Could Uber be overplaying their hand in potentially looking to create a level playing field between the taxi industry and the PHV industry by lobbying Transport for London to impose the congestion charge on taxis.
With the battle raging on between the Independent Workers of Great Britain Union (IWGB), and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan over the congestion charge issue, it was revealed via social media that Uber may be "suggesting" to TfL that the already beleaguered London taxi industry be subject to the charge.
In a tweet from LBCs political correspondent Theo Usherwood it was revealed that: "Uber sources have suggested a level playing field so that black cabs are subject to the same charge.
"the danger is that Central London, from uber's point of view becomes the preserve of black cabs."
He then added: " am told TFL isn't even thinking about this move at the moment."
Uber are no stranger to lobbying for an imposition of the congestion charge in other cities, the FT have reported that Uber have spent around $2m in pushing for the Levy in New York.
However, Uber seem to be blind to the fact that there is a two-tier system in London , with that system heavily skewed against the taxi industry, therefore it could argued that Uber attempting to make an incursion into taxi legislation by attempting to dictate policy at TfL is singularly self-serving.
As discussed in TaxiPoint last monrh, the reasons for the licensed London taxi industry's exemption from the congestion charge is relatively simple.
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.
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, one of those rights being exemption from paying the congestion charge.
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.
Image source: Geograph
Image author: Oxyman