Fleet News

Guest opinion: Pay congestion charge up front and avoid fines

'NOW that Ken Livingstone has been re-elected as Mayor of London, your congestion charge problems will become worse. A part of his election platform was a promise to extend the present zone westwards into the London Boroughs of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea.

That won't take place for a couple of years but when it does – and you can be pretty sure it will go ahead – then effectively it will double the present zone and make the whole of Inner London a weekday, no-go zone unless you've paid and it's paying the charge that I want to talk about.

I find it simply astonishing that so many drivers fail to pay the charge in time. It's five quid. It's not a big sum especially when you consider the penalty – £80 reduced to £40 if paid within 14 days but rising to £120 if not paid after 28 days. Persistent defaulters (three unpaid fines) can have their vehicles seized and disposed of.

It's pretty draconian stuff, but it can be avoided. Just pay the charge in time.

That means before 10.00pm on the day, while it's still a fiver, or between 10.00pm and midnight when it increases to £10.

For drivers of contract-hired or fleetmanaged vehicles, failing to pay is more complicated.

The fine goes to the registered keeper – almost certainly the contract hire or fleet management company.

They have 14 days to pay before the fine jumps to £80 and, at present for contracts of longer than six months, they cannot simply pass the details over to Transport for London.

Instead they have to pay the fine and that, with all the associated administration – raising the cheque, invoicing the customer, etc – costs a great deal of money, so unsurprisingly they're going to charge that on to you.

Suddenly that £5 congestion charge has become more – often a great deal more.

It's hardly difficult to pay, either. You can pay by phone (0845 900 1234), online (www.cclondon.com), at selected shops, petrol stations and car parks, by post (download the form from the website), at BT Internet kiosks and even by mobile phone for registered users.

So, a personal plea. None of us like the congestion charge but it's there and if your drivers go into Central London on a weekday (7.00am - 6.30pm) then make sure they pay the charge up front and save yourself the aggravation and the cost of a fine.

If they don't pay the congestion charge then you might consider adding a fine of your own, sufficient to cover your own costs.'

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