Transport for London (TfL), the body responsible for most of the transport network in London including buses, the underground and overland trains, has banned all privately-owned e-scooters and e-unicycles from its transport network with immediate effect.

This is the result, says TfL, of safety concerns following recent fires. Customers in possession of such devices will not be permitted to enter any premises on TfL’s network or travel on any of its services, including on the Tube, buses, Overground, TfL Rail, Trams and DLR.

In response to recent incidents, TfL has undertaken further work to review the safety of the vehicles and their suitability for carriage on the TfL transport network.

This review has found that the incidents were caused by defective lithium-ion batteries, which ruptured without warning. This led to fires that caused toxic smoke to be released.

TfL consider that if this were to happen again and fires occurred in an enclosed area like a Tube train or a bus, there could be harm to both customers and staff, as well as secondary injuries from customers trying to escape the area.

Whilst privately owned e-scooters remain illegal to use in public spaces, they are widely available for purchase. Private e-scooters and e-unicycles are currently unregulated, meaning they are not currently required to meet any minimum vehicle standards.

TfL added it will keep these changes under review pending any future changes to legislation by the government regarding e-scooters and e-unicycles, specifically around safety standards.

Additionally, TfL is collecting data from the rental e-scooter trials to help shape future policy on safety standards in London and the rest of the UK. TfL’s trial of rental e-scooters, which began in June 2021 as part of trials permitted nationally by the Department for Transport (DfT), offer the only e-scooters legally allowed on London’s roads.

These rental e-scooters are also not currently allowed on TfL services.

Lilli Matson, TfL’s chief safety, health and environment officer, said, “Our primary concern is always for the safety of our customers and staff. We have been extremely worried by the recent incidents on our public transport services, which involved intense fires and considerable smoke and damage.

“We have worked with London Fire Brigade to determine how we should deal with these devices and, following that review, we have decided to ban them. Customers who try to bring them onto our network will be refused access to our stations and premises, and not be permitted to use any of our services.”

The ban does not apply to mobility scooters or foldable e-bikes. TfL said e-bikes are generally subject to better manufacturing standards and the batteries are usually positioned in a place where they are less likely to be damaged, and so are less of a fire risk.

Non-foldable e-bikes will continue to be allowed on some parts of the network at certain times of the day.