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Transportation

What Comes After London’s Congestion Charge?

The U.K. capital needs to bring driving levels down to hit climate and pollution goals — and save its struggling public transit system. A new kind of road user fee could help. 

A construction worker halts traffic in the City of London in December 2021. 

A construction worker halts traffic in the City of London in December 2021. 

Photographer: Chris J. Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

When it was introduced in 2003, London’s congestion charge made history: The U.K capital was the first major city after Singapore to introduce road pricing for vehicles entering the urban core.

Despite political pushback and predictions of dire economic consequences, the charge succeeded in tamping down London traffic, proving that vehicle fees could be an effective means of reducing congestion and pollution — and providing a model that other major cities still seek to emulate. Eighteen years on, however, many are arguing that the charge in its current form is obsolete. London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan recently announced that the city is exploring scrapping the charge for motor vehicles driving in Central London, replacing it instead with a fee for all car journeys across the entire city. Although the exact form that the congestion charge’s replacement will take has yet to be decided, it seems very likely that its days in its current form are numbered.