With more of us heading back into London to see events and enjoy days out, we look at if you will need to pay the London Congestion Charge and ULEZ charge when driving in the capital at weekends and on bank holidays?
Find out if you will need to pay up to £30 to drive in London on Christmas Day as you visit friends
What is the London Congestion Charge and what times do I pay it?
The London Congestion Charge is a Transport for London (TfL) payment that drivers must make simply to driving in the majority of London between 07:00 and 22:00 seven days a week. The daily charge is £15 if paid in advance or by auto pay, or £17.50 if paid by midnight of the third charging day after travel in the London Congestion Charge Zone. Payment for this can only be online or by phone.
What is the ULEZ charge and what times do I pay it?
If your car does not meet minimum emissions standards when driving within the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), a further £12.50 must also be paid alongside the Congestion Charge.
The ULEZ charge operates from midnight to midnight seven days a week.
Similar schemes are appearing in cities across the UK, such as in Bristol and Oxford, where drivers are also charged depending on emissions.
Will the ULEZ be suspended for Manchester United and Manchester City fans driving to the FA Cup Final because of train strikes?
Rail unions are targeting the FA Cup Final for strike action, meaning Manchester United and Manchester City fans will have little choice but to drive to the big match on Saturday 3 June.
With rail operator Avanti West Coast operating a reduced timetable on Friday and no services will run on Saturday due to the strike by train drivers, fans may be wondering if London Mayor Sadiq Khan will be welcoming them to the capital by suspending the ULEZ charge due of the industrial action that appears to be targeting them.
While Wembley Stadium is NOT currently in the ULEZ or Congestion Charge zone (it will be in the expanded ULEZ zone from August 29, 2023), fans will need to be extremely careful where they hunt for scarce parking as they make their way to the stadium. The ULEZ charging zone is less than 2 miles from the stadium - the A406 is the northern boundary at present - and many fans may find themselves on this road as lack of trains drive them further from the ground to locate parking.
Sadly for the loyal fans, Mayor Khan and Transport for London will not be suspending the ULEZ over the FA Cup Final weekend - and all payments will need to be made as usual for vehicles that are not exempt if drivers stray into the zone that's just a few thousand metres from Wembley Stadium.
See below for payment methods and when the charges are in operation.
Is the Congestion Charge and ULEZ payable on weekends?
Yes - both charges apply to 'qualifying' motorists driving in London on all weekends - Saturday and Sunday - aside from the festive period, when the Congestion Charge may be suspended for a week, and the ULEZ for Christmas Day.
Is the ULEZ and Congestion Charge paid on bank holidays?
Aside from Christmas Day, the ULEZ is paid on all bank holidays.
The London Congestion Charge is paid on all spring and summer bank holidays, but is suspended on Christmas Day - and it was also made free on other bank holidays across the festive period in 2021/22 - so expect more of the same in 2022/23 if policy remains the same.
Do I pay the London Congestion Charge on Christmas Day 2022?
The Congestion Charge will be suspended on Christmas Day, so motorists will not need to pay the charge when driving to see friends and family etc. on the big day.
Please note, Christmas Eve is classed as a normal day and driver entering on 24 December will need to pay the charge when grabbing those last-minute gifts.
Will I have to pay the London Congestion Charge charge over the Christmas period 2022?
We have good news for drivers heading into London over the Christmas 2022/23 period, the Congestion Charge will not operate from Christmas Day (Sunday 25 December 2022) through to Monday 2 January 2023 (inclusive).
However, drivers of older cars must note that the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) will be payable on all days across the festive period, other than Christmas Day when it will be suspended for one day. Check if your car is covered by the ULEZ charge here
Will I have to pay the ULEZ over Christmas 2023?
The ULEZ charge is being suspended on Christmas Day in 2023, but motorists using the zone will need to ensure they pay the charge on all other days when driving in the capital - this will include Boxing Day, New Year's Eve and New Year's Day.
Will I have to pay the ULEZ on New Year's Eve and New Year's Day?
Yes - the ULEZ will be payable as normal on these days in 2023/24. The only day that motorists will not have to pay the ULEZ is Christmas Day itself.
Is the ULEZ and Congestion Charge paid over Easter?
Yes - no treats for drivers, the Congestion Charge and ULEZ apply as normal on Good Friday, Easter Sunday and Easter Monday.
