Is Driving in London Practical?

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As the political, financial, and cultural capital of the United Kingdom, London is the largest and most populous city in the country. It is also home to the 20 most densely populated regions in the country.

With so many people in such a small space, getting around is a major challenge that has been plaguing engineers and planners for centuries. It’s why the London Underground is the oldest metropolitan railway system in the world, and why double-decker buses were invented.

The taller and shorter buses also offer an additional benefit. London is not a pre-planned metropolis made up of a grid network like New York or many other US cities. It’s a mish-mash of twists and turns, tight corners, one-way systems, bridges, and tunnels. A double-decker bus is, therefore, easier to navigate around the city’s narrow streets.

But what if you want to drive yourself around London? Is it a city that’s friendly to drivers or is it impractical for almost everyone?

Cost

Driving is not cheap, and driving in any major British city is even less so. You’re unlikely to find anywhere in a city centre that is free to park, and that’s especially true for London.

In fact, This Is Money named London as the most expensive city in the world to park a car in. The most expensive parking space on the planet (at the time) sold in 2012 for £300,000, giving the buyer the right to park near Harrods. For that same money, you could buy three two-bed apartments in the North of England.

Some car parks will set you back around £10 per hour, which is actually more than the National Living Wage set by the UK government.

That’s not even the end of it. London’s drivers must pay the Congestion Charge which is currently £15 per day. There is also an additional cost for cars that do not meet the city’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) rules. For most vehicles, this means an additional £12.50 to pay each day, though electric cars like those from Tesla are exempt.

Attending Sporting Events and Entertainment

London is also host to many major sporting events, including football, tennis, and rugby, though there are almost no parking facilities for fans, who instead travel to venues by public transport. It also hosted the Summer Olympics in 2012, becoming the first “public transport games” in the competition’s history.

Right in the city centre, several of London’s casinos regularly host poker tournaments, as well as allow the public to play table games and slots tournaments online. None of these are easily accessible by car, with little to no off-street parking.

Whether you live in the city or are just visiting, you won’t want to drive to venues inside London. You can get to cinemas, theatres, museums, arcades, art galleries, bowling alleys, bars, clubs, and restaurants all with easy access via public transport.

Even if you stay out late or the Underground is busy, you’d still be better taking a taxi rather than driving yourself.

Commuting

Almost all of London’s workers commute via public transport. Not only is it significantly cheaper, but most offices in the city also lack any parking facilities making it incredibly impractical to drive.

Thankfully, unlike public transport elsewhere in the country, London’s trains, trams, buses, and ferries are actually very efficient and comparatively cheap.

Speed

In almost every other town, city and village in the UK, driving is quicker than public transport for short and medium-length journeys. That’s rarely the case in central London.

For example, driving from Kings Cross to Cutty Sark will take you around 1 hour by car during the day and just forty minutes via the Northern Line and DLR. There’s the added benefit of not needing to find a place to park your car when you get there too.

In Conclusion

London’s public transport system is an example to the rest of the United Kingdom. It proves that mass transit can be more efficient and effective than driving.

While almost everywhere else in the country, driving is quicker and easier, in London, the exact opposite is true.

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