Congestion Charge crackdown on taxis causing lethal air pollution

TFL and London Mayor Sadiq Khan, have announced new plans to tackle toxic emissions in the capital.

Transport for London and Mayor Sadiq Khan have released a statement outlining their plans to combat London’s lethal air levels. The measures aim to reduce congestion, toxic emissions and protect Londoners health. Taxis are currently responsible for 20% of the city’s nitrogen oxide emissions.

Mr 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’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.”

As part of the measures, TFL announced that private hire vehicles (PHV’s) such as uber cars, will be hit, with their Congestion Charge exemption being removed. From 8th April next year, only zero emission-capable vehicles will be exempt from the Congestion Charge.

Following public consultation in which 10,000 responses were received, TFL have brought in a new Cleaner Vehicle Discount, designed to ‘incentivise only the cleanest vehicles to drive in central London.’

PHVs that do not meet the stringent standards of the Clean Vehicle Discount or are not wheelchair accessible will also be dissuaded from driving in central London, with the removal of their Congestion Charge exemption.

These tough stipulations come after new diesel taxis have been banned from operating on London’s streets since the beginning of 2018, while drivers of dirtier diesel vehicles are being encouraged to trade in their vehicles early as part of a dilicensing fund.

TFL are offering grants of £7,500 to taxis wanting to switch to electric cars, while they are rolling out 150 rapid charge points across the city.

However, some say London’s traditional black cab taxi fleet must also have stricter regulations placed upon them.

Drew Kodjak, Executive Director of the International Council on Clean Transportation said that while TFL have already taken important steps forward in terms of lowering emission from London’s fleet of buses in the past five years, emissions from black cabs have been rising during that time, which needs rectifying.

Black cab driver Tarnia, 51, does not believe black cab drivers are getting an unfair advantage by keeping their Congestion Charge exemption.

She said: “A £7,500 grant to encourage us to go electric on a vehicle costing £60,000, it’s not going anywhere is it? Once normal cabs can’t be relicensed because of the age limit (taxis are delicensed after 15 years), those that own them are letting them go and electric cars are too expensive to buy, so blacks cabs are becoming scarcer and the few that own them can put the rent prices up.

TFL regulate our fares, but not anyone else’s. So if we get the congestion charge exemption, I think it is a small perk we deserve. Its important to keep some things that belong to London, the buses and black cabs have been there forever.

The black cabs will eventually die out. I was a black cab examiner years ago, and used to examine 150 people a week. People I know that still work at TFL say they are struggling to examine 12 people a week, a huge drop! So yes I think we should be exempt from congestion charge. I think we have to keep our buses and cabs, its part of our tradition. I understand that we need to reduce pollution rates, but we need help buying the cleaner cabs.”

John, who is part of a private hire vehicle firm, said: “Unless you get a cleaner vehicle, London based or not, you will be hit really hard. They are trying to get rid of diesel cars and do the right thing, but people are now driving petrol and consequently petrol emissions such as carbon monoxide have risen, it’s horrible. One problem has been substituted for another.

The stricter they can get, the better! We need to sort out our skies, but if you have electric cabs, the problem is there are nowhere near enough charging points in town to supply all the cabs if we were all to switch.”

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