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London doubles size of its controversial pay-to-drive zone

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Jane Morris didn't have to wait until this week to know what a new toll on driving in her district would do to her upholstery and interior design shop.

After all, vehicles are essential to her business, she muses, surveying the fabrics and soft furnishings of the quaint west London boutique she has run for 25 years. Delivery men, carpenters, tradesmen, carpet fitters, and, of course, the customers all need vehicles.

"You can't really carry pieces of furniture home on public transport, can you?" she asks.

Starting this week, they might have to. Monday, London's controversial toll zone, in which motorists pay an £8 ($15.60) daily fee to drive, was extended westward into the upscale neighborhoods of Chelsea and Knightsbridge – home to such landmarks as Harrods department store. At almost 16 square miles, it's nearly double its original size.

For Ms. Morris, that will mean the loss of some regular customers.

"Already, we have had three customers saying they shan't be coming in any more," says Morris. "We are going to see a big drop in customers. If it takes out 10 to 20 percent of our business, it will be very serious."

Morris is one of many railing against government moves – local and national – to charge motorists for using a road network that is expected to otherwise become increasingly congested in the decades ahead. In west London there is strong opposition to Mayor Ken Livingstone's scheme to extend the world's biggest congestion charge zone. Nationwide, more than 1.5 million people have signed a petition against plans to introduce in the next decade a "pay-as-you-go" road-pricing system where cars are tracked and charged automatically.

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