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London congestion charge returns to pre-pandemic weekday hours from today

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Mayor Sadiq Khan has decided to return the charge to its pre-pandemic weekday hours of 7am-6pm, having extended it until 10pm as a temporary measure in June 2020 to encourage walking and cycling and discourage car travel.

But the charge will remain at £15, rather than returning to £11.50, and will also be enforced from midday to 6pm at weekends.

Mr Khan has admitted that an increase in traffic after 6pm is “to some extent, to be expected, as traffic is no longer disincentivised from driving in the congestion charge zone”.

He told the Standard that the C-charge’s extended hours had been a “blunt instrument” and a short-term measure.

Mr Khan said: “What it was leading to was damage to the night-time economy, leading to jobs being lost, but also leading to our recovery not being as fast as it could have been.

“It’s really important for our policies to be pro-environment, pro-cleaning up our air and also pro-businesses.

“These are businesses, by the way, that pay their taxes that lead to us having some of the brilliant policies that we have, from more cycle lanes to widening the pavements, to investing in public transport.

“If businesses go bust, if fewer people are working in our city, if there is more unemployment, it’s more difficult for us to provide the public transport system we want, but also it damages our economy.”

The changes are expected to generate an additional £60m to £80m a year for Transport for London when compared with pre-pandemic income.

However, shortening the zone’s operating hours from 10pm to 6pm will lose TfL about £60m to £70m a year in levies and penalty fines.

Campaigners have previously warned that the C-charge may have to be re-imposed after 6pm if traffic increases dramatically.

Motorists face a sting in the tail – Westminster council is planning to increase its on-street parking charges to generate an additional £1,150,000 a year.

The Tory-run council generated almost £70m a year pre-pandemic from parking. It currently charges £5.10 an hour to park in Soho, Covent Garden, Marylebone and Fitzrovia. This will increase to £5.28 an hour.

The council is planning “an increase of pay-to-park charges across all zones to maintain the differential with increasing public transport costs,” council documents state.

The change is also to allow parking wardens to be paid the London living wage of £11.05 an hour.

The council is also planning to increase the number of cameras used to capture driving offences. Westminster supported the 6pm cut-off but not the retention of the temporary C-charge at weekends.

James Spencer, Westminster’s cabinet member for city management, said: “In 2018 we announced that Westminster City Council was to become a London Living Wage employer and requested that our contractors follow suit.

“The proposed increase – which will see the londonbusinessblog pay-to-park charges going up by 3.5 per cent – will go towards the cost of running the service. Our charges remain in line with, or lower than, neighbouring boroughs.

“Added to this, the increases follow the recent rise in public transport fares, maintaining a differential between parking in Westminster and public transport.”

TfL predicts that retaining the £15 C-charge should result in a four per cent reduction in car mileage in the zone during the week and 15 per cent at weekends, when compared with pre-pandemic levels, and encourage journeys to be walked, cycles or made by public transport.

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