The ABD's factsheet about the London Congestion Charge.
NEW London Congestion Charge Report
|Note: This factsheet does not attempt to explain the complexities of the scheme, how much it will cost, when you have to pay, where the zone is, or how you can pay, for such questions refer to the official Congestion Charging website:
0845 900 1234
Our factsheet gives information for those campaigning against the charge — who to complain to about the very existence of the charge, the individuals and companies that are backing it, and the campaigns to get it scrapped.
- 2003 February 17: Congestion Charge introduced
- 2005 July 4: Charge increases to £8
ex Mayor of London; ex Chairman of TfL.
"I hate cars. If I ever get any powers again I’d ban the lot."
Ken Livingstone, Sunday Times, 21 November 1999.
Ken was first elected with 776,427 votes (58% of votes cast), but the turnout was a pathetic 33.6%.
This means that less than 1 in 5 Londoners voted for Ken.
In 2004 Ken was re-elected with 685,541 primary votes (36.7% of votes cast); and 142,839 secondary votes. Total 828,380 votes.
|If you live in London, drive a car, and didn't vote,
your apathy has cost you up to £1200 per year!
If you live outside London, and commute in by car ... you are denied your democratic right to vote on his anti-car charge.
At a students' question-time session in May 2003, he declared his ambition to ban from London all cars built before 1992 'because they pollute more', and to at least double the area covered by the congestion charge.
Our old friend John was keeping a low profile on the congestion charge, doubtless hoping everyone would forget that he was Transport Minister in 1998 when the government welcomed EU proposals in its "Breaking the Logjam" report.
After the concept of congestion charging was widely condemned, Prescott decided not to risk wrecking his political career over it. So he passed the task on to the likes of Ken Livingstone.
Once the charge began, and did not collapsed completely, John tried to take all the credit.
Ministerial cars (including Jaguars) are exempt from the charge.
Transport for London*
[* Excluding drivers]
TfL have been tinkering with 4,600 traffic lights to delay vehicles unnecessarily, and obstructing roads with carefully calculated roadworks over the last year in order to create as much congestion as possible.
Bus Stops have been filled in to maliciously delay other vehicles (including buses!) when buses stop (Ananova article).
Many of these problems magically vanished on 17th February 2003, along with all the parents of children on half-term holiday, allowing TfL to claim the congestion charging scheme a success.
Managing Director of TfL Street Management
TfL Board Member; Chairman of the Commission for Integrated Transport; anti-car fanatic.
Begg has now called for congestion charging to be extended to Outer London if it is successful. No prizes for guessing who will decide what constitutes 'success'.
TfL Board Member; Assistant Director of Transport 2000 — one of the most virulent anti-car organizations in the UK.
Other TfL board members
Transport for London
Their woefully inadequate page about the charge, we think they are working on the basis that the less they tell you, the less you'll have to use against them.
|Transport for London
42-50 Victoria Street
Congestion Charging text number from mobile phones: 81099
TfL Travel Information Centre: (020) 7222 1234
Email — General: email@example.com
Congestion Charging: firstname.lastname@example.org
Street Management: email@example.com
Ken wants some drivers to use public transport instead of their cars. Trouble is, public transport is stretched beyond it's capacity.
But fear not, TfL are spending money on it. Only recently they spent £1.8 million — on a new logo for the tube. We're sure tube passengers will really appreciate the improvement.
"You would not be allowed to carry animals in these conditions. That is
why British Rail got out of carrying cattle and carried passengers
John Cartledge of London Transport Users Committee speaking to a group of MPs.
Our guide to the companies seeking to profit from Ken's attack on drivers —
A company worth £1.3 billion that specializes in the current fad of 'out-sourcing'. It employs 17,000 staff.
It will be paid a fixed management fee by Transport for London (TfL), and variable charges based on the number of cars processed and telephone calls handled.
The exact details of the contract have been kept secret, and the right to reveal information has been signed over to Capita.
Concern about this secrecy has been expressed by many parties, including London Assembly Liberal Democrat Sally Hamwee
One report suggests the contract is worth £250 million over 5 years, with a bonus of £31 million if targets are met.
In May 2003, four executive directors of Capita recieved bonus share options totalling £4.8million — good to see all that money being used to improve London's transport system.
