Damage to the trade from this week's expansion of London's congestion charge zone may be less than some restaurant and pub chains fear, the British Hospitality Association has said.
From yesterday (Monday), the £8-a-day road toll scheme has been almost doubled in size to take in large swathes of west London hitherto uncharged, including Chelsea, Kensington, Knightsbridge, Belgravia, Notting Hill, Bayswater and Pimlico.
The London Retail Consortium has predicted this expansion will simply mean more people being deterred from eating out at restaurants or going to pubs within the enlarged area.
But Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, said the extension could in fact end up helping the trade, particularly those pubs, restaurants and bars that have been inside the zone since it started in 2003.
"Because the area is so much bigger, more people are now going to be in a charging area anyway so they may now be more willing to move around," he said.
The fact the charge will now end half an hour earlier across the capital, at 6pm rather than 6.30pm, could also help to offset any damage, he predicted.
When the charge was first introduced there was concern it could have a damaging effect on pre-theatre dining, but this was now less of an issue, Couchman added.
"At the beginning a lot of people were very nervous about it, but over time people just get used to these taxes," he said.
By Nic Paton
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