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Green transport: Black cabs go green for a cleaner London

TAXI fleets in London are gearing up for the biggest environmental challenge to date as hundreds of black cabs prepare to meet new guidelines on emissions.

Changes to EU pollution laws mean cabs will have to be more green than black to meet the rulings.

From next July, all new Hackney carriages in London will have to meet Euro III emissions tests under Ken Livingstone’s mission to reduce vehicle pollution by up to 37% by July 2008. Any firms failing the ruling could face hefty fines.

Taxi fleets in other parts of the UK are also being advised to address the issue now as the London regulations could be rolled out in other parts of the UK.

Matthew Cheyne, sales and marketing director for LTI Vehicles, which makes black cabs, said: “This is not an issue that is going to go away. It is just around the corner and needs to be tackled now.

‘Older vehicles like the TXI and the Fairway will not meet the regulations. The TXII, the latest version of the black cab which has been around for four years now, does.

‘It is about protecting residuals so buying a compliant vehicle as soon as possible will mean the best return on investment.’

Under the Taxi Emissions Strategy, London’s 20,000 black taxis will have to comply with emissions standards. The cost of converting black cabs to meet the standards, like most levies, has been passed to the end user.

From April 2005 passengers have paid a flat rate fare of 20p per journey, over and above the usual cost. This fare rise will be reviewed in 2008.

London Mayor Ken Livingstone said: ‘London has the worst air quality in the UK and air pollution is estimated to cause 1,600 premature deaths every year in London. For just 20p a journey we will see major health benefits for all Londoners.

Taxi drivers are exposed to more pollution because they spend long hours on the road each day and tend to operate in the most polluted areas, such as central London and Heathrow, and the cab trade will also therefore be a major beneficiary of this policy.

‘This is one of a number of measures I am putting in place to improve air quality in London. The central London congestion charge is already having an impact, with emissions in the zone cut by 12%. I am also committed to making London a Low Emission Zone (LEZ), which will see the removal of the most polluting lorries, buses and coaches from the streets.’

Figures from the Great London Authority (GLA) show there are approximately 2,400 pre-Euro emissions standard cabs in London, all of which will have to meet the new guidelines.

There are also 8,700 Euro I cabs, 5,400 Euro II taxis and 3,600 Euro III cabs.

A spokesman at Transport for London said: ‘There are a number of options available to taxi owners and operators whose vehicles do not meet the Euro III emission standards to comply.

‘Many will choose to bring forward the date at which they planned to invest in a new, cleaner cab. Abatement technology, such as a selective catalytic reduction system (SCR) with particulate filter, can be fitted to an existing vehicle. Another option would be to convert the vehicle to run on liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).’

Why UK taxi fleets must comply with LEZ rules

LONDON’S proposed Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is one of the Mayor’s manifesto commitments and is part of Ken Livingstones’ plan to make London more environmentally friendly.

The LEZ aims to encourage operators to reduce their emissions by either replacing or modifying their older diesel-engined vehicles that do not meet the proposed emission standards.

As of July 1, 2007 any Metrocab taxi that is of a pre-Euro, Euro I or Euro II standard will, when presented for their annual licensing inspection, be required to have either PCO/EST approved emissions reduction equipment fitted or an approved conversion to run on alternative fuels as a requirement of licensing. It is expected that Metrocab owners will have a choice of technology available to them by this time.

Ken Livingstone has proposed the LEZ for all of the London area, excluding motorways. This means that vehicles travelling on the M25 would not be covered by the proposed LEZ.

Vehicles which have already had a LPG conversion or have been re-engined to Euro III standard or better will not be required to have an emission reduction equipment fitted as they will already meet the required standards for nitrogen oxides (Nox) and particulate matter (PM20).

Ed Thompson, Transport for London taxi and private hire director, added: ‘London already has the best taxi service in the world, and before long it’ll have the cleanest.’

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