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'Gas-guzzler' C-charge hike given green light

Date: 12 February 2008   |   Author:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has confirmed the huge price hike for higher-emitting cars entering London's congestion charge zone.

From 27 October, any vehicle emitting over 225g/km will be charged £25 per day to enter the zone, though cars at 120g/km or less will get free entry as long as they meet Euro4 emissions regulations, which were standard from January 2007.

Figures from the Mayor's Office claim 17% of cars entering the zone will now be forced to pay the £25 per day charge, while only 2% will qualify for the 100% discount. The remainder will still be subject to the current £8 per day.

Models over 225g/km that will be hit by the new charge include top-end versions of the Vauxhall Zafira, Renault Espace and Honda Accord.

"Nobody needs to damage the environment by driving a gas-guzzling Chelsea tractor in central London," said Livingstone, describing the latest scheme as a "polluter pays principle".

Hybrid and LPG vehicles currently registered for the alternative fuel discount will continue to receive it until January 2010, as long as they don't change ownership, and the Mayor has left the door open to remove the 120g/km and below exemption in the future. Some commentators are worried by the number of new models that now fall into the category, including versions of the Audi A3, VW Golf, BMW 1-series and Ford Focus, with others sure to follow suit. A sharp rise in the number of congestion charge-exempt models would lead to increased congestion, going against the principle of a congestion charge.

The RAC Foundation's acting director Sheila Granger slammed the new plans. "The congestion charge was originally developed to reduce congestion. Changing this will confuse the public and reduce support and trust for future initiatives," she said. "Motorists are not able to change their vehicles overnight.

Granger called for a fairer graded system along the lines of the VED bandings. "We believe a £0, £6, £8, £12 approach is worth investigating, as it would encourage people to choose the "best in class" rather than assuming that small is beautiful."