Angry cabbies halt council meeting in Birmingham as clean air zone row erupts

Furious cabbies in Birmingham forced a council meeting to be abandoned after a major row broke out over how Birmingham city centres Clean Air Zone will impact the industry.

The cabbies have warned of further protests over what they see as an initiative from Birmingham City Council which will force them off of the road.

Birmingham City Councils licensing and Public Protection committee recently passed a new emissions policy which could mean that many taxi and private hire drivers would be forced to spend thousands of pounds upgrading their vehicles.

Tempers flared at the meeting after the council prohibited the cabbies from voicing their concerns, this in turn lead to cabbies approaching the councillors to remonstrate at being gagged.

Some councillors then left the room and the meeting was adjourned for a short period, before resuming.

The proposal was subsequently approved by the council.

The introduction of the new policy will see a number of changes, including replacing the Euro 4 (petrol) and Euro 6 (diesel) vehicle standards, applying to other cars entering the Clean Air Zone, with an age limit. This will also mean that from January 2020 no diesel Taxi exceeding 15 years old will be granted a licence, unless the cab has been converted via the council's LPG pilot scheme. 

Worryingly for the taxi industry It will mean that out of a fleet of approximately 1,120 taxis only 493 will be licensed, leaving around 620 vehicles requiring an upgrade. The council have said that 350 of those vehicles would be eligible for an LPG conversion.

The age restriction imbued on private hire vehicles was set at 12 years meaning approximately 2,700 out of more than 4,100 drivers will be licensed from January, leaving 1,400 needing to be upgraded.

Other policy changes include the removal of the "exceptional condition test" which allowed older vehicles to still operate. An exception to this policy change will apply to government approved retrofitted vehicles.

Although the proposal has been changed significantly from the original plan, with aspects of it being altered via driver input, controversy still rages with one of the proposals being that from January 1, 2021, all newly licensed vehicles will have to be ultra low emission, despite the previous cut-off date being 2026.

It was reported in Birmingham Live that many of the drivers demands haven't been met.

The RMTs Craig Johnston said that the policy could in-effect force cab drivers off of the road as it will create financial hardship, although he is hopeful that further discussions can take place. He did however confirm that there was a strong likelihood that cabbies would stage a go-slow demonstration in the city.

Brimingham council's head of licensing, Chtis Neville said that the Clean Air Zone is a solution the city has adopted to respond to the Supreme Court's ruling that we have

to achieve European air quality standards in the shortest possible time.

Image Source: Birmingham City Council

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