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Congestion charge dodgers register Bentleys as minicabs

TfL to probe luxury cab trade

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Owners of upmarket sets of wheels have discovered a cunning ruse to avoid paying London's congestion charge - simply register the car as a minicab.

According to the Times, Transport for London (TfL) is "particularly suspicious" that a large number of exotic motors and two-seater sports car owners have coughed the £82 application fee and £27 for the annual minicab licence, thereby gaining exemption from Red Ken's £8 a day fee to enter the capital.

Among the luxury vehicles on the list of shame are "17 Bentley Continentals, which cost £117,500 new, three £300,000 Maybach 62s and eight two-seater Mercedes-Benz SLs". Others apparently plying their trade include an Aston Martin DB7, two Maserati Quattroportes and eight Rolls Royce Phantoms.

Some of these are evidently owned by cash-flush Londoners who live within the charging zone, keen to avoid stumping up from next October when owners of cars rated in band G for vehicle excise duty will lose their 90 per cent residents' discount and attract a £25-a-day fee.

To register your motor as a minicab, you just need to flash a valid MOT certificate, but TfL "does not check on the suitability of the vehicle or the likelihood that it would be used for private hire".

TfL was reportedly alerted to the outrage by Clean Green Cars, which preaches the "Gospel of Green". The website's Jay Nagley said: "The congestion charge is presented as an environmental measure, yet exceptions are being granted to some of the highest-polluting vehicles on the road.

"While we have no objection to exemption for minicabs in principle, it is absurd that a private hire vehicle with a V12 engine has to pay nothing, when a family doing the school run with a Renault Espace 2.0T Auto will be liable for the full £25. The logical move would be to stop exemptions for any minicabs that fall into band G. That way, no one would have an incentive to register their luxury car as a minicab."

Tfl will investigate the scam by "contacting the owners of the luxury cars and asking them for details of any taxi company that uses their vehicles". Cab firms must keep records of fare-paying journeys and TfL will "demand to see those records and compare them with its own data on vehicles in the charge zone".

A Tfl spokeswoman declared: "We are taking this very seriously. We call for anybody who has evidence to get in touch with us." ®

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