How to fix London’s Congestion Charge

Congestion charging scheme has a serious flaw — It penalises drivers who enter the zone unknowingly.

Guilty as charged

Recently I had to take my car to an MOT station for a test. I had lent my sat nav so I had to rely on signs to get to the garage in Hammersmith. I knew that I would be driving through the congestion charging area so I was extra cautious, looking around for CC signs to avoid entering the zone. (In the congestion charging area there are roads — “through routes” — that are excluded from the zone, so you can drive on them without incurring a charge.)

Nevertheless, after a couple of weeks a PCN arrived in post.

Is it my fault? Maybe

Congestion Charge sign

So let’s say it is my fault. I didn’t notice that there was a sign somewhere. After all, if you park your car illegally, who cares if you didn’t see the sign? Right?

I agree, but it’s a lot trickier to notice a sign when you’re busy driving in London’s traffic: looking out for cyclists, bikers, mad taxi drivers, buses, lorries and a load of signs other than those notifying you of CC. Add the fact that you don’t know the area — and you’ve just missed a congestion charge sign.

Could I have avoided it? Possibly

I could have spent more time planning (memorising?) my route. I could have picked up my sat nav from my friend before going to the garage (only I couldn’t drive there because my MOT had ran out and I was only allowed to drive to the test station). Or, I could have avoided the CC area altogether.

All of the above “solutions” put the burden on me. And I don’t like to be bothered.

Can it be fixed? Absolutely!

At the moment you can pay in advance, on the day you drive in the zone or the following day. When you’re in the zone, CC cameras register your number plate. If the CC is not paid for the day the camera registered your number plate by the end of the following day then the system issues a PCN.

The solution

What if the system sent an invoice instead of a PCN? Or, if you could register your credit card with TfL and they would charge you each time a CC camera recognised your number plate? Do you think it would be hard to implement?

It’s already implemented…

… but it’s not for everyone.

If you have a fleet of at least 10 business vehicles, you can register them with TfL and they will charge you for vehicles in the fleet detected by the cameras. It’s not available for individuals, though. Why? Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that TfL obtains almost half of its net revenue in fines.

Congestion Charge Zone ends

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