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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex A new study has revealed the average size - but does that leave men outside the 'normal' range being thought of as 'abnormal'?
Arts and Entertainment
TV
Voices
The Palace of Westminster is falling down, according to John Bercow
voices..says Matthew Norman
Sport
Steve Bruce and Gus Poyet clash
football
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
Graham Norton said Irish broadcaster RTE’s decision to settle was ‘moronic’
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jake and Dinos Chapman were motivated by revenge to make 'Bring me the Head of Franco Toselli! '
arts + ents Shapero Modern Gallery to show explicit Chapman Brothers film
Arts and Entertainment
Kurt Cobain performing for 'MTV Unplugged' in New York, shortly before his death
music Brett Morgen's 'Cobain: Montage of Heck' debunks many of the myths
Life and Style
life
Sport
Brendan Rodgers
football The Liverpool manager will be the first option after Pep Guardiola
News
Amazon misled consumers about subscription fees, the ASA has ruled
news
Arts and Entertainment
Myanna Buring, Julian Rhind-Tutt and Russell Tovey in 'Banished'
TV Jimmy McGovern tackles 18th-century crime and punishment
Arts and Entertainment
Paul Whitehouse as Herbert
arts + ents
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

Recruitment Genius: Lettings and Sales Negotiator - OTE £46,000

£16000 - £46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Home Care Worker - Reading and Surrounding Areas

£9 - £13 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a s...

Recruitment Genius: Key Sales Account Manager - OTE £35,000

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Have you got a proven track rec...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn