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Tuesday, 18 February, 2003, 17:54 GMT
Livingstone hails congestion charge
Southwark Bridge
Parts of London looked deserted on Monday
London Mayor Ken Livingstone has hailed the first day of the congestion charge as a success beyond his expectations.

Speaking at a press conference, Mr Livingstone said 100,000 drivers had paid the 5 fee on Monday.

The scheme's first day saw a 25% reduction in traffic in central London, partly due to the half-term school holiday.

Preliminary figures indicate up to 10,000 drivers did not pay the fee and the mayor said the first congestion charge fines would be landing on doorsteps by the end of the week.

We're not going to betray those Londoners who cooperated yesterday to produce the best day in traffic flow we've had in living memory

Ken Livingstone
London Mayor
Mr Livingstone said: "Yesterday was much more successful than was expected.

"None of the problems we feared of gridlock on inner ring roads and the collapse of the call centres materialised.

"Considering this is one of the largest IT schemes in Britain, it was a remarkably smooth-running day."

A total of 190,000 vehicles were thought to have entered the charging area, 25% less than on a typical weekday.

Between 15,000 to 20,000 were fleet vehicles which had also paid through fleet arrangements.

How drivers paid
40% at retailers
30% on the phone
20% online
10% by text
Some 45,000 vehicles, such as buses, taxis and emergency vehicles, were exempt from the charge.

In a year, London is expected to make 130m from the charge, including 90m for improving bus services and 4m for creating safe walking routes to schools.

Drivers who do not pay the fee of 5 before 2200 GMT, or 10 before midnight, are liable for an 80 penalty.

The initial figure of 10,000 could fall as the photos will be checked manually before fines are issued.

But in emphasising his determination to chase the non-payers, Mr Livingstone added: "We're not going to allow a few free-loaders to ride on the back of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Londoners."

Charge applies in eight square miles (21 square km)
Charges apply 0700-1830 GMT Monday to Friday, except public holidays
5 flat daily fee in advance or on day
Non-payment fines of up to 120

He said people had congratulated him on the first day's success as he travelled to work on the Tube on Tuesday.

And the scheme could extend westwards to cover other parts of Westminster and Kensington, if voters allow it in the next election.

A motoring organisation said average speeds had increased from 10 miles an hour to 20, although Mr Livingstone said this would not be maintained.

He brought forward his date for a full assessment and "firm judgements" of the scheme's success to before Easter.

Monday also saw 300 new buses on the capital's streets to help meet the expected rise in demand for public transport.

'Teething problems'

A London Underground spokesman said Tube trains were no busier than normal on both days.

But she added a smoke alarm had caused delays on the Northern Line on Tuesday morning.

Open in new window : In pictures
The view from the street during the first rush hour

TfL managing director Derek Turner said: "It's not totally introduced yet, we still have a school holiday period on, there could be further teething problems and adjustments to be made."

Shadow transport secretary Tim Collins said the scheme was not running so smoothly on day two and the fact remained it was "a wholly regressive and punitive form of taxation".

The scheme may extend westwards
Referring to the 10,000 non-payers, he added: "Making a profit out of inefficiency is of dubious legitimacy on day one - it would be a major public scandal if it continues into the future."

The AA warned reduced traffic in central London could impact on the capital's economy.

Freight companies oppose the charge and before their annual Freight Summit on Tuesday, some representatives said the arrangements for delivery firms to pay were chaotic.

The BBC's Simon Montague
"Ken Livingstone already wants to expand the congestion zone"
London Mayor Ken Livingstone:
"Yesterday was much more successful than was expected"

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11 Feb 03 | Politics
18 Feb 03 | England
18 Feb 03 | England
17 Feb 03 | England
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