The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has accused Transport for London (TfL) of using underhand tactics to bury the bad news of an eye-watering, above-inflation rise in London’s daily Congestion Charge amid news of yesterday’s Comprehensive Spending Review.
Natalie Chapman, FTA’s Head of Policy for London, said:
"TfL has not only ignored our concerns and gone ahead with a policy of completely unreasonable price hikes, but has done so on the same day as the biggest public spending cuts in decades were announced. Given the dire business implications that the £2 rises will represent to businesses, we suspect that this in not purely a coincidence."
The leading trade body had urged TfL to immediately cap the current rate for commercial fleet operators at £7 and consider different charging levels for essential business journeys and discretionary private car journeys. However, the changes that will come into effect from 4 January pay no heed to these suggestions, with charges increasing to:
£10 if paid in advance or on the day of travel
£12 if paid by midnight the charging day after travel
£9 if registered for the new congestion charging auto pay system (charged in arrears) or the fleet scheme (where payment is upfront)
These price hikes are unjustified and represent an increase in costs to fleet operators of 42 per cent in real terms since the introduction of the congestion charge in 2003.
"Some businesses will be able to qualify for a discount under the fleet scheme, but given the additional constraints that paying up front has on cash flow, a freeze on the current fee would have been more appropriate. After all, individual motorists can pay for their fees in arrears under the Charging Auto Pay scheme but are entitled to the same discount being applied to commercial vehicle operators.
"TfL has deliberately tried to wrong foot the industry to get these charges in without anyone noticing and it has done nothing to justify why they are even being imposed. It could be that TfL needs to look more closely at controlling its operating costs, but quite why commercial vehicle operators should be picking up the tab is unclear."