Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Black Cabs and London Air Pollution

The BBC reports on the London Mayor's strategy to limit black cab emissions. As this blog has pointed out before, Boris has a very relaxed attitude to air quality, and it seems that none of the measures is actually going to kick in before 2012. According to Martin Powell, the Mayor’s Advisor for the Environment, "from 1 January 2012 no black cab over 15 years will be licensed to the same year, the Mayor is also introducing a tough new standard for all new taxis entering the fleet, while from 2013, at the latest, all cabs will have to have two full MOTs each year". Note that the MOTs can be done at a local garage rather than an inspection centre, which raises the possibility of fraudulent evasion of the emissions standards.

I'm a little confused by the BBC's assertion that

"The mayor's proposal is expected to reduce airborne PM10 emissions in central London by around 13% by 2011 and by about a third by 2015, compared to 2008."

None of the measures mentioned take effect until 2012. Any reductions by 2011 would be due to measures put in place by the previous Mayor. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if emissions increase in 2011 due to abolition of the Congestion Charge WEZ, and more vehicles being exempted from the congestion charge.

Another thing the BBC appears to have got wrong is its claim that
"road traffic is responsible for about 80% of airborne pollution in central London, with black cabs contributing 20% of this."
The Mayor's draft Air Quality Strategy says "In central London where the [pollution] hotspots are, taxis are a particular problem, accounting for 35 per cent of emissions from exhausts".

Given the Olympics is being held in London in 2012, the city is in serious danger of being embarrassed by its air pollution and may have to take drastic measures to alleviate it, including - perish the thought - banning cars.

As a measure of how watered down the taxi proposals are, the BBC reported that "the Licensed Taxi Drivers Association (LTDA) welcomed the move", which seems a pretty good indication that it doesn't go far enough. "An LTDA spokesman said the policy targeting old black cabs was a 'good compromise between bringing the improvements we all want and avoiding the serious financial hardship that the 10 year age limit...would have inflicted on the taxi trade' ". (For "serious financial hardship", read "a couple of quid a day"). Never mind financial hardship, what about the hardship of the estimated 50,000 people who die every year due to air pollution? Note that the Mayor seems to have ditched his original 10-year taxi age limit that was originally scheduled for 2015. A new zero-emission taxi won't be mandatory until 2020, and even then with the 15-year age limit, other factors remaining constant it will be 2027 before half the taxi fleet is zero-emission.


  1. There is a necessity for check to control air pollution.It is causing health hazard to one and many.There are more respiratory disorders reported today than the last 5 years.
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  2. I love the classic looking taxi's in the London. But some people have the bad experience with them. I prefer to book my taxi before two or three days.

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  3. Black cabs are my favorite but it’s important to control over pollution. Air pollution is the major cause of many diseases. Your blog post is really very good and informative. I like it a lot. Thanks for sharing.
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