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London's drivers stung for £70.4m in congestion zone charges

England, London, London Black Cab Taxi Stuck in Traffic (Photo by: Dukas/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Drivers have paid out £70.4m in charges and fines in just the first eight months of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) charge being introduced in London.

The daily charge for cars and small vehicles that drive within the London ULEZ zone but do not meet the new emissions standards is just £12.50.

Within six months of the zone being introduced drivers have already shelled out £48.9m in charges, a freedom of information request from pay-by-mile car insurance provider By Miles found.

That’s 3.4 million charges, with an average of three charges per vehicle entering the zone during that time.

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It’s estimated that the central London ULEZ will generate a total of £213m in charges and penalties by the end of its first year.

However, drivers are being stung further when they fall foul of the system’s stringent late payment rules. Over the same period, drivers paid out £21.5m in penalty charge notices (PCN) as they failed to make the tight ULEZ payment deadline of midnight on the date of travel, or the next working day if the journey took place over the weekend.

With no automatic notification system in place to remind drivers they’ve entered the zone, and no way to check if they’ve strayed into it retrospectively, those that are unaware or forget to pay quickly face penalties of up to £160 – 12 times more than the cost of a single journey within the ULEZ zone.

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The highest number of penalties issued to one vehicle is 165, for a driver based in South London. A penalty is issued at £160 but is reduced to £80 for prompt payment. At the reduced amount, the total value of fines for this driver would be £13,200.

James Blackham, co-founder of By Miles said: “While the ULEZ zone is a positive step towards tackling climate change and improving air quality in the city, it’s clear that it is causing considerable confusion among drivers in the capital.

“Many are unaware where zones start and finish, and the tight timeframe you’re given to pay the fee if you accidentally pass through it is costing unsuspecting motorists millions.

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“Penalty charges won't educate drivers to make the air in the capital cleaner, they'll just annoy them and make them poorer.”