NEARLY half of Edinburgh’s taxis are to be forced from the road in a massive emissions cull, the Evening News can reveal. All black cabs older than ten years will need to be replaced by 2020 under a new Edinburgh City Council policy, accounting for 616 vehicles of a fleet of 1316.
Drivers have slammed the council plans to meet EU guidelines as rushed and poorly researched, with many likely to have to quit the trade as it faces a £20 million upgrade bill. “We want to be part of the solution on air quality and we should be getting support from the council,” Edinburgh Taxi Association chairman Mark McNally said. “But we feel that we’ve been singled out as a group and the benefits are insignificant. We feel let down in being asked to jump through hoops. It’s unacceptable.” With drivers facing forking out up to £62,000 for a top-of-the-range new taxi, representatives fear for their futures.
“Some of these guys are 55 or 60-plus and they won’t be given finance to renew these vehicles,” Mr McNally said. He maintained the taxi trade was committed to helping improve air quality in the city, but that measures have been adopted way ahead of other initiatives, including low emission zones.
“We find ourselves singled out with no evidence to show what impact this will have on improving air quality,” he said. Although many drivers still use cars more than ten years old, Mr McNally assured these were still viable vehicles. “Some of these guys keep older vehicles on the road relatively cheaply, but they have to pass the same tests as a brand new car,” he said. “If it doesn’t pass, then it’s taken off the road.” The Edinburgh Taxi Association polled its 500 members and four in five said they would find it difficult to continue in the trade in light of the new fleet requirements.
New age restrictions on taxis come into effect in April next year, though drivers get a year’s leeway if their car’s licence expires in 2020. Patrick Gallagher, 44, from Moredun, has been a cabbie in Edinburgh for a decade and drives a 12-year-old model. “I found out in March it had to be off the road next April – 13 months’ notice, whereas in London they got five years’ notice,” Mr Gallagher said. “There are guys in their 50s and 60s taking part-time work because they can’t afford 50, 60 or 70 grand on a new taxi. After April, they might not have jobs and who’s going to employ them at that age? Council-owned Lothian Buses got £800m from the government [to meet emissions targets]. Taxi drivers get no help.” A council spokeswoman said drivers were consulted since June 2016, leading to tweaked plans, including dropping the age limit of cars from five years to ten.
Proposals were drawn up to bring the Capital in line with most other UK cities. “The council is responding to growing public concern about the impact of air pollution on their health by introducing a range of measures to ensure people can breathe clean air in the city,” the spokesman said.