Congestion Charge: a simple guide

Congestion Charge: a simple guide
Everything you need to know about paying the Congestion Charge for driving in London.

Our guide details all you need to know about the London Congestion Charge, including when it applies, how much you have to pay, the penalties for not paying and how you can appeal a C-Charge fine.

What is the Congestion Charge?

The Congestion Charge is a fee for driving in central London at certain times of the day. Its aim is to reduce traffic congestion – and thus air pollution – by making people think twice before using their cars.

It covers approximately the area from Kings Cross in the north to Vauxhall in the south, and Paddington in the west to Whitechapel in the east. All roads around the perimeter of the zone are monitored by Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras.

There is an interactive map of the Congestion Charge zone.

How much is it?

TfL have increased the cost from £11.50 to £15 in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

When do you have to pay it?

The charge now applies seven days a week between 7:00 am and 22:00 pm.

There is no charge on Christmas Day.

When don’t you have to pay it?

There is no charge between 22:00 and 7:00, or on Christmas Day.

Who has to pay it?

Drivers of cars that emit 76g/km CO2 or more have to pay the C-Charge if they enter central London during the specified times.

This includes the vast majority of cars on the road, apart from electric, hydrogen and some plug-in hybrid models.

Drivers of foreign-registered cars also have to pay, or risk a fine.

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Who doesn’t have to pay it?

If you can prove you live in within the C-Charge zone, you will be entitled to a 90% residents’ discount.

The following are exempt from the Congestion Charge altogether, subject to a £10 annual registration fee:  

  • Disabled drivers with a Blue Badge
  • Cars that emit 75g/km or less of CO2
  • Electric car drivers (and any other zero emissions vehicles)
  • Vehicles with nine or more seats
  • Motorised tricycles
  • Motorcycle riders do not have to pay the C-Charge, or register for exemption

How do you pay it?

You can pay the Congestion Charge online via the TFL website or at selected newsagents and petrol stations in the London area.

There are also around 100 blue and red self-service machines in car parks inside the zone. These only accept credit and debit cards, though – no cash.

Regular users can also register for automatic payment (Auto Pay), which provides a discount of £1 per day.

Beware of fake Congestion Charge websites that promise to pay TFL on your behalf. They may charge an additional fee for this service – and there is no guarantee they will pass payment on to TFL.

What happens if you don’t pay it?

If you fail to pay by midnight the day after you drive in the C-Charge zone, you’ll receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN). The fine is £130, or £65 if paid within 14 days.

How do you pay a Congestion Charge fine?

Fines can also be paid via the TFL website. You’ll need your PCN and car registration numbers to hand.

Can you appeal a Congestion Charge fine?

If you think a Congestion Charge fine has been issued unfairly, you can appeal. The reasons stated for making an appeal are:

  • You were not the keeper at the time of the contravention
  • You had paid the charge
  • Your vehicle was exempt
  • The vehicle was used or taken without your consent
  • You had registered for a 100% discount
  • The vehicle was on hire to someone else

However, TFL says it will ‘consider representations made on any other grounds’.

You can challenge the PCN by writing to the following address: Congestion Charging, PO Box 344, Darlington, DL1 9QE.

Alternatively, you can make your case via the TFL website. You have 28 days from the date the PCN was issued to either pay or appeal.

If you have any questions about a PCN, you can telephone 0343 222 3333. Lines are open from 8:00 to 20:00 and calls cost between 2p and 10p per minute from landlines, or 10p and 40p from mobiles.

When was it brought in?

The Congestion Charge was introduced in 2003 by then Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone. Initially, it cost £5 a day, but the fee has more than doubled since to £11.50 per day.

A ‘Western Extension’ to the C-Charge zone, covering much of Kensington, Chelsea and Earl’s Court, was introduced in 2007. However, following protests from residents and local businesses, it was eventually removed at the end of 2010.

Is it likely to change or increase?

From 23 October 2017, vehicles driving into the C-Charge zone need to meet minimum exhaust emission requirements.

If not, drivers must pay a supplementary £10 Toxicity Charge (T-Charge). Cars, vans and trucks that meet the ‘Euro 4’ emissions standard are exempt, but all those rated Euro 3 or earlier are subject to the charge. For motorised tricycles, those rated Euro 3 or later are exempt.

No increases for the standard C-Charge are tabled at present, but the scheme has been deemed a success and the daily fee is likely to increase in future.

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