London mayor Ken Livingstone has taken the decision to extend into Kensington and Chelsea in the face of strong protests from both residents and business. As usual he paid no attention to the wishes of the voters and there is still no sign of any concessions for light commercial vehicles, despite the fact that they have to be driven into the zone just to go about their business.

“With a significant decline in footfall in the central zone as well as increased running costs for business owners and travelling costs for employees, the congestion charge has been a millstone round the neck,” said Forum of Private Business chief executive Nick Goulding. “This extension will be nothing short of a disaster for those in the extended zone.”

The only ray of light with the extension is that the finish for the £8 charge will now be 18.00, half an hour earlier than the previous 18.30 end time.

Meanwhile, new figures from Transport for London show that the current zone has had minimal impact on traffic levels. Though traffic dropped by 30 per cent in the immediate aftermath of the scheme's introduction in February 2003, it's now back up to 92 per cent of pre-charge levels of congestion.

The new extension will see around 60,000 additional people now able to claim the 90 per cent residents' discount, leading to another increase in traffic levels inside the zone.

What Van? gives it a couple of months before the tax is raised — and probably to £12 — as Livingstone will not be able to resist the temptation, especially with the 2012 Olympics already in desperate financial trouble. The Games will have to be paid for somehow and what easier way than hitting the easiest target around; the driver.