City chiefs shocked by lack of lobbying to win concessions, and Peter Rogers warns of anger and confusion.
The construction industry has missed an opportunity to avoid paying millions of pounds in congestion charges, a City of London official said this week.

Joe Vice, strategic transportation director of the Corporation of London, which will be heavily affected, said nobody in the building industry had contacted him about the Greater London Authority scheme.

Vice would not be drawn on whether firms would have been exempted if they had lobbied, but he said they would have had a good case. The charge is intended to persuade people to take public transport, which is not an option for construction firms.

Under the scheme, which comes into effect on 17 February, all vehicles will be charged £5 a day to enter central London.

Drivers who have not paid by 10pm on the day of their visit will be charged an extra £5. Those who do not pay the charge at all will face fines of £80, rising to £120 if they do not pay up within a month.

The other boroughs in the capital to be affected are Southwark, Camden, Westminster, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Islington and Lambeth.

Vice said a lot of people in the construction industry were now asking him what the charge was all about but it was too late to make amendments and they could be badly affected.

He said: "The building industry makes a positive contribution to the London economy but it is going to carry a notable cost on this."

Strategic forum chairman Peter Rogers said many construction companies would be taken by surprise by the charges.

He said: "I've heard so little about it that I'm afraid people will not know about it and will get caught out. The first weeks will be interesting; there will be a lot of anger."

The Freight Transport Association estimates that lorries and goods vehicles will pay £40m in charges in the first year and total costs, including administration, could rise to double that figure.

A spokesperson for the Federation of Master Builders, a body for small and medium-sized builders, said its members were aware of the charge but it was too late to oppose it.

The spokesperson said: "There's nothing anyone can do about it now. We will just have to let the mayor understand how it's working once it starts."

He said the FMB would monitor the situation and compile evidence that could be used to establish a case for exemption.