Black Cab Trade

Plenary on 2019-02-07
Session date: 
February 7, 2019
Question By: 
David Kurten
Asked Of: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)


What are your plans for the future of the black cab trade in London? 

Supplementary Questions: 


Black Cab Trade

Black Cab Trade

Answered By: 
Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London) & Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner, Transport for London)

Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Thank you, Chairman.  London’s taxis provide a reliable and trusted service to Londoners, tourists and businesspeople, offering customers safety and convenience.  Our taxi drivers use wheelchair‑accessible vehicles and are required to meet the strictest safety standards.  They possess the incredible geographical recall and sense of direction that only those with the [London] Knowledge have. 


My 2016 Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan outlined several measures that TfL have put in place to make sure that drivers can continue to access bus lanes, a right we previously defended in court, to support quicker and more convenient journeys, and to introduce card and contactless payment in all taxis.  We have exceeded our target of a 20% increase in taxi ranks across London by 2020 and are continuing to press for additional rank locations across London.  We have enabled access to an additional 18 bus lanes at key locations on our road network and written to London boroughs to seek access to bus lanes on roads they control.  We have applied to the Office of Qualifications and Examinations seeking recognition of the [London] Knowledge to be accredited as a formal qualification and published a brochure on how to become and taxi driver to encourage and promote the benefits of becoming one of London’s taxi drivers. 


Taxis are switching to brand new, purpose‑built ZEC taxis.  So far TfL has licensed over 1,100 ZEC taxis and I want this to increase significantly in the coming years.  In December [2018] we announced further plans to tackle taxi emissions and support drivers in switching to these new ZEC taxis.  This included proposals on plans to reduce the age limit of the most polluting taxi vehicles from 15 years to 12, with a public consultation planned for early this year [2019].  To provide drivers with financial support to make the switch to cleaner, environmentally responsible vehicles, TfL has restructured its Delicensing Fund.  This £80 million fund now provides up to £10,000 for those who trade in their older, dirtier vehicles early, which is double the maximum amount of the previous scheme.  In addition, TfL has set up a £2.5 million fund to help drivers of eligible Euro V taxis to convert to liquid petroleum gas. 


TfL will continue to expand London’s rapid charging infrastructure and has already met its target of installing 150 rapid charging points by the end of 2018 with 64 fully dedicated to taxis.  We are now working to achieve the next target of delivering a total of 300 by the end of 2020.  Another key focus will be to continue to press the Government to implement the legislative change needed to address the issues affecting taxi and private hire trades.


David Kurten AM:  Great.  Thank you for your answer, Mr Mayor.  In your Transport Strategy you say you want 80% of journeys to be made either by walking, by cycling or by public transport by 2041.  That is your aim and your target.  Does that 80% figure include taxis?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  No, it does not.


David Kurten AM:  It does not.  You have said in the past that taxis are a vital part of London’s public transport system.  Why does that 80% figure not include taxis if they are a vital part of London’s public transport system?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  If I may answer that, the focus has been clearly on the work to ensure that there is an accessible bus service for everyone across London, which is why we are doing the work we are doing to reconfigure the bus network, as we discussed earlier on, and to ensure that we continue with the modernisation of the Underground network and indeed continue with our quest to have greater control over London’s suburban rail networks, for example, the routes into Moorgate that we were discussing earlier on. 


That does not mean that taxis have no part to play in terms of moving Londoners around the city and the support given, as the Mayor outlined, to the black taxis in particular in terms of taxi ranks, an increase from 500 to over 640, a 20% increase as the Mayor said, the promotion of the [London] Knowledge and working with the taxi trade to ensure access to bus lanes ‑‑


David Kurten AM:  OK, I will just stop you there because you are just repeating the Mayor.


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  They are an important contributing factor but it is not included in the core number.



David Kurten AM:  OK.  I hear your answer.  I am disappointed with your answer to that question but let us move on.


You have offered the Taxi Delicensing Scheme, a fund for taxi drivers who need to upgrade to a ZEC taxi, particularly ones who are coming up to their taxis being 15 years old, as they drop out of the licence, but the amount of money has been reduced from £42 million to £18 million.  It has gone down by £24 million.  Where has that money gone?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  First, it is worth reminding the Assembly that of the £42 million, only £485,000 had been used.  The previous scheme, which was consulted on before I became Mayor and supported by the taxi trade, was clearly not fit for purpose because nobody was using it.  Of the thousands of black taxis that would be eligible to delicense their vehicle using the scheme, only 192 had taken advantage. 


We can leave that pot of money just sitting there, not doing what it is supposed to be doing, or we can devise a new scheme that is fit for purpose and encourages more drivers to delicense their vehicles.  We have had more taxi drivers take advantage and express an interest in the new scheme in the first 24 hours than in the previous 17 months put together.


