“The trade is trying to do its bit for the environment but we’re being undermined at every turn”
TfL has yet to issue the figures, but it’s believed it has received nearly 1,000 applications from fleets and mushers to decommission their older cabs in exchange for the incentive payments which start at £10,000. The big unknown is how many of these cabs will be replaced with shiny new TXes; how many of the owners will try renting, buy a later diesel, or even retire?
What is in no doubt is that any reduction in the age limit is going to have a financial impact on virtually every cabbie whether they own or rent. Perversely, it will have the opposite effect of what is intended and impact negatively on new ZEC cab sales as the equity in existing cabs drops still further. Cabbies will be unable to afford to bridge the gap between what they sell their cab for and the £56,000 for the new model leaving them with no option but to keep running their diesel cab as long as possible. I have repeatedly explained this to everyone I have met at City Hall and will continue to do so. The solution to helping the trade modernise and upgrade our fleet is in two parts. Firstly, it involves recognising our unique position, in that we were compelled to buy the diesel cabs we currently run and had no choice. Our fares, and thus our ability to fund new vehicles, are set by the mayor and our unique status of being the only part of London’s public transport infrastructure that is 100% wheelchair accessible and disability friendly. Secondly, hitting us with a big stick won’t work. We are individual business people, we need confidence in our market place to enable us to plan and make sound financial decisions. What is needed is more carrots in the form of more money and incentives to help us buy and run the new cleaner cabs and a vast improvement to the charging infrastructure to support thousands more electric cabs. Most importantly we need absolute assurance that we can continue to keep London moving. This means no more half-baked traffic schemes that exclude cabbies and discriminate against our customers! Urgent reform needed now While the Government may have gone quiet again on its plans for overhauling our outdated and impractical licensing laws, MPs across Parliament have been making more and more noise. The House of Commons Transport Select Committee Chair Lilian Greenwood MP recently wrote to Taxis Minister Nusrat Ghani on this, and published her letter online. She asked when the Government will respond to the taxi and PHV Working Group’s report and if it will bring forward new legislation on regulating the trades. Back before Christmas, I spoke with the chair and asked her to press the minister on this. It’s good to see her follow through on our behalf and show the minister that we’re not the only ones on her tail. Typically, the minister told Lilian that a Government response will be published “shortly,” but did acknowledge that the Government has a “leading role to play” in fixing the issues our trade is facing. Following a number of vague commitments that a Government response to the working group’s report will be published either in “due course” or “shortly”, it’s disappointing (although unsurprising) that the Department for Transport has now missed its own three-month deadline for responding to the report’s recommendations. While we’re still waiting for a response, the APPG on Taxis (which the LTDA sponsors) is also amping up the volume. We’ve been urging MPs within the APPG to question the Government on when a response will be published and to bring in new legislation ASAP. Just last week, APPG Taxis Chair Wes Streeting and others including Andrew Rosindell, Jim Cunningham and Julia Lopez showed their support by tabling the latest round of written questions in Parliament. They’re just as fed up as we are that this keeps getting pushed down the line and won’t lay off until the response is out. Passengers and taxi drivers up and down the country can’t wait any longer for new licensing regulation. They’ve also started questioning the Ministry of Housing, communities and local government on this. As we know all too well, this isn’t just about transport, it’s about protecting the public and making sure what happened in Rotherham never happens again. Once the Government’s response is finally made public, we’ll be giving the Chair of the Transport Committee a ring to discuss how they can help the APPG out in scrutinising the Government’s plans. We must ensure that nothing is watered down and we get the urgent reform we’ve all be waiting for.