axi fares are to rise by 5.5% in a bid to stem the flood of taxi drivers leaving London.
Transport for London approved the increase amid concerns over the threat to the number of ‘iconic’ black cabs in the capital.
It is the first increase in licensed taxi fares in more than two years after the annual increase was scrapped last year and in 2020 due to the pandemic.
The new rates are expected to come into effect from April 30. The minimum taxi fare will increase from £3.20 to £3.80 and the taxi meter will “spin” faster.
This follows an average increase of 4.8% in Tube and bus fares and a 3.8% rise in the cost of travel on National Rail earlier this month.
TfL’s finance committee, which approved the increases, was told there had been an almost 25 per cent drop in the number of taxis in the capital.
The “slow decline” of taxis and drivers since 2000/01 “accelerated dramatically” due to the pandemic, when demand for taxi rides fell by around 95%, mainly due to the lack of tourists and commuters and near-closure down West End and Square Mile.
Many taxi drivers quit after being unable to work or seek government assistance.
Taxi drivers and male drivers were more likely to die from Covid than other workers, according to research from the Office for National Statistics.
The number of taxis licensed to operate in London fell 24% from 18,961 in March 2020 to 14,439 last month, while the number of licensed drivers fell 12% from 22,409 to 19,716 during the same period.
TfL must balance the ‘negative impacts’ of a fare increase, such as the impact on disabled and elderly people relying on taxis to get around, and the disincentive for passengers to hail a taxi, against the disadvantages of not implement an increase.
These include drivers leaving the business, resulting in reduced availability of taxis and the ability for passengers to switch to unlicensed touts.
The safety of women traveling at night is also a concern, especially at a time when night metro services have not been fully restored and bus services are expected to be reduced.
The 5.5% increase applies to trips between 5 a.m. and 10 p.m. The overnight fare and the fare for trips over six miles are frozen.
Additionally, Heathrow passengers will pay a surcharge of up to £3.60, up from £2.80 previously, and drivers can charge an additional £5.20 if using a ‘drop-off’ area in a terminal of airport.
This is to help reimburse taxi drivers for the £7.20 cost of accessing taxi ranks at Heathrow and the introduction of a £5 deposit fee at the terminal from next month.
TfL does not set prices for minicabs or app-based companies such as Uber.
All newly registered black cabs must be “zero emissions capable”. Last month there were 5,124 licensed ZEC taxis, or 35% of London’s total taxi fleet.
The number of daily taxi journeys increased from 185,000 in 2009 to 109,000 in 2016/17.
TfL originally proposed a 4% increase, but the taxi industry – the London Cab Drivers Club, Licensed Taxi Drivers Association, RMT, Unite and the United Cabbies Group – wanted a 5.5% increase, but with a tariff minimum reduced by 20p from the £4 offered by TfL.
The cost of operating a taxi has risen by almost 10% since 2019 and there are fears that record diesel prices due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could cause new problems for taxi drivers.
A TfL spokesperson said: ‘When reviewing taxi fares, we always try to strike a balance in fare increases, to ensure taxis are affordable for our users.
“It is important to recognize that taxi driver costs have increased significantly since the last price and tariff change. We want to make sure taxi drivers can cover their own operating costs and earn a living.
“It is important that the exam ensures that the role of taxi driver remains a viable career. Any reduction in supply will impact how quickly passengers can take a taxi around London. »
Finance committee chair Anne McMeel said TfL needed to think carefully about whether it wanted to keep black cabs as an “iconic part of London”.
She says: “[A lack of] access to bus lanes, low-traffic neighborhoods, and traffic congestion can drive up the price of a taxi ride through the roof, even for a relatively short trip.
TfL commissioner Andy Byford said: “To me this is the best taxi service in the world.”