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3-Wheelers and the London Congestion Charge.

Are 3-wheelers exempt?

As many of you will know (especially those who live in London) on 17th February 2003 the government brought out a new congestion charge of £5 a day to drive around the streets of London. Motorcycles, scooters and bicycles will be exempt from the charge ... but what about 3-wheelers. I e-mailed the Mayor of London in October 2002 and asked, “will 3-wheelers be exempt?” This is the reply I recieved but as you will see from the case at the end of this page, the information I was provided with by Transport for London (TfL) is wrong.

Dear Mr Payne,

Congestion charging for central London

Thank you for your email of 2 October 2002 regarding congestion charging for central London. The Mayor of London has asked that I respond to you directly on his behalf.

On 26 February 2002, after a thorough review of the representations made to the public consultation and the predicted impact of congestion charging, the Mayor announced his intention to proceed with congestion charging for central London. Congestion charging will commence on 17 February 2003.

Once it is introduced, anyone (except those excluded, exempt or discounted) driving or parking a vehicle on public roads in the congestion charging zone between 7.00am and 6.30pm, Monday to Friday, will have to pay a daily charge of £5.  This charge will allow you to enter, drive around, and leave the charging zone as many times as you wish that day.  There will be no congestion charge at weekends or on public holidays.

You ask about exemptions and discounts for three wheeled vehicles. For the purposes of the congestion charging Scheme Order, motorbicycles are defined in paragraph 2 of Schedule 1 to the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994. This definition includes a two-wheeled motor scooter, a bicycle with an attachment for propelling it by mechanical power, tricycles and a motorbicycle to which a side-car is attached.  TfL considers that an exemption for motorbikes, mopeds and scooters, is justified on the basis that they contribute significantly less to congestion compared with other motorised vehicles. 

However, those 3 wheelers that are defined as cars in the Vehicle Excise and Registration Act 1994, such as the Reliant Robin, will have to pay the congestion charge. You will be able to pay the congestion charge either in advance or on the day.  The charge is £5 if you pay by 10.00pm on the day of travel.  An additional surcharge of £5 will apply if you pay between 10.00pm and midnight on the day of travel.  This is to discourage very late payment.  You will be able to pay the charge on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis, and up to three months in advance.  Payment will be able to be made by telephone, post, internet and at a widespread network of retail outlets across London including petrol stations. A Fast Track Card will also be available, containing your transaction details and registration number, all protected by a PIN number so that paying can be done more quickly for regular but infrequent users.

If you would like any further information about congestion charging, please refer to our website at

Yours sincerely,

Nick Fairholme

Policy Manager

Congestion Charging

It appears therefore that 3-wheelers will be pretty much be classed as cars and have to pay the charge but the letter states that “tricycles” will be exempt.  The Reliant Robin is classed as a tricycle though it seems to be now classed as a car. I guess I can see the logic in this as a Reliant is the same size as a mini and so will get stuck in traffic adding to the congestion.  I guess therefore all 3-wheelers that are car like will pay the charge. The question remains though if tricycles are exempt what is classed as a tricycle?  A motorbike type trike or indeed a 3-wheeler with no top or seat belts and requires a crash helmet. If so certain 3-wheelers may be able to argue that they are not cars and that they are bikes? I shall try to find out more.

Elvis Payne  July 2003

Update May 2006

I have had an email from Andy Wooley who drove his Messerschmitt KR200 into Central London on 28th April 2006 and was subjected to a fine for not paying the congestion charge. I made representations about this to TfL on the grounds that a schmitt is a motorcycle but they rejected this saying that the DVLA records show my vehicle to be a 'Historic Vehicle' and not a 'Motorcycle'! Andy printed out the information above and presented it at his appeal. The adjudicator was impressed by the e-mail from but still felt that a KR200 was not exempt. TfL admitted that the e-mail above contained an error in including 'tricycles' within the 'motor tricycles' definition but said I should not have relied on an old e-mail like this.

This is Andy’s story:

London Congestion Charging – is a KR200 exempt? 

Andy Wooley

I recently received a Penalty Charge Notice with a rather nice picture of my Schmitt driving over Waterloo Bridge in London. It seems that Transport for London (TfL) wanted me to pay a £50 fine because I had not paid the London Congestion Charge.

I objected to this fine on the basis that a Messerschmitt was a motorcycle and was, therefore, exempt from the charge. This view was based on information on their website that ‘motorbikes, with or without side-cars’ were exempt from the charge. Additionally, the Vehicle Excise & Registration Act 1994 defines a motorcycle as being a vehicle weighing less than 450kgs with either 2 or 3 wheels. The Act subdivides motorcycles into ‘motorbicycles’ (2 wheeled vehicles but including motorbicycles with a side-car attached) and ‘motortricycles (which includes 3 wheeled motor scooters). However, it should be noted that the Greater London (Central Zone) Congestion Charging Order 2001 lists ‘motorbicycles’ and not ‘motortricycles’ in its list of exempt vehicles.

TfL refused to accept my plea. Firstly, they said that my vehicle was classed by the DVLA as a ‘historic vehicle’ and was, therefore, not a motorcycle. Secondly, they stated that the exemption was only for 2-wheeled motorcycles. They also suggested that 3-wheelers would always occupy more road space than a 2-wheeled vehicle so should not be exempt.

I then asked for an appeal hearing at the Parking And Traffic Appeals Service (PATAS) and submitted evidence that all vehicles manufactured before 01 January 1973 are classed by the DVLA as ‘historic vehicles’ whether they are motorcycles or cars. I also queried how it was possible for a motorcycle and side-car to be exempted as a two-wheeled vehicle when it will always have three wheels. I also suggested that a KR200 was smaller than a Honda Gold Wing so contributed less to congestion.

My appeal was heard on 19 June and a very nice lady lawyer gave me 40 minutes of her time considering my case at the very plush PATA offices just off Trafalgar Square. As additional evidence I showed her an October 2002 e-mail from the Mayor of London’s office, which was published on the website and which stated that tricycles were exempt. She considered the evidence and seemed very much on my side and dismissed TfL’s ‘historic vehicle’ argument as a ‘red-herring’. However, she came to the conclusion that a KR200 is a ‘motortricycle’ rather than a ‘motorbicycle’ and is, therefore, not exempt from the charge. However, she felt that I had been given misleading information by TfL and it was reasonable for me to have concluded that my KR200 was exempt. She said she would have to find against me but would ask TfL to let me off the penalty in this one instance. TfL did not feel able to do this stating that the e-mail I referred to had been issued in error and was very old so I should have phoned their Call Centre to check whether my vehicle was exempt! I had to pay the £50 in the end but fighting this case was quite entertaining so the fine was probably good value – for me!

Andy Woolley