London officials say new toll easing traffic

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

LONDON -- Traffic levels dropped by 25 percent on the first day of London's anti-gridlock operation, city officials said Tuesday, but opponents maintained a school vacation that coincided with the launch of the plan helped its success.

Mayor Ken Livingstone introduced the plan Monday, charging motorists an $8 toll to enter central London. The plan aims to reduce the number of vehicles on London's roads by up to 15 percent and to raise $200 million annually for public transport projects.

Livingstone described the first day as "the best day in traffic flow we have had in living memory."

Opponents of the toll said the real test will come next week when parents again begin ferrying children to and from school.

Local government figures showed about 190,000 vehicles crossed into the 8-square-mile area and more than 100,000 paid the toll. The other vehicles were exempt.

Officials said up to 10,000 drivers evaded the fee.

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