London Assembly members have voted against the Mayor’s proposal to remove an exemption for private hire vehicles under the congestion charge.
The proposal was outlined by the Mayor in July, alongside other tweaks to the charge which were aimed at helping to improve air quality in the city (see airqualitynews.com story).
Since the Congestion Charge launched fifteen years ago, the number of vehicles entering the zone every day has decreased by around 30%, TfL claims.
However, the transport body claims that since 2003 the number of PHVs entering the zone in charging hours has gone from an expected 4,000 a day, to more than 18,000, with knock-on impacts on air pollution and congestion in central London.
As a consequence, City Hall is considering proposals to remove the charge – a move that was opposed by London Assembly members this week who voted against the plan.
Gareth Bacon AM, who proposed the motion against the proposal, accused the Mayor of using air quality as a ‘smokescreen’ to raise additional revenue through the congestion charge
He said: “This policy would fail to achieve its primary objective – it would not significantly reduce congestion. The Mayor’s own figures show that the number of PHVs in the Congestion Charge Zone would fall by only 600 a day or 1%.
“When businesses are hammered prices go up and the data shows that operators would have to increase their charges by up to 16% – hitting Londoners’ pockets.
“Unfortunately, this policy is just an excuse for the Mayor to raise some of the money he needs to plug the nearly £1 billion black hole in the transport budget. Talk of congestion and pollution is just a smokescreen.â€?
Alongside proposals to remove the exemption for PHVs, plans have also been tabled that would see the existing Ultra Low Emission Discount (ULED) replaced with a new phased ‘Cleaner Vehicle Discount’.
Currently, under the ULED, cars or vans that meet the Euro 5 standard for air quality can avoid paying the £11.50 per day Congestion Charge.
But, from April 2019, TfL is proposing to bring the Congestion Charge criteria in line with that of the Ultra Low Emission Zone, which will require diesel cars or vans to meet the Euro 6 standard, in effect from 2014, in order to be exempt from paying the charge.
This would then be tightened from October 2021, when only electric vehicles would quality or the discount, and phased out altogether from December 2025.