TfL: Congestion Charge cameras

London’s congestion charge might end at 6:30pm but the cameras operate 24 hours a day according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act. Transport for London has implemented the 24-hour surveillance without any public discussion or consultation. If the system has any merit, as TfL argues, then it should stand up to public scrutiny. We should have been told that the system was always operational and had a public discussion about whether this was an appropriate and effective way to spend public resources.

It was only after making a series of FOI requests for the More4 documentary ‘Suspect Nation’, which was broadcast last week, that I discovered the all-day operation

TfL’s exact words are:

The cameras are operational 24 hours a day, except for periods of planned maintenance. However, they are only used for enforcement purposes during the congestion charging period.”

So what are they used for the rest of the time? This is their reply:

“Out of enforcement hours, the monochrome cameras (which do not provide full contextual images) remain operational and provide a data feed of observed Vehicle Registration Marks (VRMs) for congestion monitoring. At no point are images used in this process and the VRM data is anonymised as soon as possible on a daily basis. Some of the statistical information collated using information collected in this way is published in the Congestion Charging Impacts Monitoring Reports. The Reports are available on our website at: http://www.tfl.gov.uk/tfl/cclondon/cc_publicationslibrary.shtml. In addition, it is not possible to automatically turn cameras off and on remotely in the Central London zone. To switch them off and on would require an individual to visit each camera twice a day. This would impose a large cost on the operation of the scheme.”

Firstly, there is no congestion at 3am to monitor. Secondly, I find it difficult to believe that the only reason the cameras stay on 24 hours a day is because it would be too expensive to turn them off.

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