Nottingham, UK – More than 120 taxi drivers are refusing to buy new low emission cabs after making as little as £15 a day during the coronavirus pandemic.
Nottingham City Council wants around 400 hackney cabs to be upgraded to low emission vehicles to improve air quality.
Taxi drivers said they have been told the vehicles must be in place by June 30.
Drivers will have to take out loans to buy the new fleet, which can cost between £32,000 to £75,000 per vehicle.
But taxi driver associations have blasted the decision for the council to push ahead with the plans when no money is being made from the profession to pay for them.
Chander Sood, 61, of Wollaton, has been a hackney taxi driver for 26 years in Nottingham.
He is also the former secretary of the Nottingham City Hackney Carriage Owners and Drivers Association, which represents cab drivers in the city.
He said out of the 411 fleet there was more than 120 drivers which have refused to buy the new vehicles during the pandemic.
He told Nottinghamshire Live: “Where is the money going to come from if you are not making any money? How are we going to pay the installments? It is a high investment.”
He said hackney drivers were already facing tough times before lockdown, with illegal plying for hiring.
This is when private hire drivers pick up passing trade from the streets, which is illegal, as they should be prebooked.
He said: “Most drivers are taking £15 to £20 a day under lockdown. They can’t afford it. We need help from the council.”
The council plan is have more than 400 new Hackney cabs in Nottingham, which will either be electric or the cleanest diesels.
The scheme aims to deter the most-polluting vehicles from entering the city in a bid to curb air pollution, and bring it down to legal levels as soon as 2020.
Nottingham City Council placed orders for a small number of the vehicles to lease back to drivers, as well as investing £700,000 of Government funding into electric charging points around the city.
Taxi driver Wasim Amin, chairman of Nottingham Licensed Taxi Owners and Drivers Association, which represents more than 300 drivers, said: “It is difficult times, not just for taxi drivers but for everyone. It is devastating.
“We do want to put these vehicles in (to the city) but how are we going to make it pay? It is common sense. How is it going to work for the person who has taken that burden on?
“We are all up for these changes and the air quality on taxis but it is not feasible because of finances. The council need to reconsider.”
Portfolio Holder for Growth and the City Centre, Cllr Sam Webster, said: “We understand it’s a difficult time for taxi drivers. There has been a lead-in time of more than two years to respond to new rules requiring only Euro 6 diesel or ultra-low emission vehicles to be eligible for a licence to operate in Nottingham.
“130 drivers have already made the change, but unfortunately a minority still haven’t done so. We have taken a flexible approach and introduced some leeway by allowing owners approaching the end of their licence to retain their plates for six months, instead of the usual one month, to decide whether they wish to buy a compliant replacement vehicle or not.
“We are also giving six-month extensions to those drivers who can show they are in the process of buying a replacement vehicle but are unable to take delivery because of lockdown. We will continue our dialogue with the trade and keep the extension period under review. Taxi drivers are also eligible for Government support as self-employed sole traders.
“We are not going to reverse our policy on clean vehicle requirements, since this helps us meet our duties under the Clean Air Act to improve air quality and bring health benefits, and it would be unfair to those who have already invested in new vehicles. We are all committed to improving the quality of the city’s taxi services and improving air quality and these changes will benefit both the local trade and our residents in the long run.”