Most private cars driven in central London fall outside the new emissions-based congestion charge level, so it is questionable if the plan will achieve its aim of further reducing central London traffic levels and overall emissions,” said Alec Murray, chairman of the Retail Motor Industry

Federation (RMIF). He was commenting on changes to the central London congestion charge launched this week. While many drivers will still pay the £8 road toll for entering the zone which covers parts of central and west London, the highest polluting vehicles, including 4x4s and other high-power vehicles will pay an increased daily charge of £25 to enter the congestion charge zone.

At the same time, cars with the lowest carbon dioxide emissions will receive a 100 per cent discount from the daily charge. According to Murray, the new system could actually increase the number of vehicles in central London: “More and more new vehicles now on sale will be eligible for the congestion charge waiver under the new system since their emissions are lower than the limit, making it a poor way to cut down on overall traffic numbers.”

He adds: “The previous system was far from ideal, but at least all vehicles were affected equally.”

The new charging regime comes into force on 27 October 2008.