Taxi drivers call on council to speed up consultation
Taxi drivers say they have been left in limbo after plans for a Clear Air Zone were announced eight months ago with no further information.
Last November, Sheffield Council said it was looking at creating a zone around the city centre after the Government said it must cut nitrous oxide emissions.
Taxis and buses would have to pay a daily £10 charge to enter the zone and the council is also looking at charging light goods vehicles such as vans.
But Uber drivers say since the announcement, they have struggled to find further information despite repeated requests.
Council chiefs say they have met with taxi driver representatives as they “move towards” a full consultation. There are 3,000 private hire and 850 black cabs in the city.
Lee Herriott, Virginia Halstead and Dean Higgins say drivers can’t buy new vehicles because they don’t know what “green” level will be required.
Mr Higgins said: “The cheapest electric car is £28,000 but they are too small to use as a taxi. The range of cars just isn’t good enough, especially for wheelchair access. The most suitable car is a Tesla but they are £40,000 which is a mortgage for some people.
“There’s also not enough charging points. You have to break during your shift to charge them and if you have an airport run it’s a real problem. Electric black cabs also struggle with the hills in Sheffield.”
Ms Halstead says there’s also an issue with LPG and hybrid vehicles. “There are only 31 hackney cabs out of 850 which are suitable for LPG because you need a tank but by law it can’t be near where passengers sit so it’s very difficult to fit one in a taxi. These tanks are ok with saloon cars but not estate or hackney cabs.”
Taxi drivers say they also feel penalised because private motorists won’t be charged.
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Mr Herriott said: “They will still allow cars and lorries which is what is annoying private hire drivers. We are only four per cent of the pollution in Sheffield.
“We are all self employed, but why aren’t other small businesses, such as delivery companies, not being charged?”
Coun Bob Johnson, cabinet member for transport and development, said the aim was to have the entire taxi fleet in Sheffield made up of ultra-low emissions vehicles by 2021.
Coun Johnson, a new cabinet member, said: “Our ambitious clean air plans are now my responsibility and I thank these drivers for the concerns they’ve shown – it’s encouraging that they are already taking steps to get cleaner vehicles.
“Air pollution is a serious problem and taxi drivers are one of the groups who are most at risk from the damage caused by nitrogen dioxide emissions.
“My officers have held several initial meetings with representatives of Sheffield’s taxi associations about these proposals and will continue to do so as we move towards a full city-wide consultation.
“These meetings have been positive but it’s vital we keep working with taxi drivers to design the support packages that will reduce air pollution in the city.
“The consultation will be available to every taxi driver. We are launching a website and will hold some targeted discussions and events in the weeks ahead. We want to support drivers to enable them to get cleaner vehicles while thinking about the long-term needs of the city.”