was introduced in 2003. Four years ago, the average speed in the morning and evening was 9.9mph. This year, TfL’s own figures show it to be just 9.3mph.TfL’s critics have blamed a reduction in road space thanks to extra bus lanes, wider pavements and hundreds of new traffic lights. TfL said the problem lay with a huge increase in roadworks.TfL has been simultaneously hit by reports that its charge exemption scheme for minicabs was being abused. Two-seater supercars including Bentleys, Maseratis and Aston Martins have all been registered in central London as private hire vehicles; it’s assumed that many of them have been done so fraudulently.

IBM to take over charge administration

The chance of London – and potentially other UK cities - moving to a more efficient and flexible charging system, using European-style ‘Tag and Beacon’ technology, has moved closer.Transport for London has recently awarded IBM the five-year contract to run the congestion charge from 2009.IBM was responsible for designing the Stockholm congestion charge system, which went live earlier this year. Automatic charging, which should remove the risk of being fined for late payment, is expected to be a highlight of the new London scheme.Critics, however, say that any new charging system will be quickly rolled out to cover the capital’s main commuting routes, right out to the edge of Greater London.

Hilton Holloway

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