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Getting a bit congested

Like many elements of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review this week, policy surrounding the London congestion charge seemed to give with one hand, and take with the other.

The better news in Transport for London’s announcement yesterday (21 October) came in the form of a full exemption for vehicles with CO2 emissions under 100g/km from next year, and the scrapping of the Western extension to the congestion charging zone.

Under the plans, the current Alternative Fuel Discount – applicable to alternative fuel or hybrid vehicles and worth £8 a day – will be replaced with a Greener Vehicle Discount. The new subsidy will mean that any sub-100g/km vehicle that also meets Euro 5 standards for air quality will qualify for full exemption.

Great news if you’ve got specific diesel models from Audi, Volvo, Vauxhall, Seat, VW, Ford, Peugeot, Renault and Toyota.

Not so great if you’ve got, well, anything else that emits more than 100g/km (that includes luckless Honda Civic, CR-Z and Insight owners).

We don’t want to play down good news, but we can’t ignore the fact that, while most of the changes are positive and favour drivers of the more fuel-efficient vehicles, the overall cost of the congestion charge for non-exempt commuters (i.e. the ones with ‘big, bad polluting vehicles’ – how very dare they?) into the heart of the city will rise to £10 if paid in advance or on the day, and to £12 if paid the day after.

We are all in favour of the most fuel-efficient vehicles but we would like to defend those motorists who may not be able to afford these models, and, as London Mayor, Boris Johnson, said, have no choice but to undertake those “essential journeys into the heart of the capital”.

So, “fairer and more effective” for some, but for many the congestion charging headache will continue to thud for some time to come

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