Also in May, Capita were named "Most Invasive Company" by Privacy International in their Big Brother Awards, because of its long
standing involvement in a vast range of government projects, which it has often botched.
In July 2003, Ample reported that Capita were making no profit from the scheme (shame), not least because of 103,000 outstanding penalty notices sent to drivers who have refused to pay the charge, as a result of this TfL paid Capita £31 million of Londoner's money in 'compensation'.
In 2003 Capita's profits from all it's operations raised a profit of £121 million, yet it is nothing more than a massive service industry.
In 2005, Capita was fined £4.5 million for missing vital targets re the congestion charge. Capita's fines are now equivalent to £7,400 for every day the charge has existed. Despite this appalling incompetence, Ken still plans to extend their contract to February 2009, lining their pockets with a total of £280million extorted from London's drivers.
Capita's directors meanwhile, continue to pocket absurd bonuses for their part in the extortion racket.
In March 2006, Rod Aldridge, the chairman of Capita quit over "spurious" claims his £1m loan to the Labour Party resulted in the group getting government contracts.
|Paul Pindar, Chief Executive (Paid over £1 million per year)
(Up to March 2006) Rod Aldridge, Executive Chairman (Paid over £1 million per year)
Shona Nichols, Group Marketing Director
71 Victoria Street
Tel: (020) 7799-1525
Fax: (020) 7799-1526
Capita Press Office (020) 7544-3141
Operated by Capita in Coventry — intentionally situated outside London so their staff won't have to suffer the charge, and to deter visits by the public; you can expect no sympathy.
The call centre is housed in a brand new 50,000 sq. ft office building in Prologis Park, a business park built on the site of the former Keresley Colliery on the northern outskirts of Coventry. The Park is so new it's not shown on most maps yet, but it is only 2 miles from M6 Junction 3 (follow Coventry A444 then Prologis Park signs). The building is on the left hand side of the main road thru the park, and is the only building on the estate without big signs showing the name of the company, this is to avoid the building being targetted by anti-charge campaigners — except it's the only building without a sign. Duuuuugh!
Besides which we have a nice photo below.
The park is landscaped with parkland, ponds, lakes, footpaths and cycle ways, providing an 'ideal working environment'. How nice. So they'll be able to relate to driving into London then.
If you have any issue with congestion charging, why not pop in if you happen to be passing and demand to speak to someone?
News article from the Coventry Evening Telegraph 14th Nov 2002
London Evening Standard journalist Elaine Galloway spent 2 weeks working undercover inside the call centre.
0845 900 1234
PO Box 2985
Read her excellent report: 'Call centre is in chaos'
In November 2003, the Evening Standard placed another reporter in the call centre. The latest report is full of tales of woe and suggests that Capita is still totally unable to cope and is sinking fast.
NCP will be providing 'on street enforcement' of congestion charging. Vehicles found parked on London's roads which have not paid the charge will be clamped, and owners forced to pay an additional £45 to have the clamp removed.
Still, you now know whose car parks not to use when looking for a parking space don't you?
The computers that will do most of the automated processing of charges are housed in a plain warehouse just off Brick Lane in London’s East End owned by Interxion, an internet-hosting company.
If you do business with them, you might consider taking your business elsewhere in protest.
|Interxion Carrier Hotel Limited
11 Hanbury Street
International Freephone Number
00 800 4687 9466
There is also said to be a disaster recovery site somewhere in East London.
Ken was hoping to keep the location of these computers a secret, fearing demonstrations or attacks (so much for claiming public support for the scheme); fortunately the British press doesn't believe in such secrecy.
There are 230 spy cameras around and within the zone attempting to read number plates.
TfL expected the cameras to fail to read around 15% of registration plates. With up to 8 cameras per location, they clearly don't have much faith in the ability of one to do the job!
The cameras work on ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition). Basically they use a combination of light and infra-red to locate a white or yellow reflective area of the right dimensions, then they try to read black characters within that area. The efficiency of the cameras can be impaired by many factors. Rain, snow, reflections, glare, headlights, dirt, speed, vehicle colour, dark signwriting on light paintwork, non-standard letter size or font on number plates, and sheer physical obstructions can all make the task more difficult, if not impossible.
Initial Electronic Security Systems (IESS) — supplied the cameras in a deal worth £8 million over five years that also covers installation and maintenance, though strangely they don't seem keen to promote this on their website — we wonder why.
