Boris Johnson’s administration is considering buying a fleet of zero emission taxis as part of its efforts to bring London into compliance with EU limits on air pollution.
It’s estimated that poor air quality in London contributes to 4,000 premature deaths each year and transport bosses and City Hall are under heavy cross-party pressure to address the problem.
Although they’ve drawn up plans to fine drivers entering central London whose vehicles don’t comply with new emission standards, the scheme won’t come into effect until September 2020.
Some health campaigners and politicians want the start date brought forward and others have called for the area covered by this ultra low emission zone to be expanded.
And although a pledge to cut emissions produced by the capital’s bus fleet has been welcomed, the Mayor has faced criticism over plans to allow some of his New Routemaster buses, which lack the cleanest engines, to continue operating inside the zone.
The latest clean-up measure under consideration is the purchase of zero emission Taxis which would then be supplied to the capital’s cabbies.
Many drivers have expressed concern over the cost of buying cleaner vehicles and Transport for London’s plans could allow it to benefit from a bulk discount which could then be passed on to drivers buying or leasing the vehicles from it.
A similar scheme was proposed by Liberal Democrats on the London Assembly earlier this year.
In a letter to the party’s Stephen Knight, Mr Johnson describes the proposal as “complex” because of TfL’s role as regulator of the taxi and private hire trades.
The agency has recently been accused of favouring the black cab trade over newer entrants such as Uber and any decision to help lower the cost of upgrading vehicles is likely to be met with criticism from competitors.
News of the possible purchase comes just weeks after the London Taxi Company unveiled a new electric cab and follows last month’s announcement that all taxis licensed for the first time from January 2018 will need to be zero emission capable.
Lib Dem AM Caroline Pidgeon has welcomed news that TfL is considering the proposal, commenting: “While they have low running costs their high purchase price is a huge barrier in terms of their adoption.
“I believe that one part of the solution, certainly in the short term, is for TfL to centrally procure a fleet of electric taxis and to either lease or sell them to drivers and garages.
“Bulk purchasing will help support the development of electric taxis and lower the prices for these vehicles.”