I’m sorry to come over all Cabbie Centric on this post.
But if you want the answer to why there aren’t any cabs are to be found soon on a wet Friday night as you leave the theatre, stick with me here so you’ll know who to blame.
Now here is a clue: Our London Mayor, Boris Johnson is proposing to put a 10 year limit to the age of London’s black taxi fleet.
A leading trade journalist has estimated that at a stroke 7,500 cabs will be taken off the road equating to one third of the fleet. Followed by another 1,500 every year after that, so in just over two years nearly half of London cabs would be scrapped. These scrapped cabs are the vehicles approved by TfL and in fact until recent they were virtually the ONLY vehicles cabbies could use with TfL approval.
Not long ago to gain our green credentials every older cab had to undergo an expensive modification to bring it up to Euro 3 compliant. Apparently Boris doesn’t think the £2,000 conversion goes far enough and wants to run fleets of Euro 4 or higher compliant vehicles.
His proposition to cap the age of cabs at 10 years means that their residual value would reduce by approximately £4,000 a year and that dear reader would mean increased fares just at the time of austerity measures for many of London businesses and residents.
Setting aside the environmental impact of dismantling perfectly serviceable vehicles only to replace them with imports from China, yes China, many components from London’s cabs are produced in Asia and the manufacturers are proposing that the vehicles are only assembled in Birmingham, how can that be a realistic option for the environment when many much older cars are allowed into London?
What our passengers don’t realised (and why should they), is that many vehicles are rented. Again the London Taxi Drivers Association (‘LTDA’) estimated this older fleet of rented vehicles will diminish by up to 50 per cent and the operators would be unable to survive this catastrophic blow to their equity. These garages owned by fleet owners would just shut up shop with their staff being made redundant.
Many older drivers, including this writer, would simply retire having decided that to replace their cab or the increase in rent was too a higher price to pay, for what a part-time job is for many. Some younger drivers, particularly firemen supplement their income as cabbies, and would have to consider the viability of replacing their vehicle or seeking alternative employment.
The LTDA have commissioned a report to counter some of the dubious claims made about London cabs green credentials by TfL, and hope to persuade Boris of his folly. But if reasoned persuasion doesn’t work (and Boris is not renowned for about-turns) expect to find an awful lot of empty cabs blocking traffic flow while demonstrating in central London.