Home » Pay up: London demands ‘stubborn’ Australia settle $1,500 debt

Pay up: London demands ‘stubborn’ Australia settle $1,500 debt

Australia has been put on notice to clear charges it owes to London, as the city tries to recoup millions in unpaid congestion fees.
Transport for London (TfL), the city’s transport authority, has released data showing diplomats from foreign embassies have racked up over £143 million ($273 million) in overdue fees.
Diplomats from the United States owe the largest amount, with an outstanding bill of $28 million in charges, amassed over two decades.

The Australian High Commission’s debt of £760 ($1,449) pales in comparison to what’s owed by Japan, India, Nigeria, and China, who round out the five worst offenders.

Togo in West Africa was at the bottom of the 163 countries owing London, with just $76 overdue.

TfL said the outstanding debts were for the period 2003 to 2023.

What is London’s congestion charge?

London’s congestion charge is a £15 ($29) daily fee for motorists entering London’s metro area roads between 7am and 6pm on weekdays, and 12pm and 6pm on weekends.
The scheme was introduced in 2003 to reduce the amount of drivers in the zone, lessen congestion and encourage people to travel sustainably by using the public transport network.

On the 20th anniversary of the congestion charge, TfL credited the fee with reducing congestion by 30 per cent and boosting bus travel in London by 33 per cent.

TfL said the majority of embassies did pay the charge but a “stubborn minority” refused to do so.
“We and the UK Government are clear that the Congestion Charge is a charge for a service and not a tax,” TfL said in a statement.

“This means that diplomats are not exempt from paying it.”

The US embassy has declined to pay the congestion charge, arguing its diplomats are exempt under the 1961 Vienna Convention.
“Our long-standing position is shared by many other diplomatic missions in London,” a US embassy spokesperson said.
TfL insists these debts must be cleared and said it will pursue all unpaid fees, and warned it would look to take the matter as far as the International Court of Justice.

SBS News has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment.