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US embassy owes £15m in congestion charge fees, says Transport for London

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The US embassy in Britain owes about £15m in unpaid congestion charge fees, according to Transport for London, which is considering legal recourse through international courts.

The unpaid fees and fines have amassed over more than a decade, making the US the worst offender among foreign diplomats, with embassies in London collectively owing £143.5m by the end of 2023.

Statistics published by TfL showed the US was followed by Japan’s embassy, which owes £10.1m, and India’s high commission, owing £8.6m, with Nigeria, China and Russia close behind.

The congestion charge, launched in 2003, levies a £15 daily fee on most motorists to drive into the busy streets of central London between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and from 12-6pm on weekends and bank holidays.

According to the TfL documents, most embassies in London do pay the charge, but it said: “There remains a stubborn minority who refuse to do so, despite our representations through diplomatic channels. We will continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charge fees and related penalty charge notices, and are pushing for the matter to be taken up at the international court of justice.”

It said that TfL and the UK government were clear that the congestion charge was paid for a service, and was not a tax that diplomats could avoid. TfL has asked the Foreign Office to push for repayment.

A TfL spokesperson added: “We are clear that foreign diplomats and consular staff are not exempt from paying the congestion charge. We continue to pursue all unpaid congestion charges and related penalty charge notices.”

The US embassy moved from Grosvenor Square to Nine Elms, just outside the charging zone, in 2018, but appears to have continued to rack up unpaid fines. The embassy was approached for comment.

According to the TfL figures, Scandinavian embassies appears the most law-abiding in London when it comes to the congestion charge, with Denmark and Sweden fully paid up.

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Among those still owing, Togo is the most minor of the offenders listed, on the hook for just £40. Its embassy is located some miles north of the congestion zone, in Archway.

No figures have been provided for Ulez payments, but it is understood that the vehicles leased by embassies would normally be new enough to be compliant with London’s ultra-low emission zone and not be liable for the charge.

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