The Mayor of London has stated that without the stricter age limits diesel cabs would continue to ‘dominate the taxi fleet’.
Currently in London there are just 14,638 black cabs licensed. 3,925 of those are Zero Emissions Capable (ZEC) taxis which include the LEVC TX and Nissan Dynamo models. Of the remaining licensed taxis over a quarter of the taxi fleet (27%) are now ZEC.
Worryingly, the number of wheelchair accessible taxi vehicles in the capital has decreased by over 20% since the turn of the financial year in April. That figure represents a total of 3,866 less taxis available in London.
According to taxi representatives there is also now a ‘real danger’ of seeing a DROP in the new greener ZEC taxis as ‘predatory’ finance companies get set to start repossessing electric taxis due to the economic effects of COVID-19.
As drivers struggle during the pandemic, investment in new greener vehicles is likely to be challenging as cabbies' savings dwindle and the job remains unviable for many during lockdown. To help keep the taxi fleet steady during the pandemic, there have been calls to scrap the lower age limits placed on older taxis in the capital.
Even before COVID-19 the London Assembly called for the Mayor to maintain the maximum taxi licence age at 15 years and bring back the Mercedes Vito taxi for first time registration.
The cross party Assembly said in September 2019, that the effects of the lower age limits would cause real hardship and disruption to many London taxi drivers, who simply will not be able to purchase or hire a new taxi due to lack of supply.
In November, Alison Moore, a Labour London Assembly Member, asked the Mayor of London: “In order to achieve air quality compliance by 2025, London must reduce taxi emissions by 65 per cent, based on 2013 levels.
“As a result, you are reducing Taxi Age limits from 15 years as of 1st November 2019 to 12 years from 1st November 2022. What would happen to London’s air quality if this decision were reversed?”
Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, responded last week saying: “I have taken decisive action to tackle London’s air quality crisis and this involves cleaning up all the vehicles on London’s roads. A reduction in emissions from taxis is a significant part of achieving legal pollution limits in combination with other policies to reduce emissions including the operation of Ultra Low Emission Zone and tightening of heavy vehicle Low Emission Zone (LEZ) standards. Taxis are exempt from these schemes and the Congestion Charge, their emissions are instead controlled by vehicle licensing requirements, including age limits.
“I welcome the efforts the taxi trade has already taken to reduce its emissions. Given emerging evidence of the association between air pollution and the most severe effects of coronavirus, it is essential we continue to take action to protect Londoners’ health. We must achieve these legal standards as quickly as possible. To achieve legal compliance we need to reduce NOx emissions from London taxis by 65 per cent by 2025 compared to 2013 levels.
“The phased approach to diesel taxi age limits, alongside support for delicensing and uptake of ZEC taxis, means we are back on track to meet the 2025 legal requirement. Without tighter age limits, diesel taxis would have continued to dominate the taxi fleet and the pollution profile of road transport emissions in central London.
“Taxis were forecast to contribute around 30 per cent of central London road traffic NOx in 2025 without the introduction of taxi age limits. By introducing taxi age limits, taxis are forecast to contribute around a third less road traffic NOx in 2025. The equivalent of 20 per cent of central London road traffic NOx in 2025. Reducing diesel taxi age limits is the most effective way to ensure we deliver the necessary cleaning of the fleet while taking a measured and supportive approach by phasing over a three-year period.”