The Mayor and Transport for London (TfL) have unveiled a package of measures to reduce air pollution and congestion in central London, with the aim of protecting Londoners’ health and giving them the air quality they deserve.
The package confirms that private hire vehicles will no longer be exempt from the Congestion Charge. This change will help reduce congestion and, combined with the start of the Ultra Low Emission Zone next April, will ensure further action is taken to clean up this fleet.
Following a public consultation that received more than 10,000 responses, the changes to the Congestion Charge include the replacement of the Ultra Low Emission Discount with a new phased Cleaner Vehicle Discount (CVD) that will incentivise only the cleanest vehicles to drive in central London.
In the first phase, only zero emission-capable vehicles will be exempt from the Congestion Charge from 8 April 2019. The restrictions will tighten further in October 2021 to support the Mayor’s ambition for zero-emission road transport by 2050, with only pure electric vehicles qualifying for the discount. The discount will expire in December 2025.
The Mayor has also announced that PHVs that do not meet the CVD standard or are not wheelchair accessible will also be discouraged from driving in central London with the removal of their exemption from the Congestion Charge.
The changes affecting PHVs will help tackle congestion and its associated problems, such as poor air quality, and are expected to reduce the number of PHVs circulating in the Congestion Charging Zone by up to 8,000 a day. The proposal was supported by the majority of respondents to the consultation.
Since the start of this year new diesel taxis have been banned from being licensed to operate on London’s streets but further measures are required to deliver vital improvements in air quality to protect public health.
Recent analysis by the International Council on Clean Transportation shows that real-world emissions from London taxis are seven times laboratory limits, far exceeding passenger diesel cars. Taxis are currently responsible for 20 per cent of harmful NOx emissions and by 2020 they will be the biggest source of transport pollution in central London.
The new package of measures being proposed by the Mayor and TfL to tackle taxi emissions and support drivers switching to new zero emission capable taxis includes:
An enhanced delicensing fund, providing up to £10,000 for drivers who trade in their older, dirtier vehicles early
A £2.5 million fund to help drivers of newer Euro 5 taxis to convert to much cleaner LPG fuel
A consultation early next year on a phased reduction in maximum taxi age limits for the dirtiest vehicles from 15 years to 12 years by 2022
These moves will help ensure the Mayor is on track for reducing taxi emissions by 65 per cent in 2025 to protect the health of Londoners.
This work coincides with the delivery of 150 rapid-charge points and generous grants of £7,500 to help taxi drivers to switch to electric as soon as possible. There are now nearly 1,000 zero-emission-capable taxis in the fleet.
The take-up of existing support to delicense dirty diesels has been low, with only around £450,000 of a multimillion pound fund used. TfL has restructured this funding to make it more attractive, with £18m of payments available for taxi drivers who delicense their vehicles. Top payments of £10,000 are available to the first 250 applicants, with tiered payment levels available at significantly higher levels than the current scheme. A limited number of LPG conversion grants will also be available to drivers of Euro 5 taxis to support the shift of those vehicles with the worst NOx emissions to cleaner vehicles. The new delicensing payments and LPG grants will be open to applicants in January 2019.
TfL will consult on proposals to reduce the taxi age limit for the dirtiest vehicles to 12 years by 2022. The 15-year age limit would be strictly mandated in 2019, with a proposed reduction in the age limit each year until a 12 year age limit is reached. The age limit for Euro 6, LPG and ZEC taxis is proposed to remain at 15 years.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan said: “Toxic air pollution in London is a major public health crisis that is stunting the lung development of our children and leads to thousands of premature deaths and increases the risk of asthma and dementia. We have to make tough decisions to protect the health and wellbeing of Londoners and tackle harmful emissions from the most polluting vehicles. We’ve prioritised cleaning up our bus fleet and the early introduction of the 24-hour Ultra Low Emission Zone in central London. Now we need private hire vehicles and taxis to play their part and help us clean up our filthy air.”
Alex Williams, TfL’s Director of City Planning, said: “Bold action is required to tackle London’s public health crisis. The taxi and private hire trades are central to reducing the filthy fumes circulating in our city. This package of measures will contribute to fewer vehicles driving where pollution is most concentrated and encourage the switch from diesel to electric.”
Tanya Braun, Head of Policy and Communications at Living Streets, said: “Given the exponential growth of private hire vehicles in London, TfL has taken an important step in removing the Congestion Charge exemption for PHVs across the city.”
Dr Jonathan Grigg, Professor of Paediatric Respiratory and Environmental Medicine, Queen Mary University of London, said: “Unfortunately older black cabs produce very high levels of toxic emissions. It is therefore reasonable that the GLA removes this fleet from London’s roads as soon as possible. This is an effective way of protecting Londoner's health - especially the health of vulnerable young children.”
Drew Kodjak, Executive Director of the International Council on Clean Transportation, said “The TRUE initiative has been working closely with London’s Mayor’s Office to investigate the real world emissions of vehicles driving on London’s roads. Our analysis has found that the policies that have been put in place to reduce harmful emissions from London’s bus fleet have resulted in significant decreases over the past five years. Over the same time period emissions from London’s black taxi cab fleet have been on the rise. We commend Mayor Khan and his staff for taking action to address harmful emissions from taxi cabs in the city.”