Green Tomato Cars has announced it will increase its fares by 4-6 per cent to cover the Congestion Charge for drivers once it goes into effect for private hire vehicles in London this April.

Transport for London (TfL) and London mayor Sadiq Khan announced in December that the £11.50-per-day Congestion Charge already in effect for other drivers would also apply to private hire vehicles such as minicabs and ride-hailing services including Uber from 8 April in a bid to combat the capital’s rising pollution problem.

Only zero emission-capable vehicles will be able to avoid the fee, though that will change in 2021, when only pure-electric cars will be exempt.  

Green Tomato Cars – which claims it operates the largest fleet of zero-emission vehicles in the UK – says it has made the decision to pass the charge onto passengers, as it could potentially have a £2,500-a-year impact on its drivers.

The eco-friendly firm claims the new charge could see fares in and around central London increase by as much as 50 per cent. It decided to implement a general review of its fares, with customers travelling in the centre of the capital during chargeable hours paying a “fixed top-up on a journey-by-journey basis”.

The company says it will absorb some of the cost to “avoid central London fares increasing disproportionately”.

Furthermore, Green Tomato Cars claims 90 per cent of its clients are London-based corporates and public sector organisations such as the NHS, who will be affected by the increase in fares.

Co-founder and MD Jonny Goldstone said: “Sustainability and good ethics is at the heart of our business and that means taking responsible decisions in the current and long-term interests of our clients and drivers.

“The cost of the new charge will be so significant that 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 per cent 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.”

Driver manager Tyrone Hunte added: “I work day to day with our 400 drivers and many are very worried about how they would manage to pay what they consider to be yet another tax. We have systems in place to optimise drivers’ earnings by improving efficiency and rewarding hard work, but even with these processes, their earnings would be significantly affected. So today’s announcement will come as a huge relief and shows that we put our drivers first.”

Goldstone continued: “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…

“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. The irony is that black taxis, which emit 26 per cent of London’s deadly particulate matter and over 200g of CO2 per kilometre compared to under 70g per kilometre for our cars – and whose fares are often twice the cost of a PHV – are exempt from this new charge.

“Green Tomato Cars was the first private car operator in London to promote green vehicles and yet it feels like TfL and the mayor are punishing companies like ours without any meaningful dialogue with our industry, which carries Londoners on over 100 million journeys a year.”

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