London to raise its congestion charge to penalize gas guzzlers

AP Photo LKW106

By THOMAS WAGNER

Associated Press Writer

LONDON (AP) -- Drivers of gas-guzzling cars will have to pay nearly $50 a day to enter central London, triple the current charge, while the most fuel efficient vehicles will get a free ride, the mayor said Tuesday.

Mayor Ken Livingstone, who introduced the daily congestion charge on trucks and cars entering central London in 2003 to cut traffic and pollution, said the change is primarily aimed at the big cars owned by people in wealthy parts of the capital.

The mayor, who has the power to make the change without legislative approval, said it will go into effect on Oct. 27.

"The CO2 emissions from the most high-powered 4x4s and sports cars can be up to four times as great as the least polluting cars," he said.

Livingstone said that 17 percent of the cars that visit central London each day -- or about 33,000 -- will pay the $49 charge, while 2 percent will go free. The remaining 81 percent -- and trucks -- will continue to pay the current $16 fee.

London's congestion charge is widely credited with reducing traffic and changing commuting patterns for the better in the capital. Officials from other large cities around the world have studied the plan or discussed imitating it.

Last month, New York State's traffic commission voted to recommend that New York City charge drivers an $8 daily fee to bring their cars into Manhattan below 60th Street. That still would require the approval the State Legislature.

On Tuesday, groups such as Greenpeace praised Livingstone's changes.

But Phil Popham, the managing director of Land Rover, said: "We believe it will have immediate costs for our business, but doubtful benefits from an environmental perspective."