Congestion charge drivers owe £174m
More than £170m is owed by people who have not paid the congestion charge in London, it has been revealed.
Transport for London (TfL) said in 2011-12, drivers of 33,684 vehicles had not paid, down from 52,103 the year before. In 2009-10, it was 30,809.
The figures also show that since the scheme was set up in 2003, almost £900m has been made in net profit.
In the last year, bailiffs have approached nearly 28,000 drivers for payment.
Cameras which recognise number plates are used to detect all vehicles entering the zone which spans central London between 0700 and 1800 GMT on weekdays.
The congestion charge is £10 per day, but if you do not pay on the day it rises to £12, while if drivers register for the automated payment system it is £9.
The figures show that motorists have paid over £2.4bn in charges and penalties since 2003.
The profit, after money is reinvested into the transport network, is almost £900m.
Figures also show that in the last three years, just under 200,000 charge certificates have been sent out which warns people that if they do not pay, TfL will engage bailiffs.
A spokesman for the Association of British Drivers said he was not surprised that there was a massive debt.
He said: "This is something TfL have to deal with. It's their idea, their baby so it's something they should have considered when they set it up."
Mayor Boris Johnson, said: "I can imagine Londoners will be clamouring for us to crack down and send more letters in the post and get them [those in arrears] to cough up.
"We will be on to it and I will find out why there is such a big gap in our collecting and we will levy those revenues, if we possibly can."
Nick Fairholme, TfL's director of congestion charging and traffic enforcement, said: "We are satisfied that the enforcement process for non-payment of the congestion charge works well and we are confident that the overwhelming majority of drivers who drive within the zone pay to do so.
"A significant amount of the outstanding £174m is owed by diplomatic missions, some of whom are still refusing to pay the charge.
"TfL will continue to pursue all unpaid fees and related penalty charge notices from diplomatic missions and we are seeking to pursue the matter via the International Courts of Justice."
'Selfishly taking space'
Meanwhile Westminster City Council - which has always opposed the congestion charge - said it had £35.6m outstanding in parking fines in the zone.
The council said not all of the money was recoverable because it is owed by foreign drivers, untraceable cars or persistent evaders who continue to ignore the law.
Councillor Daniel Astaire said: "It is still only a minority of motorists who chose not to pay their way.
"But this still has a direct impact on the levels of congestion in the capital as those who don't follow the rules are selfishly taking up road and parking space for those who abide by the law.
"In Westminster we are continuing to establish a firm but fair approach to enforcement, but this is difficult when some of the millions who journey into central London every day choose only to think of themselves."