GLASGOW could be left with only 420 taxis next year if a five-year exemption to the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) is not given to cabbies, it has been warned. 

Drivers say that disabled residents will be put at risk if 1000 cabs – which are currently non-compliant – are swept from the city’s streets. 

The hackney drivers are currently facing a deadline of June 2023 to ensure their vehicles comply with phase two of the low emission rules. 

But, only 420 taxis in Glasgow currently meet the Euro 6 standards.

Unite Scotland’s Cab Section wants to see those who currently do not meet the regulations to be given an exemption until 2027.

Glasgow Times:

They argue that this would allow drivers enough time to prepare their finances while second-hand cabs would become more available. 

As the union makes its plea, Glasgow City Council insists that it “extensively” engaged with the trade to ensure drivers were informed and aware of respite available to them. 

Calum Anderson, chair of Glasgow Cab Section, said: “There simply will not be enough time for these guys to meet the deadline in June 2023. If they aren’t Euro 6 capable, they’ll simply be penalised and put off the roads.

“All of the other major cities in Scotland have given drivers until 2024 to meet the standards, but for some reason, Glasgow has not been given this credit even though it is the biggest city with more drivers. 

“For two years, our cabbies had no income and virtually no support to see them through two very tough lockdowns. 

“They fell into debts of tens of thousands and missed taxi payments – some couldn’t keep a roof over their heads while others had no choice but to leave the trade.”

Glasgow Times:

Currently, phase one of the LEZ only applies to service buses in Glasgow.

Phase two, will, however, require all vehicles entering the city centre to meet Euro 4 (petrol) and Euro 6 (diesel) emission regulations.

Unite says that the five-year difference would allow new taxis to become more affordable as they are bought and sold-on in cities that already have air quality measures in place – such as Manchester and London. 

Calum said: “This would allow drivers time to get carbon neutral – there is a severe shortage of second-hand taxis worldwide right now.

“What will happen, is that over the next couple of years, carbon-neutral taxis will become accessible – especially those that are coming from London after drivers were required to meet standards years ago.”

With an ageing workforce, cabbies revealed they are hesitant to fork out on the £60,000 vehicles as they plan to retire. 

Others told how they are facing the “daunting” prospect of putting their cabs off the road as they cannot afford to comply with the standards. 

Glasgow Times:

John Burke, who rents his taxi, said: “This isn’t my cab but the owner converted it, costing them about £10,000. 

“I probably wouldn’t get my own cab now, I’m looking to retire soon and forking out £60,000 on a new one to meet the regulations coming in would set me back for the rest of my life. It wouldn’t make sense.”

Scott Wright added: “It’s a daunting thought and a lot of money to have to fork out in just over a year, I don’t know where it will come from. 

“I could buy a brand new cab, which would be ideal, but that would set me back anything between £60,000 and £70,000, I’d be paying that off for a very long time.

“No matter what the outcome will be, whether I decide to refit my taxi’s engine or buy a whole new taxi, it’s going to land me in a lot of debt, regardless.

“I don’t think our friends in the City Chambers are really thinking this through, if there isn’t more time for drivers to sort their financial situations out, the city could be blighted of taxis.”

Glasgow Times:

Michael Maley, who used most of his life savings to keep his vehicle on the road during lockdown, also said: “There’s no way I’ll be able to meet the deadline next summer, I really wish I could, but I just can’t afford it. 

“If an extension is made, I could try to meet it, but if there is no extension my taxi will need to come off the road. It’s unthinkable, I just don’t have the money – it will cost me something around £10,000 to get a new engine alone.”

Meanwhile, Unite raised fears for disabled residents who rely on hackney cabs as their only mode of transport. 

Glasgow region MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy described the threat of a taxi shortage as “incredibly worrying” for those with disabilities.

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The Labour representative said: “I know from speaking with taxi drivers, and with disabled people across the city, that this issue is causing deep concern. 

“Our subway system remains inaccessible, and public buses remain a hit or miss option for many – taxis are often a lifeline service for disabled people travelling around Glasgow and the prospect of many being from the city centre is incredibly worrying. 

“I will continue to engage with disabled people, taxi companies and the council to fight for an outcome that protects those in the industry, and ensures disabled people do not face new barriers to accessing city centre transport.”

Glasgow Times:

While council bosses admitted that next year’s phase two deadline was “far-reaching”, they said it was necessary to tackle “longstanding” air pollution breaches.

A spokesperson for the local authority said: “We have already seen improvements to Glasgow’s air quality since the LEZ was introduced in 2018, with a greater number of greener, less polluting, buses now travelling through our city centre and beyond.

“Increasing the scope of Glasgow’s LEZ to include all vehicles by June 2023, is far-reaching but also necessary to ensure that longstanding breaches of air quality objectives are tackled, particularly given the disproportionate health impacts that air pollution has on the most vulnerable.

“There has been extensive engagement with the taxi trade since Glasgow’s Low Emission Zone was initially proposed to ensure the trade are fully informed and are aware of the financial aid available to operators to become compliant.

“While core aspects of LEZs in Scotland have been determined at national level, the council can decide upon the shape, size and scope of our LEZ, based upon local requirements. 

“As such, we have committed to enforcing Glasgow’s LEZ from June next year subject to the relevant approvals, following an initial delay caused by Covid-19. 

“This approach has included due consideration of a number of factors such as the nature and extent of pollution levels, the expected recovery from the pandemic and impact on future pollution, the delay from the original timescale and the financial aid available to affected groups and individuals.”

READ MORE: Cabbies facing financial crisis warn they won't meet Glasgow's Low Emission Zone