12 August 2021

Minicab drivers not picking up passengers ‘over congestion charge and Ulez fees’

12 August 2021

Minicab and private hire app drivers in London are not picking up as many passengers as usual due to the rise in costs of the congestion charge and Ulez fees, union members have said.

Drivers from app firms such as Uber and Bolt – as well as private hire companies – are facing costs of £27.50 a day due to an increase of Congestion Charge fees and the Ultra Low Emission Zone (Ulez fees).

If a private hire cab wants to take a passenger from the outskirts of the capital into central London, they currently have to pay £15 for a congestion charge and an additional £12.50 for the Ulez charge if their vehicle does not meet the emissions standards.

Steve Garelick, regional officer in London for the GMB Union, said while the price increases have been in place since June 2020, passengers will only have started noticing the difficulty when trying to book a car as now more people are leaving their homes and socialising as a result of the easing of lockdown restrictions.

He told the PA news agency: “Drivers are faced with the charge and have to find a way to recover that cost, it’s just not possible. Even when you’ve got Uber adding £1.50 on to a fare for passengers [to help combat the cost], drivers still have to do 10 journeys to recover the £15.

“The drop in jobs is a combination of rising costs, not being able to get a battery-powered electric vehicle, the fact that passenger fares are not as they should be and commissions. It’s the perfect storm.

“I think TfL (Transport for London) put others ahead of drivers because drivers are an easy target as you can track them. But it’s not just London – the price of such journeys are a luxury and the cost will increase across the country as these charges start to apply elsewhere. Somebody has to pay for them, and normally they will get a private hire and or taxi to cover the cost of these cars because they’re an easy target.”

A congestion charge sign in London (Philip Toscano/PA) (PA Archive)

The congestion charge was temporarily increased from £11.50 to £15 per day last June after TfL’s finances were badly hit as a result of the pandemic.

TfL is currently holding a consultation over whether it should make the 30% increase a permanent fixture and reduce the hours from 7am to 10pm to 7am to 6pm every day and delaying its start until noon on weekends and bank holidays.

Mr Garelick said he has put forward a proposal of a city-style tax – as seen in cities such as Vienna, Berlin and Budapest – of £1 set fare fee to every private hire fare in London to help drivers combat the costs.

Driver Conrad Dalphinis – who uses Uber, Bolt and Freenow for jobs – said he now largely avoids driving people in central London due to the increase in the congestion charge.

He told PA: “I never do congestion charge jobs unless I have to. Sometimes I will drop them off at the edge of the congestion charge zone because it’s not worth it to me, and most of the customers understand. When it was £11.50 you could work your way around it, but now it’s more difficult.

“Imagine you’ve made £400 for the week. You need £100 for the congestion charge, another £100 for fuel, then you’ve got the running costs of your car. Where is the profit in that? We’re not getting any benefit from it.”

A TfL spokesperson said: ““The Congestion Charge and ULEZ play key roles in managing congestion and reducing air pollution.

“The majority of private hire vehicles in London are less than five years old, which in most cases will mean the vehicle is ULEZ compliant and so no ULEZ charges will apply.  “Should proposals which are currently out to consultation go ahead, no journeys after 6pm would be subject to the Congestion Charge.

“The current temporary changes to the Congestion Charge were introduced in accordance with the conditions of the first emergency funding settlement TfL received from Government in 2020 where TfL was required to bring forward proposals to temporarily widen the scope and level of the Congestion Charge.”

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox