Transport for London to increase penalty charges to help tackle traffic congestion

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Transport for London (TfL) has confirmed plans to increase the Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) in the city’s congestion charge zone from January 2018, in a bid to increase its effect as a deterrent and help reduce traffic congestion.

The congestion charge has played an important role in reducing the number of vehicles in central London, and fines for not paying this fee encourage drivers to be compliant. However, in the past five years there has been a 12% increase in the number of motorists being issued with congestion charge PCNs. The rise from 1.3 million in 2011/12 to 1.5 million in 2016/17, TfL claims, is a clear indicator that the effectiveness of the current PCN fine has reduced over time. The increase, from £65 to £80 (US$87-107) – or £130 to £160 (US$174-214) for late payment – follows a public consultation that received more than 7,400 responses. The fine’s increase is expected to encourage greater compliance and help to improve traffic flow in the city.

Later this year, and subject to the required Secretary of State review, 

TfL is also proposing to increase PCNs for offenses that take place on its entire road network. More than a third of all London’s traffic uses TfL’s main roads, which are referred to as ‘red routes’, and vehicles that block roads, drive in bus lanes, park incorrectly or make banned turns, not only cause inconvenience to road users, but create hazards, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists. By keeping these main routes clear, road danger, congestion, vehicle emissions and delays to bus passengers are reduced, ensuring that London remains an efficient, well-functioning global city. TfL reinvests all income received from PCNs back into improving London’s transport network through increased expenditure on maintenance, reducing danger on the road and transforming the capital’s streets into more attractive and accessible places.

“We want to make London’s streets safer and healthier places that are less dominated by the car. Although the congestion charge has been effective in reducing the number of cars entering central London, we’ve seen a 12% increase in the number of motorists being issued with PCNs in the last five years,” explained Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL’s general manager for road user charging. “This shows that the deterrent factor of the existing PCN has reduced over time. The new PCN level will help improve compliance and also encourage people to consider cheaper and more active alternative forms of travel.”

However, despite TfL’s claims, it is worth noting that an increase in the number of motorists being issued with PCNs over the last five years is not necessarily an indicator of ineffectiveness of the current system but may simply highlight the increased number of vehicles entering the congestion charging zone.

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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