Updates to emission standards for Hackney Carriages and timeline for buses for the Oxford Zero Emission Zone following coronavirus pandemic

Published: Friday, 1st May 2020

Oxford City and Oxfordshire County Councils have updated the emission standards for Hackney Carriage taxis in Oxford and the timeline for buses to be compliant in the Oxford Zero Emission Zone.

The updates have been made following feedback from the taxi trade and bus providers in Oxford about the impact the coronavirus pandemic on their own businesses and wider industries and ability to comply with the timeline for the Zero Emission Zone. 

In March both councils announced that the launch of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone will be postponed until Summer 2021 - recognising that businesses and residents across the city, and particular in the Red Zone,  need to focus their attention on managing the current and potential impacts on their trade and way of life during the coronavirus pandemic.

Buses and Oxford licensed Hackney Carriages taxis are not within the scope of the Red Zone because they have previously agreed timelines for moving towards zero emissions fleets – this update considers the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on these timelines and achieving zero emissions vehicles.


Under Oxford Zero Emission Zone proposals, bus operators had previously agreed timelines and requirements to be compliant, initially through an expanded bus Low Emission Zone, which had been due to start in December 2020.

Following discussions with bus companies operating in Oxford on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on their business, the manufacturing of buses, and how it might impact their ability to comply with the Low Emission Zone, both councils have agreed to extend by a year the timelines for buses to comply with Euro VI standard. The new timelines are:

  • Phase 1: 1 December 2021: All local buses operating within the streets affected will be required to be Euro VI standard. Buses which serve stops more than 10km (6.2 miles) in a straight line from Carfax will be exempt.
  • Phase 2: 1 December 2022 (to be reviewed 31 December 2021): All registered local bus services operating within the streets affected.

The updated timelines provide bus operators in Oxford the ability to comply with the Low Emission Zone and clean up Oxford’s air, whilst taking in to consideration the challenges that have emerged due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The bus companies highlighted long delivery timelines for new buses and financial uncertainty across the bus industry due to the coronavirus pandemic. This means it would not be possible to place orders for new buses, or the retrofitting of current buses, until at least the end of 2020.

Additionally, the Government’s extension of the deadline for applications to the All Electric Bus Town Fund (for which both councils are planning to submit a bid alongside Oxford’s bus companies) to late 2020, this creates additional uncertainty for bus operators’ investment plans. A successful application could see a large number of electric buses arriving in Oxford.

This year has already seen the arrival of the city’s first double decker electric bus – a City sightseeing bus - and excellent progress has been made by all operators towards meeting the Euro VI standard ahead of the December 2020 Phase 1 deadline, with almost three-quarters of the bus fleet already compliant.  The City Council has recently signed agreement with Stagecoach to retrofit another 21 of their vehicles to Euro VI standard.


Under the Zero Emission Zone plans, Hackney Carriage taxis will have to phase to zero-emission vehicles between 2020 and 2025, with drivers only able to get a licence in 2025 if they have a zero-emission cab.

The emissions requirements, which began in January 2020 requires:

  • All renewal applications for Hackney Carriage taxis must meet the minimum Euro IV emission standard.
  • All new Hackney Carriage taxi applications must meet Euro IV, Euro VI, or ULEV emission standard – Euro V vehicles will not be considered

However, during the coronavirus pandemic and the delay of the Oxford Zero Emission Zone, the City Council, which is the licensing authority, has updated its guidelines for Hackney Carriage taxi emission standards for applications that are being renewed.

Emissions standards - renewal applications

If drivers are unable to replace their existing vehicles with one that complies with current Euro IV emission standards, drivers may make a request in writing to the City Council for an emissions exemption when renewing their licence.

The written exemption request must be submitted together with the licence renewal application and all the required documents to renew the licence.

Licences for taxis can be issued for one year with an exemption due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Existing licenced Hackney Carriage Vehicle must be tested and receive a Certificate of Compliance within 28 days of the expiry of the licence – ODS’ test centre at Cowley Marsh Depot is open and is prioritising testing for all licensed Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Vehicles.

More information about taxi licensing in Oxford City during the coronavirus pandemic.

“The City Council is committed to cleaning up harmful toxic air, so that everybody can enjoy their right to good health. At this time of pandemic, however, our focus must be on protecting all public health from a new  type of invisible harm. Locking down Oxford is helping to beat the virus, save lives, and protect our NHS. However, unfortunately, there are trade-offs, including slower economic growth and reduced bus use, so while Oxford absolutely will introduce our Zero Emission Zone, this council must adjust to the new reality forced upon us.  

“It brings the council no joy to adjust the timeline for the Low Emission Zone for buses and cleaner emission requirements for taxis after so many years of discussions to reach decisions. Our hands are tied by the pandemic. But, we'll be connecting, rebuilding, and moving forward together based on what we've all experienced during this pandemic, how the virus and lockdown is changing our city, and what we all need. Bold and collective action to address our transportation emissions is the only response that makes sense for everyone in our city and, as Oxford emerges from lockdown, this will be the moment to keep the positive changes we've made, deny the instinct to return to unhelpful ways of getting around, and embrace the bolder changes that will be necessary and possible."

Councillor Tom Hayes, Cabinet Member for Zero Carbon Oxford, Oxford City Council

“We understand that the coronavirus emergency has changed market conditions for many businesses. The updated timelines provide bus operators in Oxford the ability to comply with the Low Emission Zone and clean up Oxford’s air, whilst taking in to consideration the challenges that have emerged due to the coronavirus pandemic. I would like to reassure residents that despite the current public health challenge, Oxfordshire County Council remains wholly committed to offering transport solutions that will lead to cleaner air for all.”

Councillor Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment, Oxfordshire County Council

“Whilst the current pandemic has taken its toll throughout the country, it has given us a glimpse of what cities and towns could look like with fewer cars on the roads and less damage to the environment. We need to grasp the opportunity to make this cleaner and safer environment permanent.

“A single bus can take more than 70 cars off the road and, as well as continuing to play a vital role in delivering cleaner air and reduced emissions, buses can help support the country's economic recovery. Our recent £5 million investment in 21 new Euro 6 double deck vehicles prior to the pandemic shows our commitment to delivering cleaner air. We will continue to work closely with Oxford City Council and Oxfordshire County Council on their plans to reduce emissions throughout the region.”

Chris Coleman, Managing Director of Stagecoach Oxfordshire

“This is a pragmatic approach and we are pleased that both Councils have listened to our concerns. We welcome the extension to comply given the challenges we all currently face due to the COVID-19 pandemic and we remain fully committed to reducing emissions from our buses as quickly as we can to meet the new timelines and have made great progress in this area to date.”

Phil Southall, Oxford Bus Company Managing Director