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London's new congestion charging experiment - designed to ease traffic gridlock in the capital - went live this morning.

For Mayor Ken Livingstone and the others behind the scheme, it's a nail-biting time. Will it ease traffic in central London or merely lead to snarl-ups elsewhere? Will the technology linking the 800 cameras and payment systems actually work as planned?

Early reports this morning suggest that the traffic and technology are currently running reasonably trouble-free.

Over the weekend, though, there were reports that the London Congestion Charging Web site - one of the central sources of info for the scheme and, crucially, a method to pay the £5 charge - went tits up.

Even when it was up and running people were complaining that they couldn't register to pay the charge.

Last week Web consultants, the Usability Company, slammed the site's performance, claiming it took minutes to perform some of the simplest functions.

And a week before the introduction of congestion charges those carrying out the assessment said they were unable to pay the charge.

Other grips include small text size making it difficult for some to read and problems navigating around the site.

The Usability Company's criticisms have been echoed by Dominic Byrne of Internet outfit Radware.

In a statement he said: "Ken Livingstone's Web site seems to be in need of some serious decongestion. It is another example of an organisation not undertaking sufficient capacity planning and failing to make the most of available bandwidth to ensure uptime, even during peak demand periods."

The Usability Company is keeping an eye on the site and is planning to carry out another analysis in a month or so to see how it is coping. ®

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