Mayor of London Ken Livingstone timed Monday's 'go live' date for the scheme to coincide with the school half-term, so traffic was already significantly reduced. But fleets have already reported significant concerns, particularly because the call centre handling enquiries is in Coventry.
A spokesman for the RAC said: 'It was very quiet on the first day, but when penalty notices for non-payment start arriving with companies, things will soon liven up. We have heard that some fleets have had trouble registering, particularly when they have queries on whether certain streets are in the congestion charging zone. Because the call centre is in Coventry, the handlers seem to have little local knowledge of London.'
At the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders a spokesman said: 'Monday was quiet because of the school holidays. Although other cities will be watching this closely, we think discounts and exemptions need to be reconsidered. Rather than giving vehicles exemptions because of their fuel type, such as LPG, we believe it must be based on a more holistic system, such as whether the engine is Euro IV compliant or not.'
By the start of the charge on Monday morning, some 34,000 people had paid, bringing in £170,000 to Transport for London (TfL), the group behind the scheme. Derek Turner, TfL managing director of street management, said: 'It's very early days – congestion charging will take time to settle down.' Congestion charging is predicted to reduce traffic in central London by 10 to 15% and improve journey times in the zone by 25%. More than 150,000 people have pre-registered for the charge, either as single vehicles or under fleet schemes.