David Kurten AM:  How many, Mr Mayor?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  We will be publishing those figures shortly but more than 192 in 24 hours.  Clearly the new scheme is more advantageous to taxi drivers and I am sure you will welcome that. 


David Kurten AM:  One of the things in your new scheme is that you have increased the maximum amount available from £5,000 to £10,000 but only for 250 taxi drivers, the first 250.  As there is now more interest, should you not have kept that at £42 million?  My question was: where has the rest of the money gone?  Have you simply reallocated that £24 million into the diesel scrappage scheme?  Is that where it has gone?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  No, that is not where it has gone.  At a previous Mayor’s Question Time, Chairman, I said that I am happy to look into whether there is any interest from the taxi trade to delicensing which means the amount of money we would need would be more than £18 million.  I would be happy to look into that.


David Kurten AM:  OK, fine, but it must be somewhere.  I just wonder, where has it gone?  It is a simple question.  You have propagandised your scheme, it is new and there are some new features in it, but where has the rest of the money gone?  It does not seem you are going to answer that question today. 


Let me ask you about the number of ZEC taxis that you have?  You mention there 1,100 have already been registered.  You talked about a target of having 9,000.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  The previous Mayor’s target, which is important. 


David Kurten AM:  You are sticking to that target.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  We should.


David Kurten AM:  OK.  Is that by the beginning or the end of 2020?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is during 2020.  One of the issues that people have raised with me is the production capacity of the plant producing the new taxis.  I have been up there to see them.  They are absolutely fully mobilised delivering these fantastic new vehicles.  By the way, as you will well know, when drivers drive the new vehicles they do think they are fantastic, as well as passengers, with the additional facilities that they have.


David Kurten AM:  They do, but the question was ‑ it was a simple one ‑ is it by the beginning or the end of 2020?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  It is during 2020.


David Kurten AM:  During?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Yes.


David Kurten AM:  An unspecified date in 2020?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  During 2020.


David Kurten AM:  During, but not specified when?


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  You can be overly precise with these figures.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  To be fair, that chap that you are a big fan of, it was his target, and so if you want to criticise somebody criticise him. 


David Kurten AM:  You are the Mayor now and so you do need to be able to talk about the delivery of those thing.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  There was a target set by Boris Johnson [former Mayor of London].  To be fair to the current Mayor, it was set by the previous Mayor.  As you are a big fan of his you welcomed it, I am sure.


David Kurten AM:  You want 9,000 taxis to be ZEC because you are sticking to the target.  Though we have to have that many ‑ you say you are sticking to that target ‑ one issue with those is that there simply are not enough charging points for the taxi drivers who have bought ZECs to be able to access them.  You said that there are only 150.  What are you going to do to increase the number of rapid charging points for these 9,000 ZECs that are going to come in in the next year?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  The target we had, my target, was to have 150 rapid charging points by the end of 2018.  We have those. 


David Kurten AM:  There are still queues, though.  There are still not enough.


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  Sure.  More than 60 are reserved just for taxi drivers.  What we are trying to do is to work with local authorities to make sure that they assist in making sure that the rapid charging points are on thoroughfares that are used by taxis.  You are right, a taxi will take, roughly speaking, 20 minutes to half an hour to charge their taxi.  If you are third behind, that is you waiting for an hour.  It is clearly not good enough if your trade is being on the road earning customers.  We are speaking to councils.  The Infrastructure Committee is working also to see how we can accelerate the rollout of rapid charging points across London.  It is not true to say, though, that the reason only 192 people applied under the old scheme was because of lack of rapid charging points. 


David Kurten AM:  OK. 


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  Could I just add on the rapid charging points ‑‑


David Kurten AM:  I do not have much time.  Can I just ask you another thing about bus lanes?  You have increased the number of bus lanes initially but now there are schemes such as Tooley Street, such as Tottenham Court Road, where access is going to be restricted to taxis.  Will you allow taxis to continue going eastbound in Tooley Street and along Tottenham Court Road?


Sadiq Khan (Chair, Transport for London):  We have had a consultation in relation to that particular road and we will respond to the consultation in due course.


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  All right.


Mike Brown MVO (Commissioner of Transport for London):  I would say generally on bus lanes this is, as you know, a right that we have defended for taxi drivers in court.  There are still some roads where there is no access to bus lanes for taxis, on boroughs roads, and we continue to work with boroughs to ensure that that access is as widespread as it can be.  It is a very important issue.  As the Mayor says, there is a consultation which I would not want to fetter the outcome of, but it was a very co‑operative consultation.