There have been a lot of headlines lately about the backlash Sadiq Khan is facing over the ULEZ expansion.
Tory assembly members are opposing it along with lobby groups like Fair Fuel UK, rebel MPs from his own party are talking about blocking it - and a legal challenge has been brought by the borough councils of Harrow, Hillingdon, Bexley, Bromley and Surrey County Council, claiming the move would be unlawful, as it would cause “significant social and economic harm to our residents”. Even the Government is looking at laws to stop it, with the latest news saying 1.5million people outside London could be impacted by the expansion too.
I am all for any moves or policies which help clean up London’s air, but the ULEZ expansion feels like a blunt instrument with which to do so. It appears more about making money than cleaning up the air.
After all, Sadiq looked the other way for years when it came to the middle classes keeping their homes warm with highly-polluting wood burners - until he faced pressure from campaigners. Now, he’s banning wood burner installation in new builds and refurbishments needing a planning application, but it’s a pointless move - I can’t think of the last time I saw an urban newbuild featuring a wood burner. It’s the Victorian flats and houses that are the issue and any existing homes can still fit a new burner anyway.
If Sadiq is serious about air quality, he needs to be more pragmatic and less signalling. He’d do well to show more support for the electric black taxi business for one. He needs to invest more in electric charging points and their power supply across the capital, as well as doing more to support taxi drivers to acquire clean vehicles, which are getting increasingly unaffordable as their prices rise and the OLEV subsidy stays constant.
Those without the dosh upfront could see the cost of a new electric black cab soar to well over £90k with the current rising interest rates. Where’s any help from the London Mayor here?
With the gap between action and intention from Sadiq on a number of policies, he should be consulting with more business leaders - not least in our industry - to get some real ‘on the ground’ feedback. Let’s see how ULEZ plays out - and how it affects his chances in the mayoral elections next year, I know our trade will be watching closely.
BRAND BLACK CAB
Our capital’s black taxi drivers are a proud and close- knit community. We are an integral part of the heritage and history of London, a tourist attraction and an icon of the capital’s streets, and we keep the city moving through the good times and the bad.
I often ponder what makes us so unique and valuable to the city, and think it all comes down to character. Someone once told me that “your smile is your business card and your character is your trademark”, and this really resonated with me.
We provide a premium product in terms of the safe and comfortable vehicles we drive, along with an expert, reliable service with the knowledge we have of our capital. It is by leveraging these assets alongside our professionalism and charm that we make the people of London and its many visitors love and trust us.
In our trade, we don’t need more customers, because we retain most of our custom through the provision of our great service. We rarely see the same passenger twice, but operating as a well-oiled machine through our community of self-employed professionals, we all ensure each others’ continuity of business. The crux of this of course is the fact that black taxi drivers are career professionals and we’re often passionate about our vocation - our work isn’t a ‘gig’ to be done until it’s escapable, so we welcome every passenger rather than resenting them and the job we do.
I think it’s vital that we remember this as a community and that we all continue to represent 'brand black taxi’ as brilliantly as we can to ensure we continue to get the support and credibility we need well into the future.
We should all be as vocal as we can in celebrating our jobs as proud London black cab drivers.