Sheffield taxi drivers call for brakes to be put on congestion charge

Sheffield taxi drivers Tariq Nasir, Lee Ward, Aamer Hanif, Aftab Ahmed and Ibrar Hussain
Sheffield taxi drivers Tariq Nasir, Lee Ward, Aamer Hanif, Aftab Ahmed and Ibrar Hussain

Sheffield taxi drivers have criticised councillors over plans to charge them for driving into the city centre.

The council is looking to introduce a pollution toll – dubbed a “congestion charge” – for vehicles driving along the ring road and inner ring road.

The planned Clean Air Zone will mean most buses could have to pay £50 a day with £10 a day for taxis, lorries, vans and coaches. Private cars are not affected.

But several taxi drivers, from both private hire and black cab firms, were unhappy at a meeting of the council’s Cabinet.

Former Labour councillor Ibrar Hussain, of the GMB union, said: “This will have an immediate impact and costs for public transport. What assessments have been done on the impact of taxi drivers?”

Lee Ward, chairman of ALPHA which represents taxi firms and drivers, said: “We have got 185,000 private vehicles and only 3,000 have taxi licences. This council is too scared of charging the public so it’s targeting taxi drivers instead. If everyone is making a pollution problem, everybody should be in the same pot to solve it.”

And Aamer Hanif, of UK Airport Transfer, agreed the council should charge all vehicles: “The impact on us will be immense. Taxi drivers are earning minimum wage and this hits the smallest people the hardest.”

The council says if it doesn’t take action and lower nitrogen oxide levels quickly, it could face a substantial fine from the Government.

Coun Jack Scott, Cabinet Member for Transport, said: “It appears a brutal approach but it won’t be in the fullness of time. This is not easy or comfortable for any of us but that’s the scale of change we are facing as a city.

“It is highly controversial and difficult to solve but we don’t see an alternative and the most important thing is we have a taxi fleet that’s clean, safe and reliable and we have clean air for everybody.”

The plan is dependent on securing £40 million from the Government to pay for signs and cameras and around £10 million worth of loans and grants to help taxi drivers and bus companies upgrade.