City’s cab drivers are facing a bumpy ride

people walking down a high street in glasgow scotland next to a taxi rank with a red cab in the centre of the image

Hundreds of taxi drivers could soon hang up their badges for the last time as they struggle to balance the cost of LEZ-compliant cabs with the fares they are allowed to charge.

The city-centre LEZ scheme was introduced on June 1 last year to reduce illegal levels of pollution by keeping older, more-polluting vehicles out of the area. Since then, it has clocked up more than £1 million in fines.

And while the financial struggles are making many cabbies reconsider their future in the trade, drivers are also furious about the state of the city’s roads, with potholes causing thousands of pounds worth of damage to taxis.

Crunch time

Taxi and PHV drivers were granted a 12-month extension to give them time to retrofit existing cabs or replace them with LEZ-compliant vehicles. But with May 31 looming, the harsh reality is kicking in for many of them that they may face bankruptcy trying to upgrade their cabs and might be better off retiring.

As the Scottish Sun reports, some drivers say the current fares do not “support the financial burden of upgrading to the new models” and Unite Glasgow (Hackney) Taxi Branch says the city faces losing more than 600 taxis in less than a year.

One driver, speaking to Taxi Point, said: “Traditional black cabs in Glasgow and Edinburgh are at breaking point.

“The final Low Emission Zone date is set for June 1 and it’s looking like as many of a third of hackneys will go off the road.

“Although LEZ is a pinch point, a breaking point, there is a systemic issue for the ongoing years which will further reduce hackneys’ presence.

“The issue is that of the price of new vehicles, our tariffs and customer base simply can’t support the price of these new vehicles. I’m sure this is the case in many other cities around the UK.

“Tariff increases won’t help this, it will simply reduce the customer base further. Yes, some will buy these new cabs at exorbitant bankruptcy-inducing prices, but this will only result in having to increase working hours.”

Difficult choice

Unite Branch secretary Steven Grant told The Scottish Sun: “The average age of Glasgow black cab drivers is 57 years old. If retrofitting your vehicle is not an option, it is a choice between sourcing an alternative vehicle or retirement.

“A new cab would cost around £75,000 which is not feasible if you are approaching the end of your career in the trade. In terms of used taxis, there are simply none available, with the UK market dysfunctional since the pandemic.”

Glasgow City Council stands by the LEZ as a “crucial public health measure” and it had extended the maximum age of taxis, as well as offered funding for retrofits.

As the debate over LEZ continues, taxi drivers have been protesting about the state of the city’s roads. This included a demonstration outside the council chambers, with drivers complaining that many taxis and PHVs have been damaged by potholes.

Eddie Grice told the BBC the city’s roads are a “nightmare”.

The general secretary of the Scottish Private Hire Association added: “It’s been going on that long now, the damage being caused to our cars is happening on previously reported potholes.

“It costs a fortune. I went through five tyres since the start of December. I’ve lost a drop link. I’ve got bits of my car sitting in here.”

Despite protests, Glasgow’s budget will see £6m spent on improvements to roads, footpaths, cycleways this year, when last year’s road budget was £12m.

A spokesman for the city council said there had been an “exceptional rise” in pothole reports last January, which is why the budget was increased to £12 million, but that the reports were not at the same level this year.

He said: “Our responsibility is to ensure we have in place an appropriate system of road safety inspections and repairs that tackles the most dangerous faults as a matter of priority.

“We always seek to undertake first-time permanent repairs wherever possible and we currently have four crews dedicated to repairing potholes on a daily basis.”

Glasgow’s taxi drivers face a real dilemma. What would you do in this situation?

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