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Lawyers on the case challenge Mayor of London’s Congestion Charge to 10pm and weekends

PUBLISHED: 15:00 19 July 2020 | UPDATED: 15:05 19 July 2020

Aldgate High Street... inside Charge zone aimed at reducing traffic, now costs drivers £15 a day. Picture: Archant

Aldgate High Street... inside Charge zone aimed at reducing traffic, now costs drivers £15 a day. Picture: Archant

Archant

Car-owners are challenging the mayor of London in the courts over extending the Congestion Charge to 10pm and now weekends.

Demo in 2019 when Mayor wanted to extend £11.50 daily Charge to minicab and Uber drivers. Picture: UKIW trade unionDemo in 2019 when Mayor wanted to extend £11.50 daily Charge to minicab and Uber drivers. Picture: UKIW trade union

Lawyers have thrown down the gauntlet saying Sadiq Khan encouraged drivers to use their vehicles rather than crowd onto public transport during the pandemic crisis — only to hike driving charges later and extend the hours to fill TfL’s £1bn deficit.

“The mayor has been unlawful using ‘temporary emergency powers’ with no ending date,” legal counsel Shaheen Mamun told the East London Advertiser.

“We’re asking on what grounds these measures were introduced. There was no formal consultation, a process normally taking months — just a quick email response.”

The legal challenge, started jointly by FairFuelUK and the Alliance of British Drivers, is now awaiting a response from City Hall by July 24, ready to go to the High Court.

FairFuel’s founder Howard Cox told the paper: “The mayor encourages us to drive during the Covid crisis, then plucks a number out of nowhere to hike Congestion Charge.

Commercial Street, Whitechapel... dividing line between Congestion Charge westward towards Aldgate (left) and free the other side of the road, eastward. Picture: GoogleCommercial Street, Whitechapel... dividing line between Congestion Charge westward towards Aldgate (left) and free the other side of the road, eastward. Picture: Google

“City Hall is screwing drivers at every opportunity rather than taxing river and air traffic, or construction machinery and other sources of pollution.”

But TfL insist it was responding to “exceptional and urgent circumstances” with higher charges that were “only temporary”.

The mayor invited public responses and got back 13,000 emails and letters.

Mayor Khan said: “People expressed support for measures due to concerns about high levels of traffic, air pollution and road safety.”

The government had required TfL to bring proposals to “widen the scope and level” of congestion charge, City Hall insisted.

Famous Petticoat Lane market just inside Congestion Charge zone... can't drive here without coughing up £15 a day, even on Sundays now. Picture: Lesley LoveFamous Petticoat Lane market just inside Congestion Charge zone... can't drive here without coughing up £15 a day, even on Sundays now. Picture: Lesley Love

TfL said in a statement to the Advertiser last night: “Temporary changes to Congestion Charge are essential to prevent London’s recovery being restricted by cars and congestion.”

Analysis showed people driving instead of using public transport. Numbers in the evenings in the charge zone west of Commercial Street and across the City and West End were “almost as high as daytime” and levels at weekends higher than weekday, according to TfL, while numbers looked likely to double “as people followed orders to avoid public transport”.

But the transport minister insisted it wasn’t the government putting pressure on TfL to raise Congestion Charge and expand hours when bailing out the transport authority with £1.6billion to keep services going for essential journeys through the Covid outbreak. It was the Mayor’s decision, he stated.

Yet there had been “no proper public consultation” which lawyers say means the mayor acted unlawfully.

“Enough is enough,” British Drivers’ Association director Paul Biggs said. “This is ‘financial Khanage’ at a time of hardship, riding roughshod over every motorist who has no choice but to drive.”

The mayor had agreed to restart public transport by “moving towards walking and cycling options”.

But the lawyers challenge whether this meant hiked charges extended to 10pm and weekends, hitting businesses, the taxi trade and tourism, as well as the East End’s night economy.


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