Updated: Oct 23, 2022
Taxi representatives in London have reacted angrily to ‘case-by-case’ Wheelchair Accessible Vehicles (WAVs) exemptions made to individuals working in the Private Hire Vehicle (PHV) sector.
Representatives from the United Cabbies Group (UCG) were ‘concerned’ to learn that minicab drivers offering WAV services were to be granted EXTENDED use of current diesel and petrol vehicles, despite the taxi industry being forced to purchase more expensive WAVs since January 2018.
Taxi drivers in the capital have been unable to licence new diesel WAVs since age limits were slashed. That change is widely regarded as one of the main reasons that has pushed the black cab fleet to shrink in size.
In April 2018 the taxi fleet stood at 21,026. Fast forward 3 years to April 2021 and that figure slumped to just 13,461 WAV black cabs in the capital.
Despite the huge demise of WAVs offered to Londoners, no concessions were offered to the industry by Transport for London (TfL).
Last week 37 new WAV black cabs were licensed by TfL, however 65 existing WAV taxis were removed from the fleet due to falling foul of new TfL age limits imposed on the industry.
In the same week a whopping 577 new PHV licences were handed out to allow minicab drivers access to work on London’s congested roads. 409 PHVs left the sector choosing not to renew meaning a net influx of 168.
Despite the PHV fleet INCREASING in size week-on-week, PHV drivers can now also enjoy concessions if they choose to keep their WAV minicab on the road outside of the terms agreed by the regulators.
It is estimated that around 300 minicab drivers chose to invest in WAV licensed minicabs. There are currently over 83,000 PHVs licensed in the capital.
A GMB Pro Drivers spokesperson said: “Following representations TfL have advised Wheelchair accessible private hire vehicles (WAV PHVs) to be exempt from the licensing requirement to be Zero Emission Capable (ZEC) on a case-by-case basis. This will help drivers replace vehicles.”
In response to that tweet, the UCG posted a letter sent to TfL’s taxi and PHV General Manager Graham Robinson explaining their distain.
The Chiltern Law letter reads: “I act for the above named (UCG) who is concerned following the attached tweet by GMB Pro Drivers today around the significant exemption afforded by TfL to wheelchair accessible PHV's. As you will appreciate this announcement has generated many emails and calls from drivers as to the perceived lack of neutrality by TfL as regulator.
“I note no such licensing exemption has been provided for Licensed Taxis and my clients wish to understand the rationale for this and what consideration is now being given to Licensed Taxis if the concession is linked to ensuring there is no diminishing supply for the travelling public reliant on wheelchair accessible vehicle surface transport.
“As you will be aware the whole Licensed Taxi fleet is 100% wheelchair accessible and has been for decades. Whilst this may only amount to around 300 PHV vehicles it coincides with the reduction to the 12-year age limit when c1500 Euro 5 TX4's will no longer be eligible for a future license in the very near future.
“Members purchased vehicles making financial business decisions on the life of the Taxi being 15 years so already have suffered financial detriment by losing 3 years. My client has spent considerable time advising members following the recent letter sent to our owner driver members approaching their 10th and 11th years. Whilst we commend the input and proactive nature of Rebecca Underwood in trying to work with the trade to ensure members are informed, the harsh reality is many have now also lost a further 6 months due to the plate extension in Covid.
“The PHV Industry had the luxury of not having to move to ZEC for 5 more years and still can buy and drive Euro 6 diesel and petrol vehicles. Can you please respond to the following questions:
“1. Why is there no parity between licensed taxis and PHVs as outlined above?
“2. The current purchase price of a new zero-emission capable taxi is a £94K investment (see attached) so how can this discrimination be justified?
“The consequence of your Age Limit policy needs urgent review in the context of the current financial climate as it is forcing drivers into considerable financial commitments and take on substantial debt when interest rates are increasing. The alternative is to withdraw from the market or having to face the prospect of accepting early retirement thus further contracting the size of the taxi fleet which will further reduce the amount of wheelchair accessible Taxis in London.”