London mayor proposes steep congestion charge for gas-guzzlers

London Mayor Ken Livingstone has announced plans to make the city’s weekday congestion tax much steeper for drivers of polluting vehicles. Under the proposal, owners of SUVs and other gas-guzzlers would shell out the equivalent of about $47 a day to motor into London between 6:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. (the current tax is $15). While central London residents currently receive a 90 percent discount on the congestion tax, Livingstone proposes abolishing that for SUV drivers, whom he once called “idiots.” Electric vehicles and hybrids would be exempt from charges altogether. Conservatives and the automotive industry were quick to object to the plan, but Livingstone shrugged off their concerns: “Those who buy [SUVs] can afford to choose from pretty much the whole of the mainstream car market but have chosen to buy one of the most polluting vehicles,” he said. The extra charge is unlikely to come into force until 2009 or 2010, giving drivers a few years to give their gas-guzzlers the boot.