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PHVs and Congestion Charging: Does the IWGB have a fair argument against the Mayor of London, or are their figures just smoke and mirrors

5 Mar 2019


With the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) issuing a pre-action letter to London mayor Sadiq Khan, giving him until 6 March to reverse a controversial policy which would force private hire vehicle drivers to pay the congestion charge, before the union launches a judicial review in the High Court, we look at some of the facts and statiatics pertaining to the case.

The IWGB have said that the introduction of the £11.50 charge to enter the zone is a case of indirect discrimination under the Equality Act as it is being imposed on a workforce that is predominantly black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME). 

It has stated that according to Transport for London (TFL) 94% of London's 107,000 minicab drivers are BAME, while licensed London taxi drivers, who are mostly white,  are exempt from the charge.

The IWGB have also said the the policy breaches a number of articles under the European Convention on Human Rights covering discrimination, property rights, right to a family life and ability to carry out a profession.

However, after delving a little deeper, it seems as though there could be a degree of selectivity surrounding some of the figures and accusations put forward by the IGWB. 

After examining TFLs most recent data figures, there are 23,474 taxi drivers that hold either a suburban (2904) or an all London license (20,570). Out of that number, the ethnic demographic breaks down as follows:


2932 drivers within the taxi industry come from an ethnic minority background, which equates to 15.10%.


16487 come from a white demographic, this equates to 84.9%.


4055 drivers declined to respond to the question on TfLs survey.


The private hire industry figures breakdown in the following way. Out of 108,622 registered PHV drivers:


54,152 drivers within the PHV industry come from an ethnic minority background, which equates to 73.65%. 


19,375 come from a white demographic, this equates to 26.35%. 


35,095 drivers declined to respond to the question on TfLs survey. 


This therefore brings into question the 94% figure which the IGWB are espousing as making up the private hire industry's ethinic minority demographic, the figures, on the surface, do not seem to add up.


Moving on to the reasons for the licensed London taxi industry's exemption from the congestion charge in London, the explanation is a relatively simple affair.

All licensed London taxis fall under the auspices of the Hackney Carriage Act, within that act is the compulsion to accept a hiring if the journey is within a 12 mile radius of pick-up point, or 1 hour journey time. A taxi driver can only refuse a hiring with reasonable excuse.

Therefore if a driver does not wish to work inside, nor cross into the congestion charge zone, he can potentially become compelled to enter the zone because of Hackney Carriage legislation, which creates a paradox in law because the driver is actively forced to do sonething against his will.

The private hire act carries no such legislation, therefore a driver can refuse to enter the congestion charge boundaries if he or she so desires.

Then we have the fare structure; since TfL set the licensed London taxi industry's fare structure, there is no legal way for a driver to pass on the cost to the customer.

However since the private hire industry does not have TfL setting the fare structure, the PHV industry is able to pass on any given costs pertaining to congestion charging to the customer.

Finally since all London taxis are wheelchair accessible vehicles, and those from the disabled community are exempt from paying the congestion charge, there could yet again be another conflict in law as a driver could in theory be penalised for transporting a disabled passenger despite the passenger having some form of exemption. Those from the disabled community can register a vehicle to avoid being penalised, this however would be impossible for taxis to do.

In relation to the PHV industry it should be noted that TfL have said that private hire vehicles that are wheelchair accessible or ultra-clean would not lose their exemption.


It is also worth noting that the licensed London taxi industry has an "open-door" policy, it is fully inclusive, with the only barrier to entry being a clean DBS and qualifying to enter the profession by passing its vocational examination, called The Knowledge. Once a candiidate has qualified, he or she is then afforded certain rights pertaining to their profession.


The PHV industry has almost no barrier of entry, therefore it cannot be afforded the same rights as the licensed London taxi industry,  otherwise it would negate the whole point and purpose of attempting to do The Knowledge in the first place.

The mayors office has stated that said that the number of PHVs entering the congestion charge zone had increased by around 450% since 2003

TfL has claimed that its analysis indicated that the removal of the PHV Congestion Charge exemption could reduce the number of individual PHVs entering central London by up to 45%.  

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