Taxi Emissions Strategy

Sarah Legge from the Greater London Authority explains how cutting taxi exhaust fumes will play a part in creating the London wide Low Emission Zone.

The London taxi is an icon of the city. But its emissions contribute to the worst air pollution in England. That is why the Mayor of London recently announced a radical new strategy to reduce emissions from London’s black cabs, as part of an overall policy to declare London the UK’s first Low Emission Zone.

It is estimated that 1,600 people die prematurely every year due to air pollution in London. Much larger numbers of Londoners, particularly children and older people, suffer respiratory problems such as asthma on a daily basis.

Road transport is responsible for around half of the emissions of the key pollutants in greater London (55 per cent of the oxides of nitrogen, NOx, emissions and 46 per cent of the emissions of particulate matter, PM10) (London Atmospheric Emissions Inventory 2001).

The Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy (published in September 2002) looks at a number of broad issues, including air travel, sustainable buildings and pollution from construction, but it focuses on transport as the largest source of air pollution in London. The strategy considers ways of reducing the amount of traffic, through the improvement in alternative modes, including the London bus system. It also explores measures to reduce the emissions from individual vehicles, again in London buses, but also lorries, coaches, taxis and private cars.

A major initiative arising from the Mayor’s Air Quality Strategy is to designate London as a Low Emission Zone (LEZ). This will ban the most polluting lorries, buses, coaches and taxis from our streets. A detailed feasibility report was published in 2003 (this is available at and recommended that buses, lorries and coaches should be subject to emission standards from 2007, with more stringent standards from 2010. The requirements for lorries, buses and coaches in the London LEZ is currently under development.

Taxis are a key part of the plans for a Low Emission Zone. Taxis emit 24 per cent of the fine particles (PM10) and 12 per cent of the NOx of road transport emissions in central London. The Mayor’s Taxi Emission Strategy has been developed to help the taxi trade meet their requirements under the London LEZ and could reduce the emissions by up to 50 per cent for both NOx and PM10.

The strategy will provide clarification on the required emission standards for taxis and the funding mechanisms to support the improvements, without imposing significant financial burden on the trade. It requires all taxis to meet the Euro III emission standards by the end of 2008. The strategy uses a phased approach, so the oldest, most polluting taxis (those which do not meet any Euro set emission standard) are addressed from July this year. The exact requirements are:

  • From 1 July 2006 all taxis that are of a pre-Euro emissions standard will be required to meet Euro III standards. There are currently approximately 2,400 pre-Euro taxis.
  • As of 1 January 2007 all taxis that are of a Euro I emissions standard will be required to meet Euro III standards. There are currently approximately 8,700 Euro I taxis.
  • As of January 1 2008 all taxis that are of a Euro I emissions standard will be required to meet Euro III standards. There are currently approximately 5,400 Euro II taxis.

    The Strategy will be implemented by the Public Carriage Office, within Transport for London. Taxis will be required to meet the Emission Strategy as a condition of being licensed to work within London. Taxis already have to meet various conditions of fitness as part of their licensing programme. Taxis will be required to meet the standards at the time of their annual licensing review. These reviews occur throughout the year, so the standards will take up to a year to work through the relevant sections of the fleet.

    Taxi owners have a number of options available to them. They can bring forward the purchase of a new (or newer) vehicle; fit approved emission abatement equipment, such as a SCR (selective catalytic reduction) or convert their vehicles to run on (approved) alternative fuels.

    New technologies which become available during the implementation of the strategy, can be added to the approved list, subject to accreditation by TransportEnergy and the Public Carriage Office. This accreditation process includes emissions reduction testing and durability tests.

    A demonstration project for potential technologies is being carried out by TransportEnergy, with the support of the Mayor and the Public Carriage Office. This includes a six month trial of the technologies which are proven to provide the required emission reductions, or could potentially and realistically do so in the near future.

    The costs of these improvements will be met by an “environmental surcharge” on each fare. The additional 20 pence per journey will provide the average taxi driver with enough money to cover the current cheapest option. In addition, London’s taxi drivers should benefit more than most from the improvement in air quality, as they spend long hours on the road and tend to operate in the most polluted areas of London, in central London and around Heathrow.

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