The London Congestion Charge is set to be suspended over Christmas and New Year as a “boost for people travelling to see family”. The charge, which applies in the centre of London, will also change in 2022 so drivers no longer have to pay to use central London roads in the evening.

According to Transport for London (TfL), the charge will be “suspended between Christmas and the first working day of the New Year”, to help people get around the city to visit loved ones. Then, in February, the new Congestion Charge times will come into force.

When the coronavirus crisis struck, TfL was forced to increase the charge from £11.50 to £15 and increase the operating hours to include evenings and weekends as part of a government bailout deal. Now, though, those temporary changes are being reversed to target drivers using London’s roads at the busiest times.

London Congestion Charge Zone Sign over night view of traffic jam

From February 21, the current £15 charge will be retained, but the operating hours of the Congestion Charge zone will be reduced. There will be no charges in the evenings after 18:00, while weekend and bank holiday charges will only apply between 12:00 and 18:00.

TfL claims the changes will “directly address the traffic challenges in central London” while also supporting the capital’s culture and nightlife. The organisation says culture, hospitality and night-time businesses were among those hit hardest during the pandemic, but the new measures will help those businesses and “ensure gains made in reducing car dependency over more than 15 years are not lost”.

The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said the current charges were only introduced as part of the emergency funding settlement, and the new rules were a more balanced approach to cutting congestion and supporting the economy.

“The government insisted on proposals to widen the level and scope of the Congestion Charge last year as a condition of TfL's emergency funding agreement, which was only needed because of the pandemic and the collapse in fares revenue,” he said. “'These new changes strike a balance between reducing traffic and congestion and supporting London's economy and residents and helping ensure our recovery is a green and sustainable one.

“The removal of the evening charge will support the capital's culture, hospitality and night-time businesses which have struggled so much, as well as encouraging people to walk, cycle and use public transport. It's vital we do not encourage a car-led recovery and replace one public health crisis with another due to filthy air.”

Big Ben at sunset with blurry bus in motion in London