CP83X3 Toyota Prius minicab, London, UK
The number of licensed private hire drivers has almost doubled in the past decade © Alamy

London mayor Sadiq Khan did not discriminate against minicab drivers when he decided that the congestion charge would apply to them but not to the city’s traditional black cabs, the High Court ruled on Wednesday.

The court dismissed a legal challenge brought by a trade union against the mayor over his decision to extend the £11.50 daily charge to minicabs while exempting black cabs.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain had claimed that the decision disadvantaged and breached the human rights of minicab drivers, who are more likely to come from a black, Asian and minority ethnic (Bame) background. The High Court was told that 94 per cent of minicab drivers are of Bame heritage whereas 71 per cent of black cab drivers are white.

The IWGB argued that the decision to extend the charge to minicabs would have a “disproportionate impact” on Bame and female drivers, as well as disabled passengers.

However, Mr Justice Lewis dismissed the judicial review challenge and said the removal of the exemption for minicab drivers “does not involve any discrimination” as the mayor was able to show his decision was a proportionate means of reducing traffic in the UK capital, which is among the most congested cities in the world.

Mr Khan and Transport for London, which is responsible for transport in the capital, both contend that the decision to extend the congestion charge to minicab drivers is an important means of reducing congestion.

Minicabs were exempt from the London congestion charge when it was introduced in 2002 but the mayor’s barristers argued in the legal challenge that the numbers of minicab drivers have risen sharply since then.

Numbers of licensed private hire drivers have almost doubled from 55,000 in 2008-2009 to 113,000 lin 2017-2018 as companies such as Uber have expanded in London, the High Court was told in the legal challenge.

By contrast the number of black cab drivers has remained relatively stable at 24,800 licensed taxi drivers in 2008-2009 compared with 23,826 licensed drivers in 2017-18.

TfL said that by 2017 on an average day there were 18,248 private hire vehicles in the congestion zone compared with an estimated 4,000 private hire vehicles back in 2002.

IWGB said it would appeal the court ruling and said that minicab drivers stand to lose as much as £200 a month as a result.

Transport for London welcomed the court decision: “The charge means fewer minicabs driving in the congestion charge zone, reducing traffic volumes and congestion.”

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