Anger over congestion charge
MYSTIFIED Steve Molyneaux was so amazed when a London congestion charge fine arrived that he instantly pointed the finger at his wife.It was only when she too said she had been nowhere near the scene where their registration plate was spotted - more than 75 miles away from their Ipswich home - that his rage turned on the authorities instead.
MYSTIFIED Steve Molyneaux was so amazed when a London congestion charge fine arrived that he instantly pointed the finger at his wife.
It was only when she too said she had been nowhere near the scene where their registration plate was spotted - more than 75 miles away from their Ipswich home - that his rage turned on the authorities instead.
He said: "I argued with my wife for around 15 to 20 minutes before I calmed down and realised it wasn't her.
"I'm suspecting my own family and that's why I'm so furious."
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After speaking to his 40-year-old wife, he established she had used the car to drive to an Ipswich mother and toddler's group with his sister and their 10-month-old baby, Rio. This did not finish until noon, which would have made it almost impossible for her to get to London just 45 minutes later, he said.
The 41-year-old, of Netley Close, received a letter accusing him of driving along Westminster Bridge, in Central London at 12.45pm on Wednesday, May 7 without paying the £5 fee to enter the area.
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The letter, which arrived this week, also demanded payment of an £80 fine, which would be reduced to £40 if paid within 14 days, or increased to £120 if not cleared within 28 days.
However, Mr Molyneaux and his wife, Melanie, a part-time receptionist, have not been in London for more than one-and-a-half years. Their last visit to the capital was to visit a hospital when Mrs Molyneaux was pregnant.
"I would pay if it was us but it wasn't, he said.
"My wife uses the car during the day and I use a van at work. My wife would get lost in Ipswich, let alone London.
"What on earth would she be doing on Westminster Bridge anyway? I'm just so angry because they are accusing us of something we haven't done."
Mr Molyneaux's concerns were heightened by the fear that someone had cloned his personalised number plate, for which he paid the DVLA £13,000.
He tried to contact Transport for London, which implements the charges, but said: "The people I want to throttle I can't get in touch with."
When he did manage to speak to someone, he asked to see an image of the car that was said to have committed the offence but was told he would be charged for the privilege.
"They want us to pay £10 to see a photograph but why should I prove it? he said.
A spokeswoman for Transport for London said she could not comment on individual cases but apol0gised if there had been a mistake.
"It could be a data entry error by someone, she said. "It will be looked at and they will compare his car with the image of the car involved.
"We apologise because there will be a bit of admin for him but he does have to fill in that form and there's an office process to go through.
"There's a slim chance his number plate has been cloned but it's very rare, especially if it's a personalised number plate.
"It's a learning curve for the people running it and the people using it and so sometimes people do fall foul of it and we apologise for that."
An eight square mile stretch of London is covered by the congestion charge, which began on February 17.
There is a £5 daily charge to enter the area between 7am and 6.30pm.
In the first four weeks of the congestion charges, 100,000 people were penalised. Of these, 30,000 made representation denying the matter and 22,000 had their fines cancelled.
A discount of 90 per cent can be claimed by people living in the zone, while there is a 100 pc discount for the disabled and essential services. More than 230 cameras scan number plates of vehicles to check they are paying the fee. Since it was launched, the amount of congestion in Central London has dropped by 20 pc.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone hopes the scheme will raise £150m a year to go towards improving public transport. Source: www.cclondon.com and www.bbc.co.uk