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CONGESTION CHARGE, fee.Driving to London?

If so, watch out for the dreaded congestion charge.

Billed by some motorists as yet another British tax on everyday life, the congestion charge is ostensibly designed to cut traffic.

London Mayor Ken Livingston estimated that the congestion charge would cut traffic by 15 percent in central London and raise 130 million pounds ($228 million).

The charge was increased from 5 to 8 pounds per day on July 4, 2005. It is tracked by cameras positioned on the roads into central London that record license plates and check them against a database of motorists who have paid the charge. Fines for not paying are stiff, so pay attention to the following if you want to keep your pounds out of the city’s transport coffers.

The charge is in effect from 7 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. weekdays, excluding bank holidays.

The boundary is formed by the Inner Ring Road, which includes Marylebone Road, Euston Road, Pentonville Road, City Road, Great Eastern Street, Commercial Street, Tower Bridge Road, New Kent Road, Kennington Lane, Vauxhall Bridge Road, Grosvenor Place, Park Lane and Edgware Road. If you see these roads on your directions, plan ahead for the charge.

The 8-pound ($14) charge can be paid via the Internet at www.cclondon.com or by telephone at 0845 900 1234 or in person at one of the 9,500 Pay Point stations throughout the United Kingdom, which often are in gas stations and parking lots.

The fine for not paying the charge is 100 pounds ($175), but is reduced to 50 pounds ($88) if paid within 14 days. If the ticket it not paid within 28 days, the fine increases to 150 pounds ($263).

Vehicles with three or more outstanding congestion charge fines are barred from entering the entire greater London area.

London is not the first city to introduce such a system. Singapore has been operating a similar plan since the 1970s.

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