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Greener Taxis Plan on the Road

Greener Taxis Plan on the Road

Plans to improve air quality in the area by supporting the use of “greener taxis” have received backing from the Government.

It has awarded more than £780,000 to three councils for the creation of up to 30 charge points for ultra-low emission taxis in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Stoke-on-Trent and Stafford.

Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Stafford Borough Council hope that the money, from the Taxi Infrastructure Investment Fund, will buy 10 rapid electric vehicle chargers for each area, resulting in an extensive network of charging infrastructure for cross boundary journeys and those between urban and rural areas.

There are currently 2,071 licensed private hire vehicles and 466 licensed Hackney carriages operating in the three areas, serving a population of 500,000 people. Only four per cent are hybrid cars or use alternative fuels. The Government wants all new cars and vans to be effectively zero emission by 2040.

Newcastle Council Leader Simon Tagg said: “I welcome this funding from the Government. Taxis provide a valuable service to the public and are on the roads day and night so this has the potential to make a massive difference to air quality and residents’ health.

“It aims to give taxi operators the confidence to switch from traditional, diesel-powered vehicles to electric cars. This would improve the quality and availability of licensed vehicles and lead to a wider uptake beyond taxis in the long-term.

“Electric vehicles have a long range and fast refuelling capabilities so the availability of another 10 chargers in Newcastle is fantastic news and offers greater choice for the licensed taxi trade. The announcement is particularly timely as the councils are facing major challenges to improve and sustain improvements in air quality.”

The announcement supports work already underway by the Borough Council and City Council to improve local air quality and achieve compliance with a Ministerial Direction as early as possible following exceedances of nitrogen dioxide levels along a section of the A53.

The councils must develop a preferred policy and cost-benefit assessed options for action by the end of October 2019 at the latest against the default position of a Clean Air Zone (CAZ). The study is expected to cost around £500,000 and is being funded by the Government.

While CAZs without a charging scheme are possible, compliance in some areas of North Staffordshire could be achieved by introducing an element of charging for some road users to remove vehicles from the “hot spot” locations, subject to further exploration.

A working group involving staff from both councils has been set up to oversee the project.

Meanwhile, the Borough Council is consulting on taxi licensing proposals to incentivise the uptake of electric vehicles by extending the upper age limit that they can be licensed until, in recognition of the greater upfront cost, as part of its draft taxi licensing policy.

Cllr. Trevor Johnson, Borough Cabinet member for environment and recycling, said: “The deadlines we are facing to get this project moving forward are very tight because this is a complex and difficult problem.

“But the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has made it clear that our country has to take action when nitrogen dioxide emissions – mainly generated by vehicles on our roads – are at such levels that they pose a hazard to public health.

“The Borough Council has serious concerns about a Clean Air Zone and will be requesting the support of MP Paul Farrelly to take these with up with Central Government. CAZ charging for various types of vehicles is likely to significantly affect the taxi trade and our residents.”

Councillor Anthony Munday, Stoke-on-Trent City Council cabinet member for greener city, development and leisure, said: “Our three councils bid together for this government funding, and we are pleased to have secured the money. We are serious about making Stoke-on-Trent a sustainable energy, smart city. We’re developing a district heat network to power homes and businesses, and our plans to improve public and sustainable transport have been shortlisted for government Transforming Cities Fund money.

“We recognise the challenges that the area faces in reducing emissions and improving air quality. This government funding will be used to create 10 rapid charge points for taxis so that they can be 80 per cent charged in around 30-40 minutes. This is about improving the infrastructure so that more electric taxis can operate in the city. We are looking at ways to improve the number of charge points for public use too. We will be looking at the key locations to install these charge points and working with taxi operators and businesses as we develop these plans.”

Another project includes an engine retrofit scheme on buses travelling through Basford Bank, from Sandy Lane in Newcastle towards Festival Park, as part of a separate Ministerial Direction served on the Borough Council. This is one of the worst polluting routes in the area and currently involves vehicles run by First Bus on its 3, 4 and 4a routes.

Air Quality Management Areas (AQMA) have been declared where nitrogen dioxide levels exceed or are close to legal limits. In Newcastle this affects the M6 at Madeley, Newcastle town centre up to and including Etruria Road, Liverpool Road, Kidsgrove, and the road running through May Bank, Wolstanton and Porthill. Stoke-on-Trent was declared an AQMA in 2006.

Last updated 8 February 2019