Transport for London’s (TfL) decision to remove the fleet autopay discount from the congestion charge will add thousands of pounds a year in costs to some operators and has been slammed by business groups as an additional tax on hauliers.

TfL said it was making changes to the congestion charge in order to strike a balance between reducing traffic and congestion and supporting the capital’s economy. As a result, the hours of operation will be reduced during the week to between 7am and 6pm and 12pm to 6pm on weekends and bank holidays.

TfL also intends on retaining the current £15 charge level and removing the fleet autopay discount, which gave a £1 per vehicle discount to fleets with six or more vehicles.

Alex Williams, TfL director of city planning, said: “The removal of the charge in the evening will help shift workers who perform essential roles at the heart of the city and support London's vibrant cultural and hospitality sectors who are still recovering from the pandemic.”

Logistics UK said it welcomed the operational hours of the congestion charge reverting back to the original weekday timings in place before the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This will provide additional flexibility to retime deliveries to less congested times - with the potential to reduce emissions, improve the safety of vulnerable road users, and increase operational efficiency - and is supported by Logistics UK members,” said its head of policy for the south, Natalie Chapman. “However, Logistics UK is disappointed that the charges will apply on weekends and bank holidays, and that the £15 charge level will be retained, but the fleet autopay discount removed.

“This simply amounts to an additional tax for logistics businesses who currently have little alternative but to use lorries and vans to keep London stocked with all the goods the population needs.”

In its response to the consultation, the BVRLA said its members were very concerned at the proposal to remove the discount.

“The BVRLA has several members with over 4,000 vehicles operating in London,” it said. “This will add thousands of pounds a year in cost to each operator and could force customers to opt for less sustainable modes if these costs are passed on.”