Last month, the area covered by the charge was expanded to include most of Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster. This increase enveloped hundreds of small businesses and increased the likelihood of other van operators having to drive into the congestion charging zone.
The tax zone now begins in west London at Shepherd’s Bush, bounded to the north by the Harrow Road and in the south by the River Thames. A few ‘drive-through’ routes have been left tax-free, the main one being from Vauxhall Bridge, up through Grosvenor Place and via Park Lane up Edgware Road.
The charge remains £8 per day – but the operating hours will be shortened by half an hour, running from 7am to 6pm.
Since its introduction in 2003, the congestion charge has proved an administrative minefield for leasing and rental companies. Exclusive research for Fleet News revealed the total cost of penalty charges incurred by their customers’ drivers is more than £11 million a year, with an additional £4.5 million added to fleet running costs by drivers incurring fines for non-payment of the charge.
In addition, many leasing companies have to impose an additional charge to cover the burden of administration related to dealing with the charges.
One of the initial supporters of the scheme has openly criticised the extension. Nigel Bourne, director of CBI London, said: ‘Although we backed the original introduction of the charge, this westward extension is premature. More time is needed to understand the full effects of congestion charging on business, because it is clear there have been both winners and losers.
‘The extension could hurt the many retail businesses that support the area.’