TfL congestion charge: City Hall owed £143m in unpaid fines from foreign embassies with USA owing £14.6m

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TfL is going to try and recover outstanding congestion charge debts through the International Court of Justice.

Transport for London (TfL) is owed more than £143 million in unpaid congestion zone fees and fines by international embassies, City Hall has revealed.

The US embassy owes the capital’s transport body £14.6 million, while the African country of Togo only has an outstanding debt of £40. TfL said it is looking to take up the matter of unpaid fees with the International Court of Justice.

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Releasing the information, it said: “We and the UK Government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax. This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it.

“The majority of embassies in London do pay the charge, but there remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels.

A Congestion Charge Zone sign in central London. Credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images.A Congestion Charge Zone sign in central London. Credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images.
A Congestion Charge Zone sign in central London. Credit: Hollie Adams/Getty Images. | Getty Images

“We will continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charge fees and related penalty charge notices and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the International Court of Justice.”

The congestion charge was launched in 2003 and covers central London. It is separate from the ultra-low emissions zone (ULEZ). It is a flat £15 rate to cars and motor vehicles which travel into it from 7am to 6pm Monday to Friday, and 12noon to 6pm on the weekend.

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It is designed to reduce the amount of traffic in central London’s congested streets. The outstanding debt is from 2003, when the congestion zone was introduced, to the end of December 2023. The USA has the biggest debt and owes a whopping £14.6 million.

Next up is the Japanese embassy which owes more than £10 million. India and Nigeria both owe more than £8 million, while China is in debt by £7.9 million and Russia almost £6 million. Find out how much each country owes with our interactive map.

A TfL spokesperson added: “We are clear that foreign diplomats and consular staff are not exempt from paying the Congestion Charge. We continue to pursue all unpaid Congestion Charges and related penalty charge notices.”

Ralph Blackburn is NationalWorld’s politics editor based in Westminster, where he gets special access to Parliament, MPs and government briefings. If you liked this article you can follow Ralph on X (Twitter) here and sign up to his free weekly newsletter Politics Uncovered, which brings you the latest analysis and gossip from Westminster every Sunday morning.

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