Congestion scheme passes back-to-work test

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The congestion charging scheme in London appeared to have cleared its second big hurdle yesterday when the first proper working day in the city since its introduction passed without traffic chaos.

The congestion charging scheme in London appeared to have cleared its second big hurdle yesterday when the first proper working day in the city since its introduction passed without traffic chaos.

The trouble-free start of the £5-a-day charge to enter central London last week had been attributed to the school half-term holiday, which reduces traffic by up to 20 per cent.

Some feared that problems had simply been displaced until yesterday, but traffic inside and on the edge of the zone was only marginally heavier than last week and there were no reports of jams or gridlock caused by drivers seeking alternative routes. There was no evidence of a mass switch to public transport, with both London Underground and buses reporting normal passenger levels.

Although Transport for London (TfL) stressed that drivers would take some time to settle into habits influenced by the charge, a spokesman said the organisation was "delighted'' with the way the scheme had worked so far. The number of drivers paying the charge yesterday morning was roughly the same as the previous week.

The TfL spokesman said he could not yet judge whether revenue levels from both the charge and penalties for non-payers would be sufficient to raise the estimated £130m a year towards public transport spending. Traffic levels last week of between 87,000 and 95,000 drivers paying the charge each day are well below the estimated level of about 150,000; figures for fines have not yet been released. The spokesman said: "This is not intended as a revenue-earning device, but as a traffic management measure. Any revenue is a bonus.''

The level of fines is expected to be disclosed today by Ken Livingstone, London's Mayor.

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