London trials £2.2m Congestion Charge smart card scheme

On-board smart 'tags' would be zapped by roadside charging readers…

On-board smart 'tags' would be zapped by roadside charging readers…

London is set to begin a £2.2m trial of road toll-style smart card charging technology that could be extended as an enforcement tool in the congestion charging zone.

The system involves tags or smart cards being fitted to vehicles and monitored by roadside readers – or 'beacons' – at various points around the charging zone. The readings will be used to measure journeys and calculate the correct toll or Congestion Charge.

Transport for London (TfL) will begin a small-scale "tag and beacon" trial in part of the congestion charging zone of different technologies that can be used in conjunction with the existing automatic number plate recognition method.

TfL is looking to develop what it calls a "free-flow" charging scheme for vehicles in London but has ruled out use of the large overhead gantries typically seen in toll plazas for "practical and aesthetic" reasons.

Instead it wants to place more discreet 'beacons' at various roadside points that will monitor the tags in vehicles using dedicated short range communication technology and verify the class of vehicle for charging purposes.

Earlier this year the government outlined plans for a national satellite-based road-charging scheme that would charge motorists up to £1.30 a mile. TfL looked at the possibility of using satellite navigation technology for London road pricing but said its own trials found that affordable satellite systems will not be feasible for "at least a decade".

The trial is expected to last for around six months and could cost up to £2.2m. A spokeswoman for TfL told it will be used in a small part of the current congestion charging zone and wider deployment will be dependent upon the results of the trial.