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Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone: how electric cab costs could drive taxis off the road

A trade union official has expressed concerns about the cost and financial support available to make the change to cleaner cabs.

A trade union official representing Manchester taxi drivers has expressed concerns about the impact of the city-region’s Clean Air Zone (CAZ) on the black cab industry.

Tariq Nadeem, a representative for Unite, says electric hackney carriages are currently extremely expensive and have other reliability and running issues.

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He fears black cabs will lose out to private hire vehicle firms when the environmental scheme, which will charge a whole variety of polluting vehicles daily to drive on Greater Manchester’s roads, kicks in.

What is the Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone?

The Government has ordered the city-region to create a Category C CAZ which covers all of Greater Manchester with the exception of the motorways and trunk roads maintained by Highways England.

This is because of the need to reduce air pollution, particularly the levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2).

Vehicles which do not comply with emissions requirements will be charged an amount each day to drive on Greater Manchester’s roads, although the timeline for introducing this is staggered.

Hackney cabs and private hire vehicles will have to pay £7.50 a day from 30 May 2022, although there is a temporary exemption for most Greater Manchester-licensed vehicles until 1 June 2023.

Financing schemes are being announced to help businesses whose vehicles do not comply switch to greener, cleaner fleets.

What are Mr Nadeem’s concerns?

Mr Nadeem says his main concern is that drivers wanting to get an electric black cab to avoid the payments currently have a very limited range of options.

He compared that to the situation facing private hire vehicle firms, who could choose to buy from a whole range of plug-in hybrids or electric vehicles which are now on the market.

He is worried what will happen if hackney drivers who cannot get an alternative vehicle have to start stumping up the cost of driving in the CAZ.

An electric taxi being charged. Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP via Getty Images

Mr Nadeem said: “If you don’t meet the emissions criteria you will be paying and it’s a huge sum. You are looking at more than £1,000 a year.

“Drivers have a dilemma. They can pay to upgrade, but although they’ve offered us grants it’s nowhere near enough.

“When the future becomes a bit uncertain our members are very reluctant to go out there and start paying for things like this. Buying an electric cab is a big sum.

“There are only about 15 to 20 LEVC electric cabs in Manchester and the range is still quite limited on them.

“Private hire firms, though, can go and buy a hybrid car for a few thousand pounds.”

What have the authorities said?

Clean Air GM and Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) have been approached for comment.