The congestion charge was introduced in February 2003, with the aim of reducing Londons traffic. Drivers were obliged to pay 5 if they wanted to drive into central London. The move was considered very controversial at the time, but the mayor of London has said that as a result the capitals traffic has been reduced by 30 per cent and Londoners appear to have learnt to live with this extra expense and inconvenience.

However, the price of driving into central London has now been increased by 60 per cent to 8.

Businesses in central London were already unhappy about the congestion charge when it was first introduced, saying that it reduced the amount that Londoners and tourists were spending in their shops. Now that the charge has risen to 8 they are crying foul and suggesting that the new price will be a disaster for business.

The Forum for Private Business now claims that as a result of the bombings in London on 7 July, Londons business community needs support. They are calling for the charge to be suspended for 6 months to give central London businesses a chance to recover.

The current plan is in fact to extend the charge westwards to include Kensington and Chelsea. Londoners were given until 15 July to have their say on the expansion scheme. This preliminary consultation with Londoners has demonstrated that two-thirds of the drivers and residents affected voted against the expansion.

If the congestion charge extension gets the go-ahead, it could be in place in west London by late 2006.