Since 2013 the number of Private Hire Drivers on London's streets, has increased by 25.9%, to a staggering 85,742, even though the number of London PH operators has fallen by 5%.
At present TfL are possessing over 2,000 new PH driver applications a month.
By comparison, over the same period of time, the number of Central London Taxi driver new licenses only rose by 1.5%.
DfT statistics March 2013-March 2015
Smart phone based Uber, who soft launched in 2012, have around 20,000 drivers in London and are presently expanding at a rate of 2,000 extra vehicles every month. Apart from the large amount of new licensees, the app is also recruiting from existing licensed PH drivers.
Uber’s CEO, Travis Kalanick hopes to increase their vehicular presence in London to 42,000 by March 2016. This would then amount to more than half of all London's PHV licences based on today’s figures.
Uber's expansion will soon see the number of Uber drivers overtaking the number of official London Taxis, which is already the case in New York. However, it should be noted that PHV drivers outnumbering those in hackney carriages is not a new trend.
Taxis and PHVs require a licence for both the driver and the vehicle. In total there were 297,600 licensed drivers in England with 103,900 (35%) of those operating in London. About three-quarters of the licensed drivers in the capital are for PHVs, compared with taxi-only drivers.
Bad Air Problem :
There’s no doubt London has a serious problem when it comes to air quality. Last year the European Commission started legal action against the U.K. for breaching pollution targets, specifically associated with nitrogen dioxide (NO2, a toxic byproduct of car engine and exhaust fumes combining with oxygen).
London is reported to have the highest levels of NO2 of any European capital city. London’s city authority website itself notes that “most” air pollution in London is caused by road transport and domestic, along with commercial heating systems, and recommends that businesses encourage employees to use public transport, walk or cycle to work.
“City-dwellers are particularly exposed, as most nitrogen dioxide originates in traffic fumes,” the EC noted in a press release detailing its legal action against the U.K., adding: “Nitrogen dioxide is the main pre-cursor for ground-level ozone causing major respiratory problems and leading to premature death.”
A study, published this July, of the health effects of NO2 and particulate matter pollution, commissioned by the Major of London and carried out by King’s College London using 2010 data, reported a higher health impact than the previously estimated 5,900 annual deaths associated with NO2 long term exposure in 2010. Recent reports now show associated deaths as high as 9,000.
Inspite of being told newer vehicles create increased levels of NO2, Mayor Boris Johnson still insisted on introducing an age limit on Taxis, removing older less polluting FX4, TX1 and TX2 models and replacing with newer more polluting vehicles.
What’s clear is that the continued increase in the quantity of vehicles in conjunction with the reduction of space on London’s roads is not compatible with meeting European air quality standards.