Autocar’s discovery that London’s revamped Congestion Charge system will allow automatic payments has to be good news for drivers. Since February 2003, nine million fines have been issued for late and non-payment.
Aside from having to pay road tolls in a country with some of the highest fuel taxes in the world, London motorists faced a C-Charge that made payment complex and easy to forget. And the fines for forgetting were typically over the top.
I have followed London’s Congestion Charge since it was a twinkle in Ken Livingstone’s eye.
In 2002 I was asked by the BBC to make a short film in opposition to the C-Charge. That was easy. The number of vehicles entering the centre of the capital had been falling for years.
Of course, Mayor Livingstone got around this inconvenient fact by digging up the roads for 18 months and causing the worst jams in living memory. Then in February 2003, the holes were filled and the C-Charge was switched on.
“Look,” said the Mayor, “the streets are flowing freely again.” With a year, though, a programme of road space removal began in the city centre, bringing traffic speeds back down to the level of 2002.