Transport for London has confirmed that minicabs drivers will have to pay the congestion charge from next April.
Plans to scrap the Private Hire Vehicle exemption were first published in July and, following a public consultation, TfL has confirmed they will now come into effect next year.
The change means around 100,000 drivers will become liable for the £11.50 per day charge if they enter central London.
TfL is legally barred from limiting the number of minicabs it licenses but with numbers entering central London soaring from an expected 4,000 a day to more than 18,000, it’s previously claimed that ending the exemption would allow it to tackle air pollution and congestion.
And last year the capital’s passenger watchdog, London Travelwatch, said charging minicab drivers would cut the number of cars entering the congestion charge zone, boosting journey times for bus users.
While today’s announcement means an end to the minicab sector’s blanket exemption, drivers will not have to pay if their vehicle is either wheelchair accessible or qualifies for a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount being introduced to encourage only the cleanest vehicles to drive in central London.
Both of these exemptions are available to private and commercial drivers.
TfL has also announced it will consult on plans to cut the age limit for the most polluting Taxis from 15 to 12 years.
Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Toxic air pollution in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children and leads to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia.
“We have to make tough decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of Londoners and tackle harmful emissions from the most polluting vehicles.
“We’ve prioritised cleaning up our bus fleet and the early introduction of the 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London.
“Now we need private hire vehicles and taxis to play their part and help us clean up our filthy air.”
Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, added: “Bold action is required to tackle London’s public health crisis. The taxi and private hire trades are central to reducing the filthy fumes circulating in our city.
“This package of measures will contribute to fewer vehicles driving where pollution is most concentrated and encourage the switch from diesel to electric.”
Today’s news has been welcomed by the campaign group Living Streets whose Head of Policy, Tanya Braun, said: “Given the exponential growth of private hire vehicles in London, TfL has taken an important step in removing the Congestion Charge exemption for PHVs across the city.”
However Conservatives on the London Assembly said the change would “fail to achieve its primary objective of reducing congestion.”
Andrew Boff AM added: “The Mayor’s own figures show that the policy will result in a mere 1 percent reduction of total traffic in the Congestion Charge Zone.
“This policy is nothing more than a smokescreen. The Mayor has blown a £1 billion black hole in the transport budget and now he is hellbent on hammering the PHV industry to boost the coffers.”
“Londoners will find it more difficult to travel around our city, as increased costs will inevitably be passed on to customers.”