The organisation in charge of London’s roads has announced it will be suspending all road user charging schemes as a result of the coronavirus. That means there will be no fees for the Congestion Charge Zone, Ultra-Low Emission Zone or Low-Emission Zone until further notice.

Transport for London (TfL) said it had been asked to introduce the change by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who wanted the change to ensure London's critical workers, such those in the NHS, are able to travel more easily. According to TfL, so-called “critical workers” may find driving to work easier than taking public transport, as stations across London are being closed and public transport services are being reduced.

At the same time, NHS workers will also be given a code that waives the 24-hour access fee for Santander Cycles, allowing free journeys up to 30 minutes in length. The bike rental system’s docking stations near hospitals are also being prioritised to make sure there is a regular supply of bikes for medical staff to use.

The Congestion Charge and Ultra-Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) schemes will be suspended from today (March 23) and there is no indication of when the charges will come back into force. However, Mr Khan has asked drivers not to use the free use of the roads as an invitation to drive around the capital.

“People should not be travelling, by any means, unless they really have to,” he said. “London's roads should now only be used for essential journeys. To help our critical workers get to work and for essential deliveries to take place, I have instructed TfL to temporarily suspend the Congestion Charge, ULEZ and Low-Emission Zone from Monday.

“This is not an invitation to take to your cars. To save lives we need the roads clear for ambulances, doctors, nurses and other critical workers. This is an unprecedented time and I know Londoners are doing everything they can to look after each other. I continue to urge all Londoners to follow the advice of public health authorities and not leave their homes unless it is absolutely essential."

Blackfriars bridge at dusk with St Pauls cathedral in London dome in the background

Meanwhile Paul Cowperthwaite, TfL's general manager of road user charging, said the move was necessary to help “keep the city functioning”.

"What we are seeing through this crisis is that London's critical workforce is wider than just the core emergency services,” he said. “Emergency services workers are absolutely fundamental to our response, but supermarket workers, utilities engineers, refuse collectors, and many more, also need to be able to travel to keep the city functioning. This is why we have temporarily suspended road user charging in the capital."

Signs indicating Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) on London street