Why is there a Congestion Charge in London?
London’s fuel emissions, caused by its infamous traffic, have impacted the capital’s air pollution to the point that it has breached global safety standards. To help combat this problem, the city introduced a Congestion Charge for vehicles driving in the city centre.
Launched on 17th February 2003, London’s Congestion Charge zone is one of the largest worldwide. The Congestion Charge is a tax that was introduced to reduce the amount of traffic and the pollution in central London, as well as to raise funds for TFL.
How much is the Congestion Charge?
The price of the Congestion Charge is £11.50 per day.
The Congestion Charge is applicable for anyone driving a vehicle within the charging zone during the hours of 07:00 - 18:00 Monday to Friday.
Once you've paid the Congestion Charge, you can leave and re-enter the congestion charge zone as many times as you like in the same day.
When does the Congestion Charge apply?
The congestion charge isn’t applicable over the weekend, during public holidays, inclusively between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day or between 18:00 - 07:00 on weekdays.
One of the quickest and easiest ways to pay the congestion charge is to register for the Congestion Charge Auto Pay and Fleet Auto Pay systems online. However, there are other ways to pay too.
It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you’re unsure whether your journey will take you into the Congestion Charge zone make sure you check your route. Our interactive map will help you plan your route in advance and help you work out if you need to pay the Congestion Charge.
Don’t worry, your driving instructor will be responsible for paying this if you enter the zone during your lessons, but make sure you check if you will be affected when you practise outside of lessons.
How do you pay the Congestion Charge?
It’s recommended to create a London Road User charging account before creating the CC Auto Pay account. This will make it easier to register or remove multiple vehicles from your account and to view your payment history. You will be required to pay an annual vehicle registration charge during the account creation process.
After registering for a London Road User Charging account, London drivers can then register for the Congestion Charge Auto Pay, (CC Auto Pay) system to easily pay the Congestion Charge.
Once you’re registered you can pay your Congestion Charge, receive payment reminders and register multiple vehicles. You will also be eligible for a reduced daily rate charge and avoid receiving penalty charge notices as long as your vehicle is registered and your account remains active.
Another perk to CC Auto Pay is that you can share access to your account with up to five other people. Which could be particularly helpful if you’re sharing a flat with other drivers or you could get added to your parents’ account if you’re living at home.
Can you get a discount?
There are exemptions and discounts available and those using CC Auto Pay can reduce their Congestion Charge fee by £1 a day. When signing up for CC Auto Pay you will need to pay the £10 vehicle registration fee per vehicle if you’re planning on registering more than one car on your account.
Other discounts are available such as the residents discount, blue badge holder discount, accredited breakdown, vehicles with more than 9 seats, the Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED), motor tricycles and roadside recovery vehicles.
Local residents of London can register for a 90% discount which means they would pay £5.75 for five consecutive charging days. Blue Badge Holders can receive a 100% discount and will not have to pay a daily congestion charge.
What is the penalty for not paying?
If you haven’t paid it by midnight on the charging day that you drove inside the Congestion Charge zone, you will receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) which can vary from £65 to £195.
The Congestion Charge is enforced using an automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) system which TFL is responsible for. So there’s no way of avoiding it, TFL is watching and will find you!
Where does the money go?
It is a legal requirement that the funds received from the Congestion Charge are spent on transport improvements across London.
Watch out for unofficial Congestion Charge websites!
Remember not to get caught out by the numerous unofficial websites selling Congestion Charge payment services. Even if they appear near the top of a search engine results page, you’re far better off paying through the official TFL approved channel.
These unofficial websites will overcharge you compared to the official government-run CC Auto Pay site and they may also contain misleading and false claims about TFL and the CC Auto Pay system. Any additional services they may claim to provide you are either false or are already provided by TFL free of charge. You risk paying up to £8 more compared to the approved channel for paying the daily Congestion Charge.
The unofficial websites will make a payment to TFL once they receive the funds from you, but in some cases, they don’t even pay TFL at all. This has led to many people being sent Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs). There have also been recorded cases of some people mistakenly paying for the Congestion Charge when it doesn’t apply, such as weekends or bank holidays.
What is the LEZ?
LEZ isn’t the same as the central London Congestion Charge zone. If you drive into the Congestion Charge Zone and your vehicle meets the LEZ emissions standards and have paid the LEZ charge, you will still be required to pay the Congestion Charge for that day.
The LEZ is in place to encourage the heavier polluting diesel vehicles driving in London to become cleaner. The LEZ covers most of Greater London and is in operation 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
The LEZ charging days run from midnight to midnight. So if you drive within the LEZ between the hours of 23:30 and 01:00 the next day, you would need to pay for two days. The LEZ isn’t applicable for parked cars that aren’t going to be driving during that particular day.
LEZ emissions standards will become stricter from October 2020. From 8th April 2019, the ULEZ standards will affect petrol and diesel vehicles driving in central London.
What is the ULEZ?
The ULEZ was designed to help improve the air pollution problem in central London, and came into force in April 2019. If you are driving any petrol or diesel vehicle within the new ULEZ in central London, your vehicle will need to meet the Euro 5 stands, otherwise you will need to pay an extra charge on top of the Congestion Charge. In 2021, this new zone will go as far as the North and South Circular roads.
The ULEZ replaces the T-Charge and is in operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year within the same area as the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ). The ULEZ daily charge is to be paid in addition to the current weekday Congestion Charge and the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charge.
However, residents who are eligible for the Congestion Charge discount will receive 100% ULEZ discount until 24th October 2021, in order to give them enough time to change or modify their vehicle to meet the new standards. During this period the residents will continue to pay the T-Charge, at a discounted rate of 90%.
What is the T-Charge?
The T-Charge (or Toxicity Charge) was first introduced by TFL in October 2017. It means that older vehicles have to pay £10 on top of the Congestion Charge as they’re not compliant with the Euro 4 standards.
However, in April 2019, this extra charge will be replaced with the Ultra-Low Emission Zone charge.
What is the difference between ULEZ and LEZ?
The key difference between the two categories of emissions charges within the London Congestion Charge zone is that if your vehicle meets the ULEZ requirements, it will also meet the LEZ requirements too.
If your vehicle meets the LEZ emissions standards then it might not meet the ULEZ requirements so you will be better off to use the ULEZ checker to make sure that your vehicle meets the ULEZ standards.
What are the other changes to the congestion charge?
After 26th October 2020, there will be changes to the current LEZ standards. While buses, coaches and other specialist vehicles over 3.5 tonnes don’t currently have to pay the Congestion Charge, they will be required to from this date.
The other vehicles that will be affected by the new LEZ standards in 2020 include any that were registered before 1st January 2002. This is because they won’t meet the Euro 3 emissions standards without modification.
The vehicles that won’t be affected by the new LEZ standards in 2020 are those that were registered on and after 1st January 2002, because they meet the Euro 3 emissions standards.
London's Congestion Charge can trip up even the most experienced drivers when out and about in the capital city, let alone learner drivers wanting to practice their driving in between lessons.
Learn all about the Congestion Charge when practising your driving in London!