Barack's Beast: will Obama pay London charge?

Mr Obama's limousine, dubbed The Beast, was asked to pay the £10-a-day congestion chargeThe BBC reports that

The US government has been sent a London congestion charge bill for Barack Obama’s convoy, including his limousine, nicknamed The Beast. …

Transport for London has confirmed that the Presidential convoy was charged but the bill has not been paid.

In fact there is an ongoing dispute here:

Several embassies refuse to pay the £10-a-day charge for driving in central London, claiming they are exempted from local taxes.

The total bill stands at £51m and the US, Russia and Japan are the top three in the list of non-payers.

The US embassy owes more than £5m (probably about $8m), an amount which must be rising quickly as each vehicle in Obama’s motorcade racks up the charge. As the Mayor of London has argued, this is

not a tax but a charge for services.

It is mean and wrong for foreign embassies not to pay what the rest of us have to pay for use of the capital’s roads. And I can’t help wondering, are British and other foreign diplomats in the USA exempted from the tolls on US freeways and bridges? If not, they are not only mean but hypocritical.

0 thoughts on “Barack's Beast: will Obama pay London charge?

  1. And I can’t help wondering, are British and other foreign diplomats in the USA exempted from the tolls on US freeways and bridges? If not, they are not only mean but hypocritical.

    It depends on two factors:

    1) 9 times out of 10 there’s at least one (or three) alternative routes that do not involve tolls.
    2) For those few places where there is no alternative route, it depends on the system for collecting tolls. Some places scan license plates and those systems are limited to the plates available in their databases foreign plates often do not register at all.

  2. Thanks, Mike. Last summer my wife and I drove 12,000 miles around USA and Canada trying to avoid tolls where we could. So I am aware of the system. I think I am right in saying that there is no free way to cross the Hudson near New York City, none to get out of Boston airport, very few to get into San Francisco, and none to cross the Niagara into your adopted Canada. Don’t tell me that the reason for charging to get into cities like Boston and SF, but not to get out of them, is not about keeping traffic levels down. In the places we did have to stop and pay, it was cash at a physical tollbooth.

    Now the London congestion charge works like some US tolls, by numberplate recognition, and charging any car spotted in the charge area. Presumably The Beast’s number was recognised. If US systems don’t recognise foreign plates (of course there aren’t many of them except Canadian and Mexican) then that is their problem. If they have an official policy of not charging diplomats, they need to tell that to the Mayor of London, and to the BBC, and they might be let off the London congestion charge.

  3. Don’t tell me that the reason for charging to get into cities like Boston and SF, but not to get out of them, is not about keeping traffic levels down. In the places we did have to stop and pay, it was cash at a physical tollbooth.

    I won’t tell you that…my only visit to SF was by plane and I didn’t drive anywhere and I haven’t been to Boston since 1997. I was merely trying to be useful and provide information.

    btw, I’m natively born Canadian–not adopted. I have dual citizenship and enjoy the benefits of being part of the Commonwealth.

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