Back in 2003, the congestion charge was introduced in London to try and reduce the high volumes of traffic which were clogging up London’s streets.
The charge has raised billions of pounds and has gone some way to reducing the amount of traffic on London’s congested roads.
However, Transport for London has recently announced that the £10 daily charge will be rising to £15 and that the hours of operation of the charge is going to be increased so that it is payable seven days a week between 0700 – 2200 hours.
The controversial move has caused widespread anger amongst London’s key worker community who have been working extra hours and extra shifts to help in the fight against COVID-19.
Some key workers in London are now having to pay up to £300 per month to get to work while taking the government’s advice to avoid using public transport.
An online petition has now been started to try and force TfL to give exemptions to the capital’s army of key workers who have been working extended hours and extra shifts to try and keep the nation’s capital safe from the virus.
A key worker who will be adversely affected by the charge, told Emergency Services News:
“I feel that all emergency services should be exempt from paying the congestion charge.
“Not just through COVID but permanently.
“Some emergency services staff have to pay £300 a month at a time while their families are off work and cannot afford such expense.
“The government have advised against the use of public transport where possible, and yet they have put these changes into place making it impossible for those affected in the emergency services not to use public transport.
“This is putting unnecessary staff performing a key role at significant risk at a time when they are doing all they can”.
There have been reports that the London Ambulance Service has been able to negotiate some concessions with TfL.
However, these concessions have not been extended to include NHS staff, police officers and firefighters even though the London Fire Brigade (LFB) has been helping the London Ambulance Service (LAS) by freeing up firefighters to drive emergency ambulances.
Our source added:
“I also note that LAS has just struck a deal with TfL, but it seems the Met Police and London Fire Brigade have been unable to do so which gives the impression that there is an inconsistent approach to all emergency services”.
“This is causing staff a great deal of stress, wondering how they are going to be able to do the basics such as even get to and from work.
“How they are going to make ends meet affording such a hike in price and expense?
“It is also causing staff anxiety and apprehension of going to work having to get onto the public transport where social distancing is impossible.
“This is at a time where the sole focus for such emergency services should be elsewhere and not having to worry about this.
“Some staff drive daily and pay £0 in congestion due to their start and finish times, but with the hours being extended they will be unable to avoid this and will pay £75 a week extra just to come to work.
“We (keyworkers) want TfL to recognise the work and value of the emergency services and to allow all emergency services to be exempt from paying the congestion charge permanently.
“If this is not possible then a freeze on current changes.
“Colleagues are feeling tired and over-stretched; working all hours and overtime to meet demand in this crisis.
“We are feeling unsupported and devalued as an emergency service when we are not being recognised, and provisions are not being put into place”.
A TfL spokesperson, said:
“The NHS reimbursement scheme has been extended in recognition of the essential role that healthcare workers are playing in responding to the impacts of the coronavirus.
“NHS and care home workers come into close contact on a regular basis with potentially large numbers of people with the coronavirus.
“As a result, they are also at risk of infecting people they come into contact with, placing more vulnerable people at risk and increasing the burden on the NHS.
“As such, there is a greater need to ensure they can travel to work by car if necessary to reduce the risk of them coming into contact with others as they travel to and from workplaces with potentially high levels of infection.”
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