Today, London Mayor Sadiq Khan announced that Uber and Taxi drivers will no longer be exempted from the congestion charge amounting to £11.50 starting April 2019. This comes as part of his effort to curb pollution levels.
TfL expects that the changes will reduce the number of private hire vehicles that are entering the congestion zone every day by up to 8,000, a 44 percent decline from the current levels.
The congestion charge will apply from Monday to Friday starting from 7 am to 6 pm and covers the central zone of London. The boundary stretches around the city, King’s Cross, Buckingham palace, and the Imperial war museum.
Higher costs can be anticipated to affect the operators as well as the customers who are looking for a ride in the centre. Addison Lee, an Uber rival, has previously come out with a prediction that the plans will cost the company £4m per year.
Sadiq Khan stated: “We need private hire vehicles and taxis to play their part and help us clean up our filthy air.” He argued that “tough decisions” must be made in order to “protect the health and wellbeing of London.”
The London Mayor also argued that removing the exemption of the drivers is necessary to drive down congestion. TfL has disclosed that the pace of the increase in private hire vehicles, which has been propped up by ride-hailing apps including Uber, had not been anticipated when the exemption was originally imposed 15 years ago.
The move can also be anticipated to generate some additional cash for the TfL at a time when its revenues have been squeezed as an outcome of fare freezes and the continued delays that are hitting its Crossrail project.
The Licensed Private Hire Car Association established a petition that is opposing the changes last November. It reached just under 10,000 signatures. As a response to the decision, the group stated: “We will do everything we can to challenge this disappointing decision.”
It added: “We do not agree that removing the congestion charge exemption for private hire drivers in London is indeed fair, nor going to reduce congestion.”
An exception will be made for vehicles that are accessible by wheelchair, while those that meet certain requirements will also be eligible for a new type of cleaner vehicle discount.
The transport director at London First, Richard Dilks, stated: “The congestion charge has cut traffic in the capital, but London’s roads are still grinding to a halt.”
He added: “While it’s right to address the impact of private hire cars, in isolation it is not enough. London is Europe’s second most congested city, and after 15 years of the charge, it’s time to modernise the entire system to make sure it continues to work for the capital well into the future. That includes looking at how to tackle congestion and emissions together, help freight be even more efficient, and make bus journeys faster and more reliable.”