Eco-friendly private hire car company forced to increase fares to avoid new Congestion Charge burden for drivers; MD calls on TfL and the Mayor to overhaul the infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles

In advance of the upcoming changes to the Congestion Charge in April – which will require drivers of mini-cabs and private hire vehicles (PHVs) to start paying the Charge – London’s first low-emission private hire operator 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.

Green Tomato Cars, London’s second largest PHV operator, today announced to its customers that fares will increase from April 2019 to spread the cost of the new Congestion Charge for PHVs.

Established in 2006, Green Tomato Cars was the UK’s first all-hybrid private hire operator and in 2018 it achieved another first by adding 25 Hydrogen Fuel Cell cars, creating the largest zero-emissions fleet of PHVs in the UK.

Jonny Goldstone, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Green Tomato Cars 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% 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.  

Tyrone Hunte, Driver Manager at Green Tomato Cars commented:

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.”

Green Tomato Cars’ management team believes that the Mayor’s singling-out of the private hire industry as part of his stated aim to reduce pollution and congestion in the capital has been poorly thought through, one of the implications being that drivers who have to pay the new Charge themselves may end up earning less than the London Living Wage, another of the Mayor’s flagship policies.

Goldstone continues:

“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 and they take too long to charge.  There aren’t enough fast and rapid charging points in London, and those that do exist aren’t suitable for busy PHV drivers..

The irony is that black taxis, which emit 26% of London’s deadly particulate matter and over 200g CO2 / km compared to under 70g/km 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.”