Taxi drivers in Swindon have called on Swindon Borough Council to bear in mind the high cost of new vehicles, urging officers to ensure the trade remains financially viable following more plans that could see even more "highly polluting" taxis forced off the roads.
The UK has seen an upturn of late of local authorities pushing for ways to reduce emissions with one of the first steps being the reduction of diesel taxis.
As part of plans to tackle illegal air pollution levels, the borough has suggested tightening up licensing rules to reduce emissions. As reported by the Swindon Advertiser, currently, nitrogen dioxide levels on the road need to be cut by a third to bring them below legal limits.
A change to taxi licensing regulations is on the council’s proposals, along with banning heavy goods vehicles from the the roads causing the worst emissions. There are 1,000 private hire cars vehicles and 104 hackney carriages in the town, they said. “It is not known what proportion of the traffic on this road is a taxi or hackney carriage, but it is clear that the road is an important route into and out of Old Town, and so private hire and hackney cab vehicles will make up a meaningful part.”
(Taxis queuing at Swindon station)
The deadline given to Swindon council to fix pollution problems is 2024 which is when the majority of taxi cabs would be compliant with stringent emission regulations they have claimed.
Regulations that were introduced in 2014, said that diesel cabs should produce no more than 80 microgrammes of nitrogen dioxide per kilometre travelled. The council plan said: “We will put forward proposals to the Licensing Committee to improve the emissions of the taxi and hackney carriage fleet through licence conditions; beyond that already mandated.”
The council hopes that if all hackney carriages are run on electricity or alternative fuels by 2024 then it will go a long way to help fix the borough's pollution problems. Andy Lucas of the Swindon Taxi Association stressed the importance of Swindon Borough Council speaking to drivers about the plans: “We need to be fully included in any consultation on pollution reduction measures and understand that this will be discussed at our next regular forum meeting with the Council. Many taxis are required to be wheelchair accessible and all new taxis are Euro 6 compliant.
“The council must pay regard to the high cost of these vehicles and take a balanced view when making recommendations, so our trade remains viable.”
New electric hackney carriage vehicles can cost up to £70,000, which has caused major concerns for drivers. Responding, a Swindon Borough Council spokesman confirmed officers would be consulting cab drivers. “We believe that the Air Quality Action Plan shows what needs to be done to improve air quality along Kingshill Road. This follows engagement with local residents, businesses and councillors. “We have already started to progress the actions to improve air quality and have implemented a relatively small, but significant, change by altering the time we collect waste along Kingshill Road so it coincides with a much quieter time of the day. “We will also engage with a number of partners and clearly taxi and Hackney Carriage drivers are an important stakeholder group who we will be speaking to in the near future as we continue our push to improve air quality in Swindon.”