Livingstone predicts 'difficult few days' as congestion charge begins

About 100,000 motorists are today experiencing the greatest ever experiment to ease road congestion as Ken Livingstone, the scheme's chief architect, boldly predicted there was a more than 99 per cent chance of success.

After a weekend surge in registrations from drivers heading for the city centre, the Mayor of London said he was confident that the technology powering 800 cameras and payment systems would work, but he conceded that much would rely on the adaptability of commuters over a "very difficult" few days.

By 6.30am, more than 30,000 people had paid the congestion charge for today and 50,000 had registered to pay by SMS text message.

Derek Turner, TfL managing director of street management, said: "There is likely to be some disruption and teething problems but we will do all we can to ensure that the traffic flows as smoothly as possible.

"We are also expecting that people may face delays at the call centre and would reiterate that it is not the only way to pay the charge."

Yesterday, Mr Livingstone said if the scheme proved to be a success, he planned to extend the congestion charge zone. In an interview with David Frost, he said he would enter into consultation with boroughs such as Tower Hamlets and Kensington and Chelsea to implement an expansion next year.

Mr Livingstone, who came under pressure to delay the toll until London Underground reopens the Central and Waterloo & City lines, said: "If I thought there was even a 1 per cent chance the system would fail, we wouldn't have gone ahead. The question has never been would the technology work, it is will people tolerate it."

With so much at stake, the Government maintained its non-committal stance, although Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, urged Mr Livingstone to be ready to reduce the £5 charge in case of problems. He said: "The Mayor has got the power to make changes to the scheme and it is important that he does do that as and when any problems arise."

Transport for London, the body charged with implementing the Mayor's transport strategy, scored an own goal by fining 45 motorists before the scheme started, forcing Mr Livingstone to apologise yesterday.

One motorist who was fined £120 for non-payment said he was "completely astonished and quite upset" to receive a fine notice the start of the month. Mr Livingstone told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost: "I plead guilty to that. It was a complete mistake. Someone pressed the wrong button on the computer and the forms went out. We have sent letters of apology and I would like to apologise personally to anyone who got a bit annoyed."

Dedicated call centres in Glasgow and Coventry were inundated at the weekend as motorists sought to register their vehicles for a discount, or pay in advance or by text message.

Transport for London said an extra 6,000 motorists had signed up for one-day or "season tickets" over the weekend, bringing the total to 26,000. About 50,000 had registered to pay by text message, compared with about 40,000 when figures were measured on Friday.

TfL estimated that 76 per cent of the 100,000 drivers expected to enter the eight-square-mile charge zone between 7am and 6.30pm today had made arrangements to pay. The remainder have until midnight tonight to register or face fines from £80 to £120.

Today Mr Livingstone will commute from his home in Cricklewood, north London, into the centre by Tube as usual, albeit accompanied by a scrum of reporters. He predicted a "very bad two or three days" on the roads at the start of the week as drivers sought alternative routes. The Automobile Association predicted this would bring heavy congestion in a three-mile-wide ring around the charging zone. The full impact may not be felt until after this week's half-term holidays.

The state of London's roads will be studied by 35 local authorities in Britain that are considering similar schemes, and by European cities such as Copenhagen, Genoa and Helsinki. Derbyshire County Council is considering Britain's first charge on rural roads to ease traffic during the tourist season in the Peak District.

The shadow Transport Secretary, Tim Collins, warned that congestion charges would be imposed elsewhere once they had been tried in London.

People wanting to pay can also visit the website at www.cclondon.com, pay at more than 1,500 retail outlets within the M25 or, if registered, pay the charge by text message.

The £5 charge can be paid any time up until 10pm. The fee then rises to £10.

Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
The Pipes and Drums of The Scottish Regiments perform during the Opening Ceremony for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park on July 23, 2014 in Glasgow, Scotland.
Commonwealth GamesThe actor encouraged the one billion viewers of the event to donate to the children's charity
Sport
Karen Dunbar performs
Entertainers showcase local wit, talent and irrepressible spirit
Sport
Members of the Scotland deleagtion walk past during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
News
Very tasty: Vladimir Putin dining alone, perhaps sensibly
news
Life and Style
Listen here: Apple EarPods offer an alternative
techAre custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?
Arts and Entertainment
Top guns: Cole advised the makers of Second World War film Fury, starring Brad Pitt
filmLt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a uniform
News
The University of California study monitored the reaction of 36 dogs
sciencePets' range of emotions revealed
News
Snoop Dogg pictured at The Hollywood Reporter Nominees' Night in February, 2013
people... says Snoop Dogg
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
News
Joining forces: young British men feature in an Isis video in which they urge Islamists in the West to join them in Iraq and Syria
newsWill the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?
Arts and Entertainment
The nomination of 'The Wake' by Paul Kingsnorth has caused a stir
books
News
i100
Life and Style
food + drinkZebra meat is exotic and lean - but does it taste good?
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

BI Manager - £50,000

£49000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client is...

BI Project Manager - £48,000 - £54,000 - Midlands

£48000 - £54000 per annum + Benefits package: Progressive Recruitment: My clie...

VB.Net Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: If you're pa...

SAP Business Consultant (SD, MM and FICO), £55,000, Wakefield

£45000 - £55000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP Business...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game