Thinking allowed — 16 November 2010

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.

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(6) Readers Comments

  1. I get really cheesed off with so called environmental schemes that are nothing more than badges of honour for politicians to have their picture taken with.
    What particularly cheeses me off about it is what you refer to above: environmental damage. From mass production of tons of multi-coloured, non-degradeable wheelie bins, to the waste of metal and carbon production of binning your taxi fleet.
    It underlines the real injustice in modern Britain, where politicians wheel out their rhetoric, cost us money and livelihoods, and stubbornly ignore common sense – in exchange for a seriously pathetic return. THAT is indicative of abuse of power and THAT is why so many people feel a deep sense of disgust for politicians, regardless of what flag they fly.

    • I am old enough to remember a time when paper bags were carefully folded and stored for future use, used string was kept in a box just in case, and all our biodegradable (not a word used then) was put on the compost heap.
      And do you know what? Not a squeek from the politicians at the time because everybody was doing it, so it would not make the headlines.
      Now in an age of saving resources, they are actually contemplating allowing the dismantling of the Olympic Stadium after only 5 weeks use to then rebuild a more suitable longer lasting football stadium on the same site – crazy.

  2. ooh, such seems to be so unacceptable by the black taxi owners or drivers, they would have many argue over such issue against the LTDA.

    • Thank you for your acerbic comment, I’ve put you into my irritating twats file for future reference.

  3. I agree that it seems mad to scrap cabs when they reach some arbitrarily chosen age, especially in a time of financial stringency. We should instead be straining every sinew to make things last.

    Tightening up on cabs’ green credentials is a separate, though related, issue. Is this really necessary and can it not be implemented more gradually?

    Perhaps thought should instead be given to gradually replacing the London black cab fleet with vehicles which are better suited to the purpose, greener and designed for the longest possible working life. (You know my opinion of black cabs.) I think that in the long run that would be the most effective solution both financially and environmentally.

    While I regard London black cabs as the dinosaurs of the cabbing world, long overdue for extinction, they have, after all, been forced on operators all these years and if a change is now to be imposed, this needs to be applied sensibly and with all due regard to the problems that it will cause.

    • Common sense might prevail, but I doubt it

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