Rochdale cabbies get extra five years to upgrade their taxis

Date published: 21 December 2021

Rochdale cabbies are to get another five years to upgrade to cleaner, wheelchair-friendly cars.

All the boroughs in Greater Manchester are signing up to ‘minimum standards’ for hackney carriage and private hire vehicles – in a bid to protect customers and create a greener environment.

There are 10 standards in total, including a common livery and colour as well as new requirements around emissions, testing and accessibility.

All taxis should also be under five years old at first licensing and no more than 10 years old.

The regulations come into force with immediate effect for newly-licensed vehicles and by 2024 for existing taxis.

However, individual councils still have discretion to tweak the rules as they see fit for their own areas.

In Rochdale, bosses have opted to give cabbies until 2027 to meet three of the proposed new standards.

It means they will get extra time to upgrade to newer, cleaner vehicles, in a bid to soften the financial impact on the trade.

All hackney carriages – commonly referred to as ‘black cabs’ will also have to be wheelchair accessible.

Neil Emmott said the standards would ultimately protect the borough’s taxi trade.

He said: “One of the biggest complaints we get, certainly for the local taxi trade, is of people coming from outside the borough – whether they come from Wolverhampton or from Rossendale – this will now mitigate against things like that.

“It means it will be a Greater Manchester-led thing. Greater Manchester taxis with our Greater Manchester borough’s livery. So it will mitigate against that, so our local taxi drivers will be able to get the trade that is due to them.”

Hackney carriages and private hire vehicles will be liable for Greater Manchester Clean Air Zone charges from June 2023.

But as of January next year, firms will have access to some £129m in funding towards upgrading to newer, cleaner vehicles.

This includes full retrofitting costs, special grants and subsidised vehicle finance.

The recommendation to allow Rochdale firms a longer transition period – until 2027 – came from the council’s planning and licensing committee earlier this month.

However, some councillors wanted to give companies a further 12 months to modernise their vehicles.

Councillor Daalat Ali said taxi drivers could not afford two mortgages – ‘one for the car and one for the house’.

“We have got over 2,000 taxi drivers in the borough – which means 2,000 families,” he said.

“They are very, very poor to begin with and I’m really, really scared we might be sending some people to food banks.”

Councillor John Blundell was also inclined to allow cabbies longer to secure the funding they would need to make the necessary upgrades.

However, others were minded to work to a tighter timescale – albeit accepting the recommendation of a 2027 deadline.

Councillor Liam O’Rourke said: “Ultimately it’s about getting the best deal for the public and making sure the public feel safe.

“Certainly, in the past I remember banging on doors and people told me ‘what are you going to do about these Wolverhampton taxis and these taxis from far and wide that seem to be operating in the borough but seem to have no connection to us’.”

The committee ultimately voted by four votes to three to accept the minimum standards.

Rochdale council cabinet met at Number One Riverside on 14 December.

Nick Statham, Local Democracy Reporter

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