Widening the scope of the congestion charge to include private hire vehicles will increase congestion and harm air pollution in London, taxi firm Addison Lee has claimed.
The private hire firm made the comments in response to proposals by Transport for London to alter the charging system, by removing current exemptions for PHVs as well as tightening discounts for low emission vehicles.
Under the plans, PHVs which are currently exempt, would have to pay the Â£11.50 per day charge to enter the central London congestion charge zone.
This is being brought in as TfL 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.
Analysis carried out for the transport body suggests that the removal of the PHV Congestion Charge exemption could reduce the number of individual PHVs entering central London by up to 45%.
Addison Lee has responded strongly to the proposals today, publishing research carried out on its behalf by the consulting firm Oxera, suggesting that the proposals are at odds with â€˜objectives of reducing congestion and pollutionâ€™ and will â€˜hold back the industryâ€™s investment in cleaner vehiclesâ€™.
Oxeraâ€™s research has claimed that the removal of PHVs exemption would have no impact on traffic within the charging zone â€“ the impact described as â€˜indistinguishable from zeroâ€™ â€“ and could unintentionally increase traffic as drivers congregate on the zoneâ€™s boundary, only entering the centre when a fare becomes available.
It adds that any increased costs which come about as a result of the changes are likely to be passed on to passengers, which could encourage them to use â€˜older, polluting black taxisâ€™ which will continue to be exempt.
Addison Lee is instead pushing an increase in the overall charge by Â£1 to Â£12.50 whilst retaining the PHV exemption, as well as improving the network of rapid electric chargers available for the industry to switch to lower emission models.
Andy Boland, chief executive, Addison Lee Group, said: â€œAddison Lee is fully on board with TfLâ€™s objectives of tackling congestion and improving air quality in London, and is investing Â£60m to meet the existing ultra-low emission zone policy. However, independent analysis suggests that far from helping to meet these objectives, imposing the congestion charge on private hire vehicles would make matters worse.
â€œWe believe our proposed policy of focusing on ULEZ and closing its loopholes, a small increase in the overall charge and a proper rapid charging network would be fairer, simpler and more effective.â€
Proposals to remove the exemption were launched for consultation in the summer â€“ and closed on Friday.