presidential mototcade
Be sure to consider the fines before taking your presidential motorcade to the streets of London. Image: runneralan2004/Flickr/CC BY

President Obama’s motorcade was fined 120 pounds, about $200, for not paying London’s congestion fee on a tour of the city last May. The U.S. Embassy refuses to pay or acknowledge the charges.

The congestion fee

Since 2003, London has charged a fee to drive in certain overly congested sections of the city on weekdays. The fee, usually between $14 and $20, is enforced by remote cameras. One of the cameras captured the license plate of a car in the Presidents’ motorcade during a visit to the city last May. The other cars in the motorcade, including the president’s own armored Cadillac — affectionately referred to as “The Beast” — were spared additional fines because their license plates were obscured by the proximity of the other cars.

Popemobile wasn’t charged

Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, expressed his wishes to fine all the cars in the motorcade, but the closeness of the vehicles to one another made it impossible to definitively identify the other vehicles.

“We didn’t charge the Pope when he was here because all the roads were closed,” said the mayor, “so the Popemobile was exempt. But this was different.”

Americans refuse to pay

The American Embassy refuses to acknowledge the fine because the 1960 Vienna Convention “prohibits the imposition of this sort of tax on diplomatic missions.”

President Obama is not the first American official to refuse to pay the congestion fine. The U.S. owes the city more than $8 million in unpaid congestion fees, according to the London Standard. This is a matter of ongoing concern for the city. Foreign embassy staff in London owe the city 50 million pounds in unpaid congestion fines.

‘Discussions will be ongoing’

According to the London Evening Standard, Mayor Johnson discussed the matter with the Obamas at the state dinner held at Buckingham Palace. “We had a very friendly conversation,” the mayor said. “Suffice it to say discussions will be ongoing.”


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