Minicabs drivers will have to pay the congestion charge from next April under plans published today by Transport for London.
Subject to a public consultation, the change would impact around 18,000 vehicles each day, potentially boosting TfL’s finances at a time when the organisation is failing to meet its fares targets.
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 says ending the exemption would allow it to tackle air pollution and congestion.
The agency claims removing the exemption could reduce the number of individual minicabs entering the charging zone by up to 45 per cent.
Vehicles which are wheelchair accessible would continue to be exempt.
In addition to the changes for minicabs, TfL plans to replace the Ultra Low Emission Discount with a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount which would initially apply to zero-emission capable vehicles, and from 2021 only to pure electric vehicles.
Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said: “If we are to clean up the capital’s toxic air and tackle congestion in central London, we need to have the appropriate incentives as well as the right interventions.
“The Congestion Charge has had a real impact on improving London’s roads for all since it launched fifteen years ago.
“However, over that time the availability and standard of low-emission vehicles has greatly advanced and the number of private hire vehicles entering the zone during charging hours has rocketed.
“It is only right that we keep the discounts and exemptions for the scheme under review to make sure it continues to be effective.”
In February the long-rumoured axing of the minicab exemption was criticised by Andy Boland, Chief Executive Officer at Addison Lee, who said it would provide a competitive advantage both to the black cab trade, which will remain exempt, and those mini cab operators backed by investors “who have subsidised fares”, while forcing others to either scale back investment or pass the cost on to drivers, “significantly” reducing their earnings.