• Tuesday, July 05, 2022

HEADLINE STORY

Minicab drivers worry for future with ULEZ charges

Low-paid drivers worry charges will make work unsustainable

By: Lauren Codling

by LAUREN CODLING

MINICAB drivers have criticised new daily charges implemented by Transport for London (TfL), with some of them predicting that they will be unable to support themselves and will have to look for work elsewhere.

The ultra-low emission zone (ULEZ) charges are being introduced in London on Monday (8),
as part of a strategy to cut the city’s toxic levels of air pollution.

Some cars will be subjected to a £12.50 charge for every day they drive within the ULEZ, in addition to the £11.50 congestion charge which operates on weekdays.

The fees will depend on the declared emissions of the vehicle, affecting many petrol and diesel automobiles in central London.

Authorities hope the charge will cover most of the capital by the end of 2021.

Health issues caused by harmful emissions prompted London authorities to act

Harun Rashid, 59, has been a cab driver for more than 16 years. However, since the new charges were announced, he said he is thinking about looking for a new job. The charges are a “big burden on [minicab drivers] shoulders”, he said.

“[Minicab drivers] work very hard, long hours and we are low earners,” the London-based cab driver told Eastern Eye on Monday (1).

“We are family people, thinking about our survival. How will we support our household and our children? If this job doesn’t give me any benefits, it is not worth it to stay here.”

He noted the charges he already pays to work as a minicab driver – these include paying £45 for a MOT biannually and car insurance for around £75 a week.

Rashid also pays an estimated £500 for his taxi license every three years.

“We already have many costs,” he said. “Now, their policy has made me very concerned about my future.”

Len McConkey is the owner of Waterloo Car Service in south London. Having owned the service for more than two decades, McConkey is afraid the latest fees will force his business to close.

He believes many drivers will be unable to afford the charges and will have no choice but to look for work elsewhere.

“They’ll leave and it’ll be very difficult to get replacements,” he told Eastern Eye.

Frustratingly for McConkey, London black cabs are exempt from the charges. He argued that
the average fare for a black cab is double that of minicab fares, so it is unfair that they do not have to pay the extra charges.

“It is completely wrong what [TfL] are doing,” he said. “They aren’t considering drivers who are not earning a high wage.”

In addition, if drivers fail to pay the fees within two weeks, they are subjected to a £160 fine.

Although TfL have made efforts to make the transition easier, including offering a vehicle checker on their website so drivers can check if their automobile is recognised as meeting the ULEZ standards, McConkey believes some may be confused by the new laws.

“There will be people who have to pay the fine,” he said. “TfL are doing it solely to earn money out of us.”

In a message to London mayor Sadiq Khan, who took over the plans from his predecessor Boris Johnson when he took office in 2016, Rashid said he would ask him to “be fair”.

Cabbies have urged mayor of London Sadiq Khan to scrap the ULEZ charges

“We are low-earning people,” he said. “Be fair on us and take off these charges.”

A spokesperson for the London mayor said the low emission zone would help tackle the
“harmful, toxic air pollution” which was causing a public health emergency.

The spokesperson added: “To those who may struggle to pay the charge, and despite the lack of government support, the mayor has made £48 million available to help microbusinesses, charities and those on low incomes, to scrap older vehicles that are not ULEZ compliant.

“The mayor wants everyone who purchased a diesel car in good faith to be helped too, and
he is lobbying the government urgently to provide a national scrappage scheme to make this
happen as soon as possible.”

They also noted that London-licensed black taxis are exempt from ULEZ as they are subject
to a 15-year age limit and new emissions standards have already been introduced for them.

TfL did not respond to make a comment.

Eastern Eye

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