London’s congestion charge is back

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Driving into central London is, usually, a stupid decision. With horrendous traffic, outrageously expensive parking and an £11.50 (or THB450) congestion charge to contend with, it’s vastly more practical to get the train in and zip around on the Underground.

But for the last few weeks that hasn’t really been an option. Public transport kept running when the UK went into lockdown on 23 March, albeit at reduced capacity, but essential workers were quite rightly advised to walk, cycle or use their cars to get around the capital instead.

The congestion charge was thus suspended, so those who absolutely had to travel into or around London could drive, in the relative safety of their own cars, without having to pay the normal £11.50 fee (approx. 450 Thai baht). The Ultra-Low and Low Emissions Zones were also put on hold.

But now almost two months later, as the lockdown is eased (but people are still advised to stay home and avoid public transport where possible), the congestion charge is being reintroduced. From today people who drive into the capital between 7am and 6pm on a weekday will once again have to pay £11.50 for the privilege. Meanwhile the ULEZ/LEZ are back up and running too.

And in a month’s time, on 22 June, the congestion charge will be increased to £15-per-day (around 580 Thai baht), between 7am and 10pm seven days a week. It’s all part of a £1.6billion (around 62,500 million Thai baht) Government bailout which should help Transport for London keep the lights on and bus and train services running, after revenue fell massively when lockdown struck.

The increase will be in place for a year, at which point it’ll be reviewed. Mayor Sadiq Khan said the measure was needed to keep London’s streets from becoming “unusably busy” and that some roads will be closed to cars, so cyclists and pedestrians have more space to social distance as parts of central London become “one of the largest car-free zones in any capital city in the world”.