More bad news for Uber -- or its 'partner-drivers', more realistically -- its vehicles will no longer be exempt from the London Congestion Charge as of April.
Transport for London conducted a consultation with 10,000 responses, and the result is that private hire vehicles like minicabs and Ubers won't get to skip the charge.
In the first phase of the programme, which kicks in on the 8th of April 2019, only vehicles capable of zero emissions will have exemption. Then in October 2021, only pure electric vehicles will qualify. The discount will expire entirely in December 2025.
Wheelchair-accessible vehicles that are "fulfilling a private hire booking" will remain exempt, so Uber XL is OK for now.
The charge currently stands at £11.50 per day, and encompasses most of the day: 07:00 to 18:00, Monday to Friday. There's currently no charge on weekends, or from Christmas Day to the 1st of January, and you can get a pound off if you sign up to pay it automatically.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan worked with TfL on the proposals:
"Toxic air pollution in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children and leads to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia.
We have to make tough decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of Londoners and tackle harmful emissions from the most polluting vehicles.
We've prioritised cleaning up our bus fleet and the early introduction of the 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London. Now we need private hire vehicles and taxis to play their part and help us clean up our filthy air."
However, the London Assembly disagrees -- Chairman Tony Arbour comments:
"This policy would fail significantly to 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 per cent.
Congestion is an issue that clearly needs to be addressed – but this is not the way to go about it. The Mayor should come forward with new and innovative proposals to tackle this problem.
The data shows that operators would have to increase their charges by up to 16 percent – hitting Londoners’ pockets. The charge will also greatly impact the smaller operators, and this will need to be addressed.
This policy is a misguided way for the Mayor to raise some of the money he needs to rescue TfL from its dire financial straits. Talk of congestion and pollution is merely an excuse for this quite cynical move."
Realistically, it seems unlikely Uber itself will help drivers out with the charge. More likely it'll just be another £11.50 to take off their already-meagre earnings for the day. When's Musk coming to build us an underground highway, hey?
Main image: Mariordo59 via Flickr CC