Despite massive opposition, the westward extension to London’s congestion charge zone came into force on this morning at 7am.

London mayor Ken Livingstone took the decision to extend into Kensington and Chelsea in the face of strong protests from residents and business.

“With a significant decline in footfall in the central zone as well as increased running costs for business owners and travelling costs for employees, the congestion charge has been a millstone round the neck,” said Forum of Private Business chief executive Nick Goulding. “This extension will be nothing short of a disaster for those in the extended zone.”

The only ray of light with the extension is that the finish for the £8 charge will now be 6pm, half an hour earlier than the previous 6.30pm end time.

Meanwhile, new figures from Transport for London show that the current zone has had minimal impact on traffic levels. Though traffic dropped by 30% in the immediate aftermath of the scheme’s introduction, it’s now back up to 92% of pre-charge levels of congestion. And the new extension will see around 60,000 people now able to claim the 90% residents’ discount, leading to another increase in traffic levels inside the zone.