SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business

SOUTHAMPTON’S cabbies fear they could be driven out of business by a new council crackdown on pollution.

Angry taxi drivers are demanding a meeting with civic chiefs over plans to ditch ageing petrol and diesel cars for new low-emission vehicles.

But according to the city’s taxi groups, some of the electric and hybrid cars, being touted in a new council consultation, cost as much as £50,000.

Southampton Hackey Association (SHA), Ian Hall, fears this could drive already hard-pressed cabbies out of the business.

Mr Hall, a taxi driver of more than 35 years, said: “Southampton City Council is expecting us to buy these purpose built vehicles.“But some of the electric ones cost as much as £50,000.“There is no chance in a million of us being able to pay that for electric vehicles because we haven’t got the work in Southampton that they have for example in London.”

Mr Hall, who has urged the council to have a meeting with drivers, added: “I don’t think it’s fair that they are targeting taxi drivers and private hire vehicles.”

“We’ve got these big ships calling in at the port all the time. Surely they should be targeting them first?”

The city council’s online consultation, which ends on Monday, asks drivers about their preferred choice of vehicle, including hybrid, electric and hydrogen powered cars.

It also asks how the authority can financially support those taxi and private hire drivers who wish to ‘go green’.

The move comes after council chiefs secured a £250,000 grant from the government to help taxi drivers get compliant with the authority’s incoming Clean Air Zone (CAZ).

Civic bosses hope the zone, which could be enforced as early as 2019, will help tackle the problem of high nitrous oxide level in the city.

The authority hope to achieve this by introducing a penalty charge for high-emission vehicles, such as older buses, coaches and lorries.

This could also include certain taxis and older more polluting cars.

In a statement, the city council said it was “required” to introduce a Clean Air Zone and a penalty charging system by the government.

To avoid the charge, vehicles will need to be a minimum “euro 6 standard” – the current lowest emission band and applied to all new car registrations on or after September 2015.

Petrol vehicles will need to be “euro 5” – which are those registered on or after January 2011.

Talking about the taxi consultation, a council spokesperson said: “The council is currently undertaking a feasibility study that will help guide how the city’s CAZ will work. Consultation on our findings, with the public and stakeholders, will take place in early 2018.

“Southampton City Council will also be looking to identify funding opportunities to support taxi operators who may choose to adopt this technology, although this is not a requirement of the Clean Air Zone.”