IESS are part of Rentokil Initial plc — funny, we thought Rentokil eliminated pests, not bred them.
|Major Systems Division
The Congestion Charge is not about reducing congestion. If they genuinely wanted to do that, they wouldn't have been deliberately creating it for the last year or so. This is yet another stealth tax, but not a fair tax where everyone pays their share to improve transport, this is a tax on drivers only. It is discriminatory against all drivers, more so against the lower paid. No dispensations have been given to essential jobs like teachers and nurses, nor to voluntary workers like the Samaritans, even unmarked police cars will have to pay!
- Madonna is refusing to pay the congestion charge because TfL insist on having her address and phone number. Not unsurprisngly she doesn't trust them with it. TfL claim 6,600 people are fined everyday — that's £660,000 raised.
Evening Standard — Madonna in C-charge blast
- The Post Office have dropped out of plans to handle payments. Good for them. This is not least because TfL have refused to allow official postal vehicles to be exempt from the charge, thus imposing a massive extra financial burden on this essential public service.
BBC News article
- Texaco will accept payment of the charge through 124 petrol stations within the zone. All the other major petrol companies have had more sense than to risk a boycott and told TfL where to shove it.
- The US Embassy in London has protested that charging US embassy staff and other diplomats is in violation of the 1961 Vienna Convention, which bars the taxing of foreign diplomatic staff. They've made formal complaints to Ken but he's ignored them.
When the fee was raised from £5 to £8 in July 2005, US Embassy staff stopped paying the charge.
On 1st May 2006, TfL claimed the US embassy owed £271,000 in unpaid charges.
Other embassies refusing to pay the charge include Angola, Nigeria, Switzerland, and Sudan.
USA Today — U.S.: British tax not our cup of tea
BBC — US tops 'congestion charge debt'
When the congestion charge zone was extended on 19th February 2007, the embassies of France, Germany, Belgium, Slovakia, Belarus, and Russia all decided they'd had enough of Ken's little tax and announced that they too would not be paying the charge in future.
BBC — Embassies suspend paying C-charge
- Former tory roads minister Christopher Chope has launched a campaign urging the public to undermine the scheme by paying the £5 charge in advance with a post-dated cheque. Ananova
- The LimDems have revealed their looney green sympathies with a silly call for 4x4 cars (irrespective of size, or engine capacity) to be charged double the fee of other cars. This was undoubtedly a case of 'jumping on the bandwagon' after Ken Livingstone made some similar barmy comments about 4x4s.
Not content with wrecking businesses and tourism in Central London, Ken extended the charging zone to Kensington & Chelsea, and Westminster; and was looking to extend eastwards to encompass Greenwich.
New Mayor Boris Johnson is to hold a consultation on the western extension.
Ken Livingstone had been planning to use the current hysteria about supposed Man-Made Global Warming as an excuse to hike charges for larger cars to up to £25. He had planned to introduce this in 2008, but it has now been put back to 2010 after a tag and beacon system was to have been introduced. You would probably hav had to pay for the tag too.
Boris Johnson has scrapped the plan saying it would simply have encouraged more smaller cars into London, and so fail to reduce congestion at all.
John Lewis Oxford Street has seen a reduction in sales of over 5% since the charge was introduced.
25% of businesses have had to lay off staff.
80% of businesses have reported a reduction in takings. (London Chamber of Commerce)
27% of retailers are considering relocating outside the zone.
69% of delivery companies have seen no reduction in journey times.(Freight Transport Association)
Elections for London's Mayor took place on 10th June 2004.
The ABD is a non-political organization, however, we strongly oppose the congestion charge so our views on it naturally co-incide with some of those opposing Ken Livingstone in the forthcoming election.
Full details of the election can be found at London Elects.
In 2008, Boris Johnson was voted in as Mayor of London, and Ken Livingstone was sent packing.
Western Extension Scrapped!
In November 2008, Boris Johnson announced that the Western Extension would be scrapped after a a public consultation rejected it.
For press articles on the congestion charge, please see London Media Links
On 3rd Janury 2006, Stockholm introduced a congestion charge for a trial period of 7 months. We are keeping a close eye on what happens.
Stockholm Congestion Charge
On 25th May 2007, the government announced plans to foist a congestion charge on Manchester too.
Manchester Congestion Charge
Don't let them drive you out of London!