Mayor's tough new air quality standards to remove dirtiest black cabs from London's roads

14 December 2010
  • £1 million incentive fund to stimulate market for electric black cabs
  •  Eco-driving mandatory for new black cabbies by 2012  

The Mayor of London has today (Tuesday 14 December) announced the oldest, more polluting black cabs in the capital will lose their licence to operate, under tough new standards to improve air quality in the capital.  

Road transport is responsible for around 80 per cent of airborne pollution (PM10) in central London where air quality is worst, with black cabs contributing 20 per cent of this. 'Clearing the Air', the Mayor's final Air Quality Strategy published today, will  demand that from 1 January 2012 no black cab over 15 years old will be licensed by the Taxi and Private Hire Office. Around 1,200 black cabs are likely to be more than 15 years old in 2012. The Mayor will introduce a requirement for all new taxis entering the fleet to meet the strictest vehicles standard from 1 April 2012*. In addition, currently, all taxis are subject to a single annual inspection by Transport for London (TfL). 

From 2013, at the latest, instead of a once yearly overhaul, all taxis will be required to take two full MOT tests each year, but this will be done more simply and cost effectively at a local garage rather than at only three available inspection centres. This will ensure that the vehicles are operating as cleanly and efficiently as possible all the year round but with reduced bureaucracy. In addition, from January 2012 all aspiring cabbies will also be required to take a mandatory eco-driving course. Helping cabbies to drive more efficiently will not only help them to save money but also reduce emissions of pollutants and carbon dioxide.

The Mayor and TfL have also announced a £1 million fund to encourage taxi owners to upgrade to low emission vehicles such as electric black cabs. Taxi owners who are upgrading their vehicles will be able to avail of the fund to upgrade to the cleanest vehicles available. Further details of the fund will be announced in 2011.

Boris Johnson, Mayor of London, said: 'London's magnificent cabbies are famous the world over for their top notch service, but I also want the capital's taxi fleet to match up to the highest environmental standards that a great city like ours deserves.

 'From 2012 when the world heads to London, we will remove the oldest, dirtiest cabs from our streets. But we are also offering a juicy carrot, with the establishment of a fund to help speed up the introduction of electric black cabs. This forms part of a robust package of long-term measures to progressively clean up London's air.'   

The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy sets out a package of measures to clean up the capital. Just last week, the Mayor announced the creation of the UK's only zero-emission bus route with the use of eight hydrogen buses that emit only water vapour. The bus route will go through some of London's most polluted areas in central London. TfL has already begun the UK's first trial applying dust suppressants at two central London locations with high levels of particulate matter pollution (PM10). The dust suppressant is a solution made up of Calcium Magnesium Acetate that literally sticks the particulate matter to the road and prevents it re-circulating in the air.

Other measures in the strategy include: 

  • Retrofitting older buses so that they meet the Euro IV standard for NOx; 
  • Introducing vans and minibuses to the LEZ from January 2012; 
  • Introducing a NOx standard into the LEZ from 2015; 
  • Encouraging the use of electric vehicles through schemes such as Source London; 
  • Updating and fully implementing guidance for reducing dust at construction and demolition sites; 
  • Using the planning system to make new developments ‘air quality neutral’; 
  • Energy efficiency programmes to reduce emissions from heating of homes and workplaces.

Implementation of the policies and proposals in the strategy is expected to reduce PM10 emissions in central London by around 13 per cent by 2011 and by about a third by 2015 (compared to 2008). Together with the targeted local measures in priority areas, modelling suggests that this will allow London to be compliant with legal limits by 2011. The strategy will also see NOx emissions fall by 35 per cent by 2015 (compared to 2008 levels). 

The Mayor is already implementing a range of measures in London to improve air quality such as introducing a hybrid bus fleet, record levels of investment in cycling and programmes to cut emissions from homes and workplaces. The New Bus for London, due to enter service in 2012, will incorporate the latest hybrid technology and will be both 40 per cent more fuel efficient than conventional diesel buses and 15 per cent more fuel efficient than current London hybrid buses.


Notes to editors: 

  1. The Mayor's Air Quality Strategy 'Clearing the air' can be found at:  
  2. Vehicles will need to meet Euro 5 standards.The two areas that the dust suppressants have been trialled in are A3211, from Waterloo Bridge through Victoria Embankment, Upper Thames Street ending at Tower Hill and the A501, Marylebone Road and Euston Road from the A5 Edgware Road to York Way at King's Cross station. 
  3. There are a range of measures already being delivered in London to improve air quality: 
  • Development of electric vehicle infrastructure
  • Congestion charging and the London Low Emission Zone. The current Low Emission Zone will continue to operate to reduce emissions from the heaviest, most polluting vehicles; the Mayor will introduce phase 4 of the scheme in January 2012 to require Euro IV standards for HGVs, buses and coaches;
  • Smarter travel initiatives to encourage a shift to cleaner modes of transport;      
  • Funding and supporting car clubs (especially hybrid and electric cars);        
  • Smoothing traffic flows;      
  • Publication and implementation of the London Best Practice Guidance for controlling dust and emissions from construction. 


Media enquiries please call Hilary Merrett at the Mayor’s Press Office on 020 7983 4755. Numbers not for publication. 
For out of hours media enquiries please call 020 7983 4000. For non-media enquiries please call the Public Liaison Unit on 020 7983 4100.