The congestion charge in London is to increase by 30% next month and will be enforced seven days a week, as the mayor of London struggles to pay for the transport system.
The government has confirmed a £1.6bn bailout of Transport for London (TfL) after fares income fell by 90% in the last two months.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has accused the Department for Transport (DfT) of “making ordinary Londoners pay the cost for doing the right thing onCOVID-19”.
City Hall said the congestion charge will rise from £11.50 a day to £15 from 22 June. The hours of operation are also being extended to 7am to 10pm, seven days a week, instead of just weekdays.
The charge was waived during lockdown when the majority of people living in or around London were working from home or only travelling for essential reasons.
However, the £11.50 charge will be reintroduced on Monday 18 May, along with the ultra low emission zone which costs £12.50 for most vehicles and £100 for heavy lorries or coaches.
The mayor’s media office said the June increase will “encourage Londoners not to make unnecessary car journeys, and is expected to reduce journeys within the congestion charge zone by a third”.
TfL will temporarily extend the congestion charge reimbursement scheme for NHS and care home workers.
However, it has introduced other temporary measures such as stopping free travel for children and only allowing people over 60 or with a disability to travel for free outside peak hours.
Fares on buses – scrapped to help protect drivers from COVID-19 – will also be reintroduced.
The Department for Transport said the bailout means TfL will be able increase bus and Tube service levels “as soon as possible to ensure people can follow social distancing guidelines while on the network”.
Concerns have been raised about packed Tube trains and buses this week after the prime minister encouraged people in England to go to work if they cannot work from home.
A London COVID-19 task force – featuring representatives from the government and TfL – has been established to oversee operational decisions during the pandemic.
Mr Khan said: “COVID-19 poses the biggest challenge to London’s public transport network in TfL’s history. It will take a monumental effort from all Londoners to maintain safe social distancing on public transport as lockdown restrictions are gradually eased.
“That means we have to keep the number of people using public transport as low as possible. And we can’t see journeys formerly taken on public transport replaced with car usage because our roads would immediately become unusably blocked and toxic air pollution would soar.
“I ask that Londoners do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable – it must be a last resort. If you can work from home you should continue to do so. We should all spend more of our leisure time in our local areas too.
“We will need many more Londoners to walk and cycle to make this work. That’s why these plans will transform parts of central London to create one of the largest car-free areas in any capital city in the world.”