22,000 congestion charge fines revoked

Author: By Barrie Clement, Transport Editor

More than 22,000 London congestion charge fines have been overturned after appeals by drivers. Ken Livingstone, the London Mayor, said yesterday that during the first four weeks of the scheme about one third of the 100,000 penalty tickets issued were challenged.

After motorists contacted Capita ? the private-sector company operating the technology involved ? more than 22,000 were scrapped. About 11,000 are still being assessed.

Roger Evans, the Conservative transport spokesman at the London Assembly, said the number of fines being overturned raised serious questions about the accuracy of the system. He was sceptical at assurances from Mr Living-stone that all fines would be checked manually before being sent out.

The Mayor had expressed concern at the number of £80 fines being issued in error, but it was not clear who was at fault. Some mistakes may stem from Capita’s call centre, while others might be due to driver error.

In some cases it is thought that the letter “O” is being confused with a zero and the letter “I” with the number 1 when motorists register their plate to pay the charge. Drivers are now being asked to confirm their details in such cases to minimise mistakes.

The number of fines seems to have stabilised at about 15,000 a week compared with 34,000 in the first week. About 139,000 penalty tickets were issued in the first six weeks.

The £5-a-day scheme, designed to reduce traffic levels in central London, was introduced on 17 February and is generally thought to have worked well.

Transport for London (TfL) which administers the scheme, said it expected the number of fines being overturned to fall.

A spokeswoman said: “Some of the successful appeals have been down to technology errors and some to mistakes by drivers who gave the wrong number plate details. With the scheme in its infancy, drivers have been given the benefit of the doubt in some cases. In future, there will be fewer excuses for not paying.”

Michele Dix, TfL’s director of congestion charging, said the process was “firm but fair”.

Mr Livingstone said the authority would have to pay £81m in compensation to Capita if the scheme was scrapped.

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