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London caterers outraged by hike in congestion charge

07 July 2005

Hospitality businesses have reacted with outrage and dismay to the 60% increase in London's congestion charge, effective from Monday (4 July).

The hike means drivers entering the capital between 7am and 6.30pm will now have to pay £8 a day instead of £5.

"This is bad news for hospitality businesses in London," said Martin Couchman, deputy chief executive of the BHA. "The 5 charge has already hit restaurants, suppliers and contract caterers, and this is clearly going to have even more of an impact."

Restaurateur Richard Shepherd said the charge was a "disgrace" that was killing the West End. "We have to be the only city in Western Europe trying to keep people out of the capital," he said.

Namita Panjabi, group director of the Masala World group, agreed that the charge was hurting the city. "We have already felt the impact of the initial charge," she said, "so an increase will definitely affect our businesses in London."

The head chef at London's Bluebird Dining Room, Mark Broadbent, said he feared the charge would turn the city into a "ghost town". He complained: "This charge is crippling small businesses."

A survey by the London Chamber of Commerce last year showed 78% of restaurateurs questioned had seen customer numbers drop since the charge was brought in.

Since the charge was introduced in February 2003, traffic levels inside the zone have fallen by 15%.

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