LEZ Scotland: Union warns Glasgow LEZ will force hundreds of black cab drivers off the road

A leading transport union has warned Glasgow’s low-emission zone (LEZ) is set to force hundreds of black cab drivers off the road, citing a lack of expertise available to retrofit vehicles.

Unite Glasgow taxi branch secretary Steven Grant warned the LEZ was creating an existential crisis for black cabs and accused the city council of "doing all they can to put a huge swathe of our iconic taxis out of business”.

The warning comes as a Freedom of Information request revealed 118 of the vehicles are awaiting retrofitting – a number campaigners claim would take more than two years to meet at existing rates – despite the council giving cabbies extra time to meet LEZ standards.

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Some cab drivers have been forced to send their vehicles to Chester for work to be performed, it has been claimed, with a Glasgow-based option for retrofitting yet to be fully up and running.

LEZ areas have been enforced in Glasgow since June 1. Picture: John DevlinLEZ areas have been enforced in Glasgow since June 1. Picture: John Devlin
LEZ areas have been enforced in Glasgow since June 1. Picture: John Devlin

Around 500 of Glasgow’s 1,383 hackney cabs have an exemption, which will run out by the end of May next year.

Mr Grant said: “Despite the council granting a one-year exemption for retrofitting cabs, it is clear that the LEZ is still going to force hundreds of cabs off the road by June next year.

“There is grave concern in the trade about the deadline given the lack of components and expertise available to carry out retrofitting. Part of the problem throughout this debacle is that Glasgow City Council has no idea of the actual logistics facing taxi drivers. Throughout this process, the council has been making decisions and issuing deadlines about our livelihoods without accurate information, decimating the sector in the process.

“Even if a taxi driver has been awarded a grant to carry out retrofitting, but has not been able to secure a slot to carry out the work by June 2024, council officials have said they won’t be able to operate. That’s simply wrong.”

Michael Smith, a black cab driver, said the LEZ was forcing drivers out of the city, resulting in an increase in pirating – a practice where private hire vehicles were registered outside of Glasgow, with no checks undertaken on drivers by Glasgow City Council.

He said: “Since Covid, pirating has become more of a Glasgow pandemic than the actual virus.

“The problem is coming from out of town with drivers who often cannot pass the checks required in Glasgow, but get a licence from a neighbouring authority and sit and work in Glasgow.

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“They are dispatched work from a Glasgow booking office despite that being against the rules. It makes a mockery of a system put in place by former justice secretary Kenny McAskill to outlaw criminality in the trade.

“As more black cabs are forced off the road by hair-brained council rules, pirating private hires will attempt to fill the void for people desperate to get home, especially at night.

“That presents a real risk to safety, especially to vulnerable people and those traveling on their own. Glasgow City Council should be doing more to tackle this real and present danger than continually placing pressure on the city’s black cab drivers.”

Glasgow became the first Scottish city to introduce a LEZ in a bid to improve air quality around the most heavily congested roads, with enforcement against motorists starting from June 1. The scheme will be challenged in court next month after Lady Poole ruled the case met the “real prospect of success” test set down in law.

About 40 black cab licences have been handed back to the city council since the LEZ began – despite a licence holding a goodwill value of more than £30,000.

Mr Grant said: “The average age of Glasgow black cab drivers is 57 years old. If retrofitting your vehicle is not an option, it is a choice between sourcing an alternative vehicle or retirement.”

The city council has been contacted for comment.



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