If you drive in central London, you might have to pay the Congestion Charge. Transport for London (TfL) runs it and it was introduced on the 17 February 2003. It's designed to reduce the amount of traffic and lower emissions.
Find out what the Congestion Charge is and how to pay it.
What is the Congestion Charge?
Temporary changes due to COVID-19
In June 2020, TfL made temporary changes to the Congestion Charge in response to changing traffic levels caused by COVID-19 (coronavirus).
The temporary changes are:
The Congestion Charge is a £10.50 daily charge if you drive within the Congestion Charge zone and pay by Auto Pay.
If you pay by another method, the charge is £11.50 daily.
The charge applies:
- 7am - 6pm every weekday
There is no charge on:
- Saturdays and Sundays
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Christmas Day
- Any other day that’s a bank holiday in England and Wales
You pay the charge for the day, and can drive within the charging zone as often as you want within the day.
Where is the Congestion Charge zone?
The zone covers many popular areas of Central London, like Westminster, Holborn, Farringdon, Marylebone and the City.
How do I pay the Congestion Charge?
You must pay for the charge in advance or before midnight the following day after driving in the Congestion Charge zone.
You can choose how to pay the charge from these options:
- Auto pay - set up an automatic payment with an annual registration fee of £10
- Pay online
- Pay by phone on 0343 222 2222
Who has to pay?
You'll have to pay if you're responsible for a car, van or lorry using the zone.
There are some exemptions and discounts, for example motorcycles and disabled people who have a blue badge.
Some of those eligible for discounts and exemptions must pre-register even though they pay nothing.
What about the emission zone charges?
If you drive in London you may need to pay the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and/or the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) charges as well as the Congestion Charge.
This will depend on the emissions of your vehicle, which TfL works out from your number plate.
You can pay both charges at the same time.
How does the congestion charge work?
The Congestion Charge is based on number plate recognition:
- Cameras read your vehicle number plate as you enter, drive around and leave the zone.
- Once your number plate has been matched to the database, a check will run to see if you’ve paid.
- If you’ve paid, or don’t have to pay, the images of your vehicle are automatically wiped from the database.
- If a number plate isn’t matched to a payment by midnight on the following charging day, a penalty charge must be paid.
Have the cameras recorded my plate?
If you've driven into the Congestion Charging zone there's no way to find out if your vehicle's number plate was recorded or not, other than wait to see if you get a letter or fine through the post.
What if I get a penalty?
If you don't pay the Congestion Charge within the time limit (before midnight the following charging day) you’ll receive a penalty charge notice of £130, reduced to £65 if paid within 14 days.
Congestion charging penalties are civil matters and are in effect debts. If you consider yourself not guilty or a mistake has been made:
- Write immediately to the address given on your penalty, quoting the penalty charge number.
- Explain in detail why you shouldn't pay.
- If your explanation isn't accepted, you can appeal to an independent adjudicator.
Published: 12 September 2016 | Updated: 12 October 2020 | Author: The AA