The increase in London’s congestion charge has hit forecourt businesses in the capital and Mayor Ken Livingstone plans to extend the zone into Kensington and Chelsea from 2007 which is set to make things worse. The charge in the existing zone was raised from £5 to £8 in July.

Both the Forum of Private Business (FPB) and London Retail Consortium (LRC) have objected to the extension. Nick Goulding, chief executive of the FPB, said Livingstone had ‘ignored the reasoned voice of business’.

LRC chairman Alastair McKay said: “Congestion charging represents a significant cost to retailers who rely on the road network for access to customers, staff and the delivery of goods they sell.”

Forecourt businesses in the current c-zone say they’ve been hit hard since the charge went up. Chelva Raj, who runs the South Bank Service Station, said: “We’ve had less cars. We only really see the taxis now because they don’t have to pay. Unleaded sales are going down. We’re very worried.”

The Texaco franchisee said her shop sales had also suffered and several staff had been made redundant. Raj was one of several forecourt workers who said they themselves no longer drive into work.

Sellaragh Gunalan, a Shell franchisee in nearby Southwark, said he’d also lost trade. “People got used to £5 but £8 is a lot more money. Some of my good customers have stopped coming in,” he said.