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Nine in 10 taxis in Canterbury district fail to meet EU emissions standards

By Lydia Chantler-Hicks

Nine in 10 cabbies part of Kent are driving a vehicle which fails to meet EU exhaust emission standards, it has been revealed.

New figures show that of the 502 taxis and private hire vehicles operating in the Canterbury district, just 56 have a rating in keeping with current regulations.

Only one registered taxi runs on petrol, with the rest diesel vehicles now widely considered more harmful to the environment.

Taxi driver Heather Sewell does not agree with basing taxi licence fees on emissions
Taxi driver Heather Sewell does not agree with basing taxi licence fees on emissions

As a result, Canterbury City Council is considering basing its licensing fees on road traffic emissions - with those driving greener vehicles paying less.

Details of the strong approach were revealed in the authority’s new draft Air Quality Action Plan (AQAP), which outlines a five-year strategy to reduce air pollution across the district.

Road traffic emissions are identified by the AQAP as one of the leading causes of high levels of nitrogen dioxide on Canterbury’s major roads - with the latest medical evidence showing air pollution contributes to about 40,000 deaths in the UK each year.

Yet, 92% of Canterbury’s 280 taxis and 75% of its 233 private hire vehicles are diesel, with a rating below the agreed acceptable standard for vehicle emissions, known as Euro 6.

A taxi, or Hackney carriage, is one that can use a rank or can be flagged down, while a private hire vehicle can only be pre-booked. Currently, city council-issued licences cost a flat rate of £245 for one year or £381 for three years.

But the AQAP details plans to review licence fees next year, and potentially rank charges according to emission levels - with higher charges levied on high-emission vehicles.

Taxi driver Heather Sewell, 56, says she does not think the plans will have the desired effect.

She said: “I can’t honestly see them raising the cost by very much.

“Taxis are actually the minority in the situation in Canterbury - you’ve got thousands of students who come in with cars, you’ve got all the school-run traffic. And most of us don’t start up the engine unless we’re going on a job.”

The number of electric and hybrid vehicles registered in Canterbury has almost tripled in just two years - soaring from 48 in 2014 to 140 in 2016, the AQAP reveals. Now, the council hopes to encourage taxi drivers to switch to electric or hybrid cars, by installing charging points at taxi ranks.

But Mrs Sewell raises several concerns about the plans, including the cost of buying electric vehicles and logistical issues with charging taxis in the city centre.

“It’s a good idea, but I don’t think it would work very well,” she said. “Where would the charging points go, and how many would there be? How would you stop them becoming damaged?

Canterbury City Council wants to charge more to license vehicles with higher emission levels
Canterbury City Council wants to charge more to license vehicles with higher emission levels

“If taxis were electric, you’d have drivers queuing to charge their cars.

“I run a taxi with wheelchair access - can you even get electric taxis with wheelchair access?”

The proposed plans come among other measures the city council hopes to take to combat pollution - including introducing a new car hire scheme and improving park and ride services. The draft AQAP is set to come before the policy and resources committee on November 14.

City council spokesman Rob Davies said: “It is a priority for us to work with drivers and operators to move to lower emission vehicles by 2023.

“This will be through a mixture of incentives on fees, education and awareness raising, as well as the installation of electric charging points at taxi ranks. We will start by reviewing fees for April 2019 to incentivise change and will then work on a renewed taxi policy in 2020 which will consider licensing measures to support this.

“Then, by 2023, we’d hope to have a partnership with the trade to have replaced 90% of diesel vehicles with Euro 6 rating petrol, petrol hybrid and electric vehicles. A recent government announcement that zero emission taxis will be exempt from the vehicle excise duty charge, plus the plug in taxi grant, will both support this approach.”

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