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This note provides information on the two road charging schemes that exist in central London: the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) and the Congestion Charge.

Congestion is a serious problem in all major cities, affecting air quality and the economy. Congestion from queuing and slowly moving traffic increases emissions and harms productivity as businesses find it more difficult to move goods and people quickly and efficiently.

In London, the first elected Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, sought to tackle these issues by introducing a Congestion Charge in Central London and, later, a Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) for heavy commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles that did not meet a set level of emissions. Before leaving office in 2008 Mayor Livingstone introduced proposals for an emissions-based charge on cars that fall into the higher vehicle excise duty bands (so-called ‘gas guzzlers’). During his term in office, the main change to the Congestion Charge was the widening of the zone to include the Western extension into Kensington and Chelsea.

Mayor Johnson took office in May 2008 pledged to consult on scrapping the Western extension. However, he pledged to keep the Central charging zone and to continue with the implementation of the LEZ, albeit on a slightly slower timetable. The Western extension was abolished with effect from 4 January 2011, and the charge for entering the Central zone was increased on the same day. Vans and minibuses were included in the LEZ from January 2012.

All types of road charging schemes in London are provided for by the mayor under the enabling legislation introduced by the Labour Government in 1999.

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