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Fears Congestion Charge changes will push up minicab prices prove well founded

Concerns that Sadiq Khan’s move to remove Congestion Charge exemption from private hire vehicles have already proved well founded as Green Tomato Cars says it’s pushing up its prices.

Green Tomato Cars to axe diesels by end of 2018

Jonny Goldstone, co-founder and managing director of Green Tomato Car

Announced last summer, the mayor’s changes will see the current Ultra-Low Emission discount replaced with a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount in April that will retain the current 75g/km CO2 cap, but with a requirement that vehicles should offer a 20-mile electric range, and meet Euro 6 emissions limits. And from October 2021 only pure electric vehicles will qualify for the discount.

The move will also require drivers of minicabs and private hire vehicles (PHVs) to start paying the Charge for the first time if their vehicles do not meet the criteria.

The move has already been decried by London Assembly members who have said that minicab fares could rise by 16%, as operators would have to cover the cost of paying the Congestion Charge; members have called on the major to rethink his “flawed policy”.

Now, eco-friendly private hire car company Green Tomato Cars says it’s being forced to increase fares in line with the change as its MD says the ending of the exemption is poorly thought through and premature.

The firm is set to increase fares by 4-6% to protect its 400 drivers from facing a reduction in earnings of up to £2,500 per year.

However, it’s also revamping its pricing strategy to spread the cost of the Congestion Charge as it warns that the impact of the new charge would see fares in and around Central London increase by as much as 50%. Therefore Green Tomato Cars has decided to implement a general review of fares, with customers travelling in Central London during chargeable hours paying a fixed top-up on a journey by journey basis, while the company will absorb some of the cost to avoid Central London fares increasing disproportionately.

Jonny Goldstone, co-founder and managing director of Green Tomato Cars, said: “There is just no other sensible option if we hope to retain and recruit drivers of the calibre that our clients have come to expect. We could not contemplate our drivers taking a pay cut of up to 10% and so have taken the decision to protect them from the impact of the new charge. Based on initial conversations with a number of key clients we are confident that, while nobody likes a price increase, our customers will support this decision.”

He added: “We are in complete support of TfL and the mayor’s admirable mission to reduce emissions and improve air quality in London, which is the very dream that Green Tomato Cars was built on. So of all companies, we really do understand how vital this work is, and if it were possible to have a fleet made up solely of zero-emission and zero-emission capable vehicles, we would be the first to do so.

“However, the infrastructure and technology for these cars is just not there, and in any case manufacturers just aren’t producing enough of these vehicles. The pure electric models on the market are either too expensive, too small, or don’t have sufficient range to make them viable options for us. Additionally, there aren’t enough fast and rapid charging points in London, and those that do exist aren’t suitably located nor readily accessible for busy PHV drivers.”

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for nearly 20 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day.