'Politicians have made billions from the C-Charge. But nationwide, pay-per-mile road tolls are their ultimate goal'

Mike Rutherford thinks 24/7 road tolls and more congestion charge zones are likely

Loooking for a juicy, ever-worsening saga that continues to extract additional billions from citizens who’ve already paid more than enough tax? Look no further than the abomination that is the recently expanded London Congestion Charge, which now costs motorists £15 a day, or circa £4,000 a year for those who drive into the capital each weekday.

It feels to me like legalised theft, an unjustified tax, daylight robbery, and financial punishment wrapped up as a justifiable ‘charge’ – which it ain’t! London, 2003, was its place and time of birth. But this doesn’t mean the only victims live in or around the capital. Con Charges are dumped on millions more in the suburbs and beyond who need to drive into London. Reckon this has nowt to do with you? Then you forget such a scheme is exportable to other cities and towns.    

The Con Charge is a monster, illegitimately born out of a warped, car-hating courtship between unfit and unlikely parents. Independent, then-Labour, public-transport-obsessed London Mayor Ken Livingstone unleashed it in 2003, raking in millions until 2008. His successor – bicycle-bonkers Boris Johnson (Conservative) – enjoyed even more revenue between 2008 and 2016. Then, since 2016, bus-obsessive Sadiq Khan (Labour) retained the charge, but made it massively more expensive and lucrative. 

How’s that for an undemocratic and suspicious lack of policy differences between money-grabbing major parties (not that the Greens or Lib Dems would’ve made any difference) over 17 years of political antics in which car users were – and are – comprehensively mugged?

Last month, PM Johnson reportedly ordered Khan to extend the Con Charge way beyond central London so that it covers more square miles, and lifts more cash from the pockets of motorists. The still notoriously anti-car Labour leader of the capital city appeared to resist the demand from the Conservative ruler of Britain, but I smell a rat.

Such an extension would extort billions more from drivers and, in turn, Johnson and Khan, plus their political colleagues, will have even more of OUR money to play with and waste. Bizarrely, this month the extension proposal is alleged to be OFF the table. But I suspect this only a temporary stay of execution. A wider, Con Charge zone will be irresistible to politicians who understand the concept of money for nothing. 

I fear a stitch-up, and one that operates like a horribly undemocratic political cartel, whereby the only major (or minor) parties with realistic chances of winning (or sharing) power possess the same Con Charge/milk-the-motorist ticket. In its current guise (or the much talked about, more punitive extended form), Londoners and visitors to the capital will be stuck with it, as it’ll become the norm in the south, but then the north, west, and east. Or a so-called ‘compromise solution’ will see the discredited charge replaced by pay-per-mile tolling – first in London, later in many or most other places. 

This is already being discussed at the highest levels. Hurts me to say it, but national, 24/7 road tolls for all drivers on all days are easier and more profitable to run and collect (via monthly invoices) than local Congestion Charges for some drivers on some days. 

The inevitable question is, will a nationwide system force us to pay pennies or pounds per mile? Either way, the politicians will undoubtedly take more billions from us. 

But maybe not – if we loudly say, and peacefully show, that enough is enough. 

Find out more about London's Ultra Low Emission Zone here...

Recommended

'MINI’s brand focus needs to rub off on BMW, too'
Opinion

'MINI’s brand focus needs to rub off on BMW, too'

BMW needs to regain its identity and should look to MINI for inspiration, says Steve Fowler
28 Oct 2020
'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'
Opinion

'The Pop-Up Motor Show is a simple idea at precisely the right time'

Mike Rutherford thinks the new Pop-Up Motor Show can be the perfect way to serve the demands of Britain's car users
11 Oct 2020
'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'
Opinion

'The Land Rover Defender and Aston Martin DBX must be front runners for World Car Design of the Year'

Mike Rutherford thinks cars from Gerry McGovern and Marek Reichman are favourites to win design award
30 Aug 2020
'VW Group management shake-up could be crucial to the car choice facing UK buyers'
Opinion

'VW Group management shake-up could be crucial to the car choice facing UK buyers'

Deputy editor John McIlroy points to outgoing Skoda boss as a key reason for the firm's success
15 Jul 2020

Most Popular

New Audi A6 50 TFSI e 2020 review
Audi A6

New Audi A6 50 TFSI e 2020 review

The new Audi A6 50 TFSI e brings plug-in hybrid power to the A6 range for the first time
10 Nov 2020
New 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class luxury limo unveiled
Mercedes S-Class

New 2021 Mercedes-Maybach S-Class luxury limo unveiled

The new Mercedes-Maybach S-Class has made its official debut, with lashings of technology and even more imposing styling
19 Nov 2020
How to transfer a number plate from one car to another
MINI number plate change
Tips & advice

How to transfer a number plate from one car to another

Need to know how to transfer a number plate between vehicles? Our step-by-step guide breaks it down
22 Nov 2020