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05 September 2023

Embassies owe TfL over £143m in unpaid congestion charges PLUS more travel news

05 September 2023

Embassies worldwide owe Transport for London (TfL) over £143 million in unpaid Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) payments. The congestion charge, introduced in 2003 to reduce traffic and air pollution, is disputed by many embassies claiming tax exemption under the 1961 Vienna Convention. TfL asserts that foreign diplomats are not exempt. The US embassy has the highest debt at £14,644,215, followed by Japan, India and Nigeria. TfL seeks government support for debt recovery and has raised the issue with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. It also advocates referring the matter to the International Court of Justice.

London mayor, Sadiq Khan, has scrapped plans for a central London zero-emission zone (Zez) in which all petrol and diesel vehicles would face fees from 2025. The news follows the expansion of the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) to cover greater London. Despite the decision, City Hall will support councils wanting to implement their own Zezs. Guidance for councils has been available since 2019 and there is keen interest from some boroughs. However, key councils, including Camden and Kensington and Chelsea, confirm they have no plans for their own Zezs.

Ed Davey, the Liberal Democrat leader, has requested that London Mayor Sadiq Khan excludes Hook and Chessington from the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ). Davey claimed the area's unique geography and poor public transport make the scheme unfair on local residents and businesses. However, Khan's spokesperson defended the decision, citing urgent need to combat air pollution, noting that most cars in outer London are already ULEZ compliant. The dispute arose after the ULEZ was expanded to cover the entirety of Greater London, with non-compliant vehicle drivers charged a £12.50 daily fee.

Bus and tube ridership in London over the August Bank Holiday reached its highest level since the pandemic, according to Transportation for London (TfL). Bus travel rose by almost 10% from the same weekend in 2022, while tube journeys increased by about 6%. However, both were still marginally below 2019 levels. Large events, such as the 75th Windrush anniversary at the Notting Hill Carnival, contributed to the increased passenger numbers. TfL encourages people to use its services more during the upcoming Open House Festival from 6-17 September.

London commuters are cautioned to review travel plans due to rail strikes on 1-2 September by ASLEF and RMT unions. Although Transport for London staff are not striking, minor delays may occur on TfL services. Several London Underground, Overground, DLR, and Elizabeth lines will be impacted with closures and limited services. Rail replacement bus services will be available where rail services are disrupted. Additionally, certain roads and bus service routes will be affected during the period due to other events. Updated travel information is available on the TfL app and website.

Industrial action by unions Aslef and RMT this week is set to cause widespread disruption for rail customers due to continuing disputes over pay with the government and Rail Delivery Group. Strikes are planned across the network, with an overtime ban also in place. This will severely affect services, particularly to and from Liverpool Lime Street, with limited services to Manchester and London. Increased disruptions are predicted, particularly for Northern, TransPenine Express, and Avanti West Coast. Both unions stand firm in their actions, blaming lack of fair pay offers, while the government urges union bosses to let members vote on these offers.

London commuters face further travel disruption in September due to strikes planned by ASLEF and RMT unions over pay disputes. The ASLEF strike is scheduled for September 1, with an overtime ban on 16 train companies the following day, impacting services across the UK. The RMT union will also strike on September 2. Train companies affected include Greater Anglia, Stansted Express, c2c, Great Western Railway and Southeastern among others. The unions accuse the government of ignoring their demands for a fair pay offer. The Rail Delivery Group claims a 13% pay rise was offered but blocked by the RMT.

A fatal incident occurred on the tracks at Stockwell station on 27th August, leading to significant delays on the Victoria line, as confirmed by Transport for London (TfL). The station was temporarily closed whilst emergency services responded. The London Ambulance Service attended the scene, including members of their hazardous area response team (HART) and London's Air Ambulance, but sadly, the individual could not be saved and was pronounced dead on-site.

Securing a taxi is simpler with apps like Uber, but supporting local businesses often means opting for local firms. If you're looking for the best taxi and airport shuttle services in Merseyside, check out these top 13 options serving the Liverpool area and North West airports. Each company on the list boasts a minimum Google rating of 4.0 out of five stars, based on at least 50 reviews.

Sadiq Khan has expanded the ultra low emission zone (ULEZ) vehicle scrappage scheme offering financial incentives to shift to cleaner modes of transport. The scheme launched in early 2023 ahead of the ULEZ expansion on 29 August grants various amounts to individuals and businesses for scrapping their old, polluting vehicles or retrofitting them. It has now widened eligibility to all Londoners with a non-compliant car or motorcycle. The scheme also applies to micro and small businesses, sole traders, and charities, subject to specific criteria. TfL offers an online tool to check vehicle compliance and outlines the application process and available discounts or exemptions.

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