Where did the ULEZ expand to across London from Monday 25 October?
From 25 October 2021, the ULEZ charging area expanded beyond central London to create a single, larger zone up to, but not including, the North Circular Road (A406) and South Circular Road (A205).
To avoid paying the ULEZ, most cars must meet or exceed these standards:
Petrol: Euro 4
Diesel: Euro 6
Drivers of older cars and vans will pay a £12.50 every day they drive in the zone.
Do I have to pay the ULEZ charge if I live in London?
All residents across London will be forced to pay the ULEZ charge if they drive non-compliant cars. The expanded ULEZ zone does not include exemptions for motorists who live in the capital.
How do I pay the ULEZ and Congestion Charge?
The easiest way to pay is to use the online system where you enter your car registration number and make payment. Pay the London ULEZ or Congestion Charge online here.
You can also pay by phone using these numbers.
Monday to Friday: 08:00-20:00
Closed on weekends and bank holidays
When is the ULEZ expanding to cover all or London?
The ULEZ is going to expand to include all of London from 29 January 2023. This will see hundreds of thousands more motorists having to pay the charge just for living in London - if their vehicle does not comply with current requirements - typically if you drive a petrol vehicle more than 16 years old or a diesel vehicle more 6 years old
The move would see the scheme's currently boundary expand from the North and South Circular roads to encompass all of Greater London from August 29, 2023.
An estimation from Khan's mayoral office says that 135,000 new vehicles could be hit with the daily charge - earning around £1.7million each day for TfL.
If you live in London or qualify for certain exemptions, you can claim £2,000 for car and up to £5,000 for a van or minibus if your current vehicle does not reach minimum standards. Find out if you can apply for the London ULEZ scrappage scheme here.
When will the expanded ULEZ be payable?
From the end of August 2023, you will need to pay it at all times except Christmas Day, as is currently the case. See above for full details and charges.
Check if your address will be included in the expanded ULEZ
Enter your postcode in the tool in this page to see if you will be included in the new ULEZ charging area - if you are you could claim scrappage cash to put towards a new car.
What is the fine if I forget to pay the ULEZ or London Congestion Charge? And the fine is going up soon
You will not get any reminders if you need to pay the ULEZ or Congestion Charge, so fines are common. Currently, the ULEZ and Congestion Charge penalty charges are £160, but these will both increase to £180 (reduced by 50% if paid within 14 days).
Is the London Congestion Charge expanding like the ULEZ?
At present, it is just the ULEZ that is expanding to cover all of London, with the Congestion Charge staying the same for now. However, this could change at any time, so make sure you check back or sign up for our alerts below.
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I have heard Congestion Charge hours and prices changed in 2022?
Yes. This is true - and most changes have already come into force. These cover pricing and the removal of some discounts. The hours of operation also changed in February 2022. We have a full guide to the London Congestion Charge changes here.
Are Blue Badge holders exempt from the charge?
No. The London Mayor Sadiq Khan says that Blue Badge holders must still pay the charge, despite many needing their vehicles to get around in the capital. His website comment says:
'Blue Badge holders do not receive a discount for ULEZ because while Blue Badge holders may need to use a private vehicle, they do have a choice over using or nominating a ULEZ-compliant vehicle.'
However, many hard-pressed motorists may not consider driving an older car as a lifestyle choice.
Do owners of electric vehicles need to pay the Congestion Charge and ULEZ?
No. Owners of EVs do not need to pay the London Congestion Charge at all. However, you will need to create an account and register your vehicle as a purely battery-powered car, otherwise you could be fined for non-payment.
However, there are plans to scrap the exemption for all vehicles by 2025.
EV owners are also exempt from paying the ULEZ charge.
Do plug-in hybrid vehicles need to pay?
Yes - the discount for low-emission hybrids has been scrapped for the London Congestion Charge, meaning it must be paid.
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Author: Pete Barden:
Pete Barden is a qualified journalist who has written and produced for publications including The Sun (thesun.co.uk), New Statesman Media Group, Whatcar? (Whatcar.com) Stuff Magazine (Stuff.tv), Fastcar Magazine (Fastcar.co.uk), Maxim Magazine and UK broadcast stations within the Heart network (Formerly GCAP). Pete specialises in motoring and travel content, along with news and production roles. You can find out more about Pete Barden on LinkedIn.