"London’s congestion, ULEZ and parking charges are pricing drivers off the road"

With a 30 per cent rise in the capital's C-charge zone this week, some motorists could pay over £100 per day, says Mike Rutherford

Thinking of entering central London in your car or small van, then driving it for a mile or two (or just a few feet), prior to parking in a quiet side street from morning until early evening? Then I need to warn you that commuters and others who do so can easily pay £100-plus per day - £500 a week, circa two grand each month, in excess of £24,000 annually. 

As of yesterday, the motorist-loathing Mayor of London increased his congestion charge by an inflation-shattering 30 per cent. It now stands at £15 per day and operates seven days a week, from 7am to 10pm - whether the roads are congested or not. Bizarrely, even if someone is driving from the inside to the outside of the capital, thereby doing their bit to help reduce inner city jams, he or she still pays the £15 charge.

Why the colossal price hike this week? Why only now the decision to also slap the charge on drivers travelling at weekends, or late into the night when the commuter traffic jams are long gone? Sheer greed? Cynically seizing an opportunity to legally mug motorists whose additional millions are needed to help prop up Mayor Sadiq Khan and his Transport for London (TfL).

Er, no. The pathetic and insulting excuse from Khan and TfL is that the huge C-charge price rise and related anti-car measures are "in response to the coronavirus pandemic." Put another way, it's all down to COVID-19, not them.

In effect, this is a £15 daily tax/fine/punishment on drivers. But that's just for starters. The Mayor and the TfL fiefdom he presides over also hit countless drivers of some older petrol and diesel vehicles thanks to a daily Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) financial penalty. If you've got such an 'offending' car or van, that might be only 5 years old, you may have to pay this £12.50 per day/night ULEZ cost. That means £27.50 a day merely to roll four tyres into those C and ULEZ zones for a few minutes. 

Stay longer in the older (not to be confused with ancient) vehicle you're driving and you could face council parking charges of up to £7.35 per hour on inner London streets. So spend 10 hours working a shift for your employer, visiting family or friends, attending hospital, shopping, or whatever and you'll be a further £73.50 down. Add this to the ULEZ plus C-charges and the daily spend totals £101. Also - if your drive to and from central London means using the nearby Dartford Crossing that effectively makes up part of the M25, that's £2.50 each way (more for vans). Let's call it a £106 per day all-in - just for direct road user and parking charges/taxes. What a racket. 

I’m obliged to declare an interest here. London is where I was born. Where I've lived and worked for decades as a journalist, broadcaster, and cancer foundation trustee. Where I need to drive vehicles - including a mobile clinic built to NHS standards - as part of my professional and voluntary work.

Trouble is, when I now try to enter central London in my work-related and charity cars and van, I’m priced off the roads of the capital thanks to punishing C-charge, ULEZ and parking costs. At best they are prohibitively expensive. At worse they represent a cruel and cynical form of legalised theft from the pockets of the motorist.

Today London, tomorrow other British cities? Let's hope and pray that's not the case.

What do you think of London's ULEZ zone? Let us know in the comments below...

Chief columnist

Mike was one of the founding fathers of Auto Express in 1988. He's been motoring editor on four tabloid newspapers - London Evening News, The Sun, News of the World & Daily Mirror. He was also a weekly columnist on the Daily Telegraph, The Independent and The Sunday Times. 

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