New drive to stop taxis polluting Birmingham city centre

The city’s licensing chief Barbara Dring calls on taxi trade to shut off engines in a bid to help the city meet its clean air targets.

Taxis drivers who leave the engine running and pumping out pollution while waiting in city centre ranks are to be targeted by a new campaign.

The city’s licensing chief Barbara Dring has called on the taxi trade to make an effort to shut off engines in a bid to help the city meet its clean air targets.

But she has admitted it will be difficult to enforce such a measure with fines or bans and instead hopes drivers will turn off their engines voluntarily if prompted by warning signs.

It is estimated that 520 people in Birmingham a year die prematurely as a result of poor air quality and the council has been warned it faces a £60 million fine if it does not tackle pollution.

Measures already being looked at include a city centre Clean Air Zone in which high-polluting lorries, vans and buses will be charged, and controversial new restrictions to reduce the age of licensed taxis and minicabs – getting cleaner and greener vehicles on the roads.

Taxi drivers groups are up in arms over the plans, to be introduced in December. to replace the age limit from 14 years to a new emissions test which more than 500 cars would fail.

Now licensing chiefs are also looking at warning signs in lay-bys, taxi ranks and outside schools to get waiting cars to stop idling.

Cllr Dring (Lab, Oscott) said: “Taxis are among the worst for emissions when they stand and have their engines running.

“We are in talks with regard to the trade clean air act and this is one of the things we will be addressing.

“We have the right to ask any car to turn off their engine while stationary and we are looking to enforce this especially around New Street Station.”

She highlighted Sundridge Primary School in Kingstanding which has put up warning signs for waiting parents. “This is something which could be done across the city.”

And suggested that New Street Station, where taxis spend a long time waiting, could provide a warm waiting area for drivers to reduce the temptation to keep engines running in the winter.

source: http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/

Quarter of Leicester’s cabs ‘too old to use’ under proposed eight year taxi age limit

A quarter of Leicester’s taxis could be hauled off the city’s roads if the council presses ahead with plans for stricter age limits on cabs.

Currently the upper age limit on taxis is 11 years but official are considering bring that down to eight.

If this were to happen 410 of the current 1,650 hackney carriages and private hire cars operating in the city would be too old to use.

The city council says the move would restore taxi age limits to their 2013 level, and ensure cabs on the road are safer and less polluting.

Cabbies have said the move, first outlined at the height of a bitter dispute between the council and the RMT union over a new misconduct regime for drivers, is punitive.

City officials say a far higher proportion of older vehicles fail their twice-yearly safety checks at the council’s vehicle testing centre.

Figures from the city council’s licensing team show that beyond the age of eight years, nearly half of vehicles (43 per cent) failed their regular safety checks.

The failure rate rises to about 56 percent after 10 years.

They are also considering removing the artificial 325 limit on the number of Hackney carriages they license, inline with the Department for Transport’s guidelines.

Leicester mayor Sir Peter Soulsby insisted the move was not linked to the dispute which led to a series of rush-hour go-slow protests before Christmas.

He said: “I’m determined to improve the city’s air quality by cutting vehicle emissions, and ensuring we have a modern, safe fleet of taxis operating in the city is part of that.

“There is strong evidence that an eight-year age limit may be more appropriate for all taxis, because beyond this the failure rate begins to rise significantly.

“I would like to see all new hackney carriages to be ultra-low emission vehicles (ULEVs), and also for existing vehicles to be replaced eventually with ULEVs.

“Having large numbers of older taxis on our roads delays them being replaced with newer, lower-emission vehicles, which has a very significant impact on air quality in the city.”

Chairman of the Leicestershire Public and Private Hire Association Mike Ward said cabbies could face a big expense replacing older vehicles.

He said: “If taxis keep passing their tests and are safe it should not matter how old they are.”Some drivers are not mechanics. They jump in their car, make money but don’t look after their vehicles and that can be a problem.

“If people do care for their taxis they will be safe however old they are.”

One RMT hackney cab driver, who did not wish to be named, said: “This is Soulsby’s revenge because the cabbies stood up to him.

“It’s just spite and it proves our point the council does not deal respectfully with us.”

A public consultation is being launched to give people a say on a number the issues.

There will also be a chance will have a say on proposals to ensure all new hackney carriages are ultra low emission vehicles (ULEVs), which have lower running costs and will help improve the city’s air quality.

The consultation runs until August 31.

Taxis make up 11 percent of traffic during morning rush-hour in the city centre, so are considered an important focus for measures to cut nitrogen oxides and other pollutants.

Leicester’s current 11-year age limit is similar to those in other major Midlands cities, including Coventry (10 years), Nottingham (12 years) and Birmingham (14 years).London currently has a 15-year age limit, but is now introducing a decommissioning policy for taxis over 10 years old.

To take part in the consultation, visit: consultations.leicester.gov.uk

Read more at http://www.leicestermercury.co.uk/