C-charge appeals soar
By David Williams, Evening Standard, Motoring Editor
12 February 2004
The number of drivers hitting back at "unfair" congestioncharge fines has soared to five times the level forecast, new figures reveal.

Only 7,000 motorists were expected to appeal against the £80 fines in the scheme's first year, according to Transport for London's figures.

But the total is now expected to hit 35,000, with figures for this January and February likely to be the highest so far at about 5,000 a month.

New figures also reveal that, of the 15,499 cases heard by the London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service, 11,500 have been won by drivers, with TfL winning only 3,999. Today the high level of appeals was described as "alarming" by motoring organisations which said it underlined concerns that fines were not dealt with fairly by TfL at an earlier stage.

The London Parking and Traffic Appeals Service is attempting to recruit more adjudicators. Four reserves have been pressed into service, bringing the total number considering congestioncharge protests to 12.

Adjudicators who had dealt with parking are also to judge congestion-charge cases. The additional flood of appeals is expected to cost TfL about £728,000.

The figures reveal that the proportion of drivers appealing against congestion-charge fines is three times greater than those who appeal against parking fines.

One per cent of motorists object to parking tickets to the appeals service, compared with about three per cent of those receiving congestion-charge fines. About 35-40,000 congestion fines are issued every week.

Lynne Featherstone, Liberal Democrat chair of the London Assembly's transport committee, said: "If motorists felt they were getting a fair response when they first complained to TfL, fewer would go on to make a formal appeal."

Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The process is weighted far too heavily against the motorist."

A TfL spokesman said: "Since the early weeks of congestion charging the levels of representations and appeals have declined sharply."

Public consultation on doubling the size of the congestion charge zone will begin next week, Ken Livingstone said today. A final decision on whether to expand the £5-a-day charge is expected in spring next year.

C-Charge drivers fighting back as appeal cases sore
Case study: Philip Webster
12 February 2004
Philip Webster, the political editor of The Times, was fined £1,200 for "evading" the congestion charge - even though he had paid it in full.

Transport for London fined him after he paid the £5 charge on 15 occasions but forgot to tell it he had changed his company car. He paid for his old Audi - which was in a Midlands car pound - instead of his new Jaguar. He reported his error to TfL, expecting it to check the receipts and cancel the fines.

TfL, however, insisted he pay. And it will not refund the £75 paid in congestion charges.

Mr Webster's appeal failed. The adjudicator ruled: "I have no hesitation in accepting the appellant committed a genuine, understandable oversight." But he said the regulations "draw no distinction between the honest motorist who makes a mistake and the dishonest motorist who seeks to evade payment".

Mr Webster said: "Because TfL said it had no proof my old car wasn't in the zone on the days in question it refused to refund the charges."