Emissions row

Black cab drivers say LEZ will force them to quit

Black cab drivers are protesting over retrofitting deadline

Hundreds of black taxi cabs may be forced off Glasgow’s streets because of the city’s low emissions zone (LEZ), according to a trade union.

A shortage of components means cab drivers will struggle to meet next year’s 1 June deadline to ensure their vehicles comply with stringent regulations.

Less than one cab per week is being retrofitted and it is believed 118 vehicles are waiting for work to be done. That means it will take more than two years to clear the backlog at current rates, forcing 600 cabs off the road.

Steven Grant, the Unite Glasgow (Hackney) taxi branch secretary, said: “Despite the council granting a one-year exemption for retrofitting cabs, it is clear that the LEZ is still going to force hundreds of cabs off the road by June next year.

“There is grave concern in the trade about the deadline given the lack of components and expertise available to carry out retrofitting. 

“Part of the problem throughout this debacle is that Glasgow City Council has no idea of the actual logistics facing taxi drivers. Throughout this process, the council has been making decisions and issuing deadlines about our livelihoods without accurate information, decimating the sector in the process.

“Even if a taxi driver has been awarded a grant to carry out retrofitting, but has not been able to secure a slot to carry out the work by June 2024, council officials have said they won’t be able to operate. That’s simply wrong.”

Michael Smith, a black cab driver in Glasgow, said the issues faced by black cab drivers were exacerbating the problem of private hire ‘pirating’ – a practice where private hire vehicles registered outside of Glasgow, with no checks undertaken on drivers by Glasgow City Council, are operating almost exclusively within the city with no recourse by council officials.

“As more black cabs are forced off the road by hair-brained council rules, pirating private hires will attempt to fill the void for people desperate to get home, especially at night.”

William Paton, a campaigner who is leading the LEZ Fight Back campaign, said: “This is further evidence that Glasgow City Council just does not listen.”

A council spokeswoman said: “Glasgow’s LEZ is a crucial public health measure that aims to tackle the harmful air pollution that has blighted the city centre for decades – creating and exacerbating people’s health conditions and the city’s health inequalities, disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable.

“Plans to extend a LEZ to all vehicle types was democratically agreed in 2018 and since then the council has undertaken an extensive programme of communications and engagement to raise awareness of the scheme, its timescale for introduction and the availability of funding to ease compliance.

“The LEZ retrofit fund has been available to eligible taxi operators since 2019. In the same year we amended licensing conditions to allow for a new licence or change of vehicle to be applied to taxis more than five years old.

“This was a direct intervention ahead of the LEZ coming into force to increase the options available to operators of vehicles unsuitable by reason of age for retrofit.”

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