The London congestion charge will stop at 18:00 on weekdays under new proposals from Transport for London (TfL) to encourage punters to return to the capital’s hospitality hotspots in the evenings.
However, on weekends it will become operational between 12:00 and 18:00, in order to reduce congestion in central London and get people back on public transport.
At the moment, the congestion charge, which was increased to £15 a day as a condition of the government’s bailout of TfL, runs until 22:00 on weekdays.
But today TfL has launched a consultation on cutting back the hours during which the levy is in operation to what they were before the pandemic.
By introducing the fee on weekends, the transport network said it was looking to tackle congestion at what is typically the busiest time for car travel.
Before the pandemic, weekend car and private hire traffic was higher than during the week and made up 70 per cent of traffic in the charging zone on a Saturday and Sunday.
TfL said that the new measures would lead to 8,000 new public transport trips and 3,000 walking and cycling trips each day on the weekend.
The Federation of Small Businesses said that such a move would be a “bitter pill” for companies working on the weekends.
“For many businesses who carry out activities in the day on the weekends such as logistical companies and market traders, having a permanent £15 charge between the hours of 12:00-18:00 on weekends will be another bitter pill to swallow”, said FSB London infrastructure chair, Michael Lloyd.
There are no plans to reduce the cost of the congestion charge, much to the chagrin of Conservative London Assembly member Shaun Bailey.
“By keeping the Congestion Charge at £15, he’s taxing London’s recovery and putting peoples’ livelihoods at risk. Instead of pretending this will help Londoners or playing a blame game, Khan needs to get a grip of TfL’s finances and lower the charge back to £11.50″, the former mayoral candidate said.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “As we look to the future it’s vital the charge strikes the right balance between supporting London’s economic recovery and helping ensure it is a green and sustainable one.
“These proposals support the capital’s culture, hospitality and night-time businesses which have struggled so much, as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport.”
Representatives for the UK’s hospitality and entertainment industries welcomed the move. Cameron Leslie, director of nightclub Fabric, said: “We’re really pleased that the Mayor has rolled back the Congestion Charge to 18:00.
“Any measure to encourage people back into central London at this time by whatever mode of transport should be wholeheartedly supported. The night-time economy needs all the support it can get.”
And Sir Nicholas Kenyon, managing director of the Barbican, said: “It is wonderful to see audiences flocking back to the live arts in London, and the lifting of the evening Congestion Charge would be a huge help in putting culture and events at the heart of the capital’s recovery.”