Taxis account for 4% of the UK’s domestic greenhouse gas yet account for only 0.93% of all registered cars. The latest data on taxis in the South Tyneside area are; 405 diesel, 38 petrol, 38 hybrid electric, and 5 electric vehicles. The total number of diesel cars at 84.3% exceeds the national average, by 12%. Diesel cars are relatively cheap and reliable to run, essential for high annual-mileage vehicles, that taxis soon become.
In June of this year the Shields Gazette, reported the disgust over low pay in South Tyneside, as 6,000 workers in the borough need to claim Universal Credit. Councillors are well aware of the economic disparity between the national data and the area.
The number of diesel taxis is 12% above the national average, because they are the most economic to run. All of these vehicles will be off the road by 2030 according to the statutory guidance from the Department of Transport. There are a number of possible outcomes from the implementation of the policy, given, the cost of living crisis faced by taxi drivers around the region.
The first is that faced with the requirement to transition to hybrid or electric vehicles or lower emission vehicles, the cost of loans for these new vehicles, will be too punitive; taxi drivers will move to other jobs. The second is that the number of taxis will also diminish as a result of fewer passengers as people choose to stay at home, rather than for example the pub or nightclub; net pay for drivers will diminish no matter how many extra hours they put in. That trend of diminishing return will be enhanced by inflation. Each of the cars mentioned above also represents an income to a household. The last resort is that taxi drivers, who provide such a varied and useful public service could themselves take action? Drivers took action in central Newcastle in August 2018. Indeed Clean Air Zones could very soon be a reality, if central government fund a support scheme for Tyneside taxi drivers.
However, there is one last point to make that links funding to the transition to Hybrid or Electric Vehicles from the current 7% of the South Tyneside fleet to 100% in as little as eight years; recharging points. In 2018, the Sunderland Echo reported that Sunderland and South Tyneside would be awarded £500,000 from the government’s OLEV (Office for Low Emission Vehicles) Taxi Fund, that would pay for charging points for 19 vehicles at ten locations. A quick search of South Tyneside Council’s Electric car charging points suggests there are only 12 50kW locations, there are others but they recharge much more slowly. Each driver has to have access to a charging facility at home to realistically make the transition work, assuming of course they don’t live in a flat or have off street parking. Taxi drivers need more financial support if the level of service is to be maintained and that has to come from central government. Taxi drivers know there is a climate emergency and a cost of living crisis too; scrapping their cars is a short-term solution to a long-term problem of air quality and greenhouse gas emissions and may simply increase the latter; therein is the transition-dilemma.