Taxi Age Limit

Questions to the Mayor of London – answered on 28th June 2019.

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Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Have you and TfL made a final decision on whether or not to reduce the taxi age limit to twelve years?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

TfL is currently reviewing the responses from the consultation and preparing a consultation report which we published, alongside their final decision later this summer. The health impacts of air pollution are unacceptable. Thousands of premature deaths, stunted lungs in our children and increased risk of stroke and dementia in the old. These impacts fall unequally, with those living in deprived areas exposed to around a quarter more pollution. I refuse to be a Mayor that ignores this crisis.

I have taken decisive action to tackle London’s air quality crisis and this involves cleaning up all the vehicles on London’s roads. While I welcome the efforts the taxi trade has already taken to reduce its emissions from this year, taxis will be the largest source of road transport emissions in central London. They will contribute over 20% of nitrogen dioxide and nitrogen oxide (NOx) road transport emissions. Indeed, due to improvements across the rest of the vehicle fleet, TfL estimates this figure will be more than 30% by 2020.

There are legal limits for concentrations of pollutants in outdoor air. These have been put in place to protect people’s health. If we are to achieve these legal standards as quickly as possible, as I want to do and as I am legally required to do, then we must reduce NOx emissions from taxis in central London by 65% by 2025 compared to 2013 levels.

After considering and modelling the air quality impacts of a range of options to address taxi emissions, TfL considered that a phased reduction of the taxi age limit to 12 years by 2022 would be needed to deliver the reduction in taxi emissions required to achieve compliance by 2025. These proposals were subject to a ten‑week public consultation earlier this year which received more than 5,000 responses.

Photo of Tony Arbour Tony Arbour Conservative

Assembly Member Prince?

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Thank you, Mr Mayor. First off, as an East Ender, can I welcome the progress that you are making on the Silvertown Tunnel? Although we do not quite agree on the tolling, I think in principle you are absolutely right around the buses and pushbikes being able to go through the tunnel, which is something that cannot be done using the current tunnel. Credit where it is due.

Secondly, can you just answer the question, though? Has the decision been made yet on the 12 years or is it still under consideration?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is still being considered and we hope to have an outcome this summer [2019]. I am using seasons now rather than months for reasons that my advisor told me is sensible to do.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

It is very sensible to use seasons in your case, Mr Mayor. Can I just ask you? Do you think it is appropriate, therefore, Mr Mayor, that before you have made the decision - and I think it is your decision to be made - a member of the TfL staff back in April [2019], whilst speaking to a member of the United Private Hire Drivers, told them not to worry about private hire vehicles (PHVs) having to pay the Congestion Charge because the taxis are going to get 12 years? A couple of things there, Mr Mayor. One, do you think it is appropriate that a member of TfL staff should be pre-empting your decision? Secondly, is it quid pro quo because if you do a bad thing to the PHV, i.e. charging Congestion Charge, you then have to do a bad thing to the taxi trade?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

With the normal caveats, just on what you have told me, that would be inappropriate, but I do not have the context or the accuracy. No, it is not tit-for-tat. It is not these lot versus this lot. It is trying to make sure we address the air quality crisis.

The Congestion Charge in relation to PHVs is more congestion than air quality but there is a clear link. You will know, though, the legal requirements there are upon us to address the issue of air quality. With the usual caveats about accuracy and stuff, no, it would not be appropriate.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

No, that is fine. I personally think it is very inappropriate and I am glad that we agree. An awful chance of us agreeing quite a lot.

I would like to ask you another question. I believe that your current scheme of reducing the lifetime expectancy down to 12 years saves some 8,000 kilograms of NOx over a period of time. I was approached yesterday by the Licensed Taxi Drivers’ Association (LTDA), who I am sure you are familiar with. It has a proposal that it would like to put to you which would save 12,000 rather than 8,000 over the same period. Would you be happy to meet with them and me just to go through that, Mr Mayor?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, I am not sure if this is the same idea put to me by the LTDA in a letter it wrote to me about retrofitting. I have asked TfL to look into all the ideas that we receive, including the ones from LTDA. My understanding is TfL is exploring the alternative options that LTDA has suggested to me. It wrote to me, and TfL will be responding in due course.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

You know I do not often ask this of you, and hopefully we never waste our time when we do. Because it is so important, because there are a lot of financial implications around reducing the lifespan down to 12 years, would you be prepared to meet with me and the LTDA to look at this, Mr Mayor?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I do not think a meeting is required, because the issue is the technical data that the LTDA is relying upon in relation to its suggestion. The more important thing is not meeting the LTDA. I saw it last week actually in relation to the electric vehicle charging point, the announcement I made with the delivery plan. What is more important is TfL explores what has been suggested by it, and as I understand it, it is doing that now.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

How can we be assured that that information gets to you, Mr Mayor?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Because I have asked for it. They are letters to me, and it is for me to respond to the LTDA, and I am waiting for the information from my team before I respond to the LTDA.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Would you, therefore, Mr Mayor, commit that before you make the final decision on reducing the taxi lifespan to 12 years, if you are not convinced by the arguments that are being put to you by officers, that you would agree to a meeting before you make ‑‑

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

Chair, if I am not convinced by the arguments put to me by the officers, that means that we will not be reducing the life expectancy from 15 years to 12 years of the taxis. It is a genuine consultation. It is what it says on the tin. There will be a detailed integrated impact assessment - that is being completed - to support the consultation. TfL - and I am the Chair of TfL - will decide whether to proceed with the proposals. It is a genuine consultation.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

The question, Mr Mayor - I will just rephrase it slightly - was around if you are not convinced by the LTDA’s argument around not reducing the 12 years, before you do reduce it would you agree just to allow them to put the argument directly to you?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

I would more than happily agree with them to meet the experts in TfL. I am not an engineer, so it is important for them to meet the engineers at TfL to persuade them. This is a hypothetical question, Chairman, based on a number of premises. The hypothetical question is, if the TfL experts disagree with the submissions made by the LTDA, would I agree to meet with the LTDA? The answer is in those scenarios I would be very happy for the TfL experts to meet with the LTDA experts to see if they can agree on the conclusions that have been asserted by the LTDA.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

Thank you. One very quick last question, Mr Mayor. You have your Car-Free Day coming up I believe. Will buses and black cabs be running on that day?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

The World Car-Free Day on 22 September [2019] is a voluntary initiative, so it is councils agreeing to do various things across the city. Nineteen councils have already signed up to do various things. I am hoping more will sign up. That includes within central London 20 kilometres that will be completely car-free. City of London is our biggest council involved there. There will be play streets across various boroughs in London where side roads will essentially be closed and children and families will be playing on those streets. In some streets that will mean no taxis and no cars, no buses, actually very few streets across London.

What I am hoping is that we can demonstrate that it is possible to have a day when there is less reliance on cars in parts of London, but it is not the whole of London, and it is a voluntary initiative with councils working with us.

Photo of Keith Prince Keith Prince Conservative

I am just conscious of time, Mr Mayor. Would you be kind enough to supply the information as to where the buses and the taxis will or will not be going?

Photo of Sadiq Khan Sadiq Khan Mayor of London

It is always evolving. What I am happy to do is to provide you with information as to what has been agreed so far, but I am hoping more councils sign up. It was 16 last week. It is 19 this week. There could be more by 22 September.