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Cabbies for Clean Air

Recently a group of Unite taxi reps and activists, from the Heathrow and Central London branches, attended the offices of Global Action Plan (GAP), an environmental charity, as part of their widespread consultation on the effects of air pollution and the solutions being planned in the lead up to the recent ‘National Clean Air Day’. Unite members from Southampton and Glasgow have also been involved.

By Peter Bond

Read the Cabbies for Clean Air leaflet

To start we were given the usual, and entirely genuine, statistics about how, if the status quo remains regarding the continued use of the internal combustion engine, this will continue causing untold deaths and illness. This pumping out of NOx and particulates (PM’s) occurs from both petrol and diesel engines, with diesel, in particular, now being demonised even by those politicians and experts across Europe, including in the UK, who encouraged their use for many years.

Unite used the meeting as another chance for us to explain to organisations like GAP, as we have already done with Friends of the Earth (FOE) and others, our support for improving air quality. The Mayor has announced that from 1st January 2018 all new licensed taxis must be Zero Emission Capable (ZEC). This presents huge opportunities for us to embrace new, green vehicles, which in turn will result in a massive boost to our trade by winning back work.

We also spoke about the need for as much government financial help as can be achieved along with a viable charging infrastructure. Drivers also need to be reassured about the purchase cost and the ongoing running costs of any new ZEC taxis. Unite is liaising closely with the manufacturers on these issues.

We impressed on GAP the fact that most car drivers have a choice to buy petrol or diesel vehicles, but London taxi drivers can only buy diesel vehicles and this is still true today. We shouldn’t be demonised for this in future years.

Unite Cab Section supports ZEC

Although at Unite we are fully supportive of the move towards electric vehicles and Zero Emission Capable (ZEC) vehicles as outlined in the Mayor’s Taxi and Private Hire Action Plan, it has to be a financially viable transition for taxi drivers. With only a few months to go before these vehicles go on sale and six months before they are the only vehicles on sale, we still believe that there should be more subsidies to encourage their uptake.

A subsidy of £7,500 from the Government along with a decommissioning fee of up to £5000 will be a big help for drivers towards the cost of the ZEC vehicle but Unite does believe that it is now time to announce the cost of the ZEC vehicle. This could then be put into context and help drivers plan before the 1st January deadline.

Unfortunately the prospect of five different ZEC vehicles, as promised by the previous Mayor, isn’t going to happen. It looks like only two vehicles will be available, offering completely different alternatives to drivers; fully electric or a range extended electric taxi.

The price of clean cabs

It is important that we are told the price of these new taxis and the total lifetime costs in order for Unite to lobby, along with other stakeholders, for more subsidy towards those costs with a fully supporting charging infrastructure. The current Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has called on the government for a diesel scrappage scheme which Unite supports.

It seems that organisations like GAP, and FOE, have taken on board and accepted our arguments regarding a timely and financially viable transition from diesel to ZEC/electric taxis, justifying our decision to meet and consult with them, although we have to beware future governments, local and national, will not be averse to attempt to move the goalposts, as they have done before! We also need these organisations to support us in resisting future calls for a ban on all diesels.

Unite is supporting National Clean Air Day on 15th June as taxi drivers are more at risk from air pollution caused by the internal combustion engine than most, let alone members of their families and society in general.

One Unite cab driver member will be having an air quality monitoring device fitted inside their taxi by GAP for twenty-four hours to demonstrate the levels of air pollution that taxi drivers are exposed to during the course of a normal working day. The results will, no doubt, make very interesting reading and will probably be very concerning for us all!

Watch the Cabbies for Clean Air Video

About GAP

Global Action Plan brings people together and inspires them to take practical environmental action. We collect the impact of their actions and share their stories, so more people are inspired to change.

We deliver national and global programs, through a network of local delivery teams in over 24 countries, from The United States to Hungary.

Our UK programs have directly engaged over 400,000 people. We work with many kinds of organization, from leading FTSE100 multi-national companies, to tiny start-up businesses with two employees.
We work in three strategic areas:

  • Business and retail
  • NHS
  • Schools

All revenue from GAP’s work with business goes straight back into our free programs for schools, youth and community. We believe that environmental sustainability is an issue for everyone — and all parts of society should be addressing it.

Global Action Plan is part of GAP International — a network of local delivery teams, over 24 countries, that runs behaviour change programmes with schools, communities and businesses.

See also…

LondonTaxiCompanyUK: “The new electric black cab shines in the desert heat”

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