The country’s newest Clean Air Zone came into operation on Monday and means many taxi drivers have to pay more to use Bradford’s streets.
It has taken four years to bring in, and now only vehicles such as EVs, that meet greener standards, will avoid the charges.
In a bid to reduce illegal levels of pollution, vehicles that will be charged in Bradford’s Clean Air Zone – which also includes parts of Shipley – are buses, coaches, taxis, heavy goods vehicles, vans and minibuses. Private vehicles, including cars and motorbikes, are exempt from charging.
Non-Euro 6-compliant vehicles entering the charging zone, such as petrol or diesel private hire taxis and minibuses and public hire taxis, pay £7 per day, with HGVs, buses and coaches paying the top rate of £50 a day.
But the move has caused a backlash from businesses who say the extra charges, as well as the rising cost-of-living, will force them to pass on the extra costs to customers, or even go out of business.
While switching to an EV taxi would remove the daily Clean Air Zone charge, taxi drivers and businesses are worried about the initial cost of purchasing a new vehicle, as well as paying for their private hire or public hire insurance.
Other than ultra-low-emission vehicles, vehicles that are exempt from the charging include disabled passenger tax class vehicle, military vehicles, historic vehicles, vehicles retrofitted with technology accredited by the Clean Vehicle Retrofit Accreditation Scheme (CVRAS) and certain types of agricultural vehicles.
By the time the Clean Air Zone launched on Monday, Bradford Council said the majority of the district’s taxis had been upgraded to be Clean Air Zone compliant, along with most of the city’s buses.
The council had also awarded grants to upgrade almost 2,900 vehicles and issued more than 6,500 exemptions.
The introduction of Bradford’s charging zone, in addition to those already operating in Bath, Birmingham and Portsmouth, means taxi drivers must either upgrade to an ultra-low emissions vehicle, or add the charge to the cost of the fare.
For those travelling longer distances, a trip from Bradford to Birmingham would see two Clean Air Zone charges added to the cost of the journey.
Other cities bringing in Clean Air Zones are Bristol, which will start charging on November 28, Sheffield, which will start early next year, and Tyneside, which will begin later this year or in early 2023.
Manchester’s Clean Air Zone is under review and it is thought the new plans will include greater support to replace older, more-polluting vehicles and not include a charging scheme.
As it continues its drive to cut pollution, the government expects more cities will implement clean air zones in future.
Taxi drivers can check if they need to pay a charge for a vehicle before they drive in a Clean Air Zone, and can pay the charge up to six days before they make the journey.
But, with the flexible nature of the industry, there isn’t always time to plan ahead. If a non-compliant taxi enters a Clean Air Zone without paying in advance, the driver has six days after the journey to pay the charge.
If they are to include the charge in the cost of the fare, they have to know they are entering a Clean Air Zone and what the different charges are – they can’t get in touch with a passenger a few days later and ask them to cover the cost.
If the charge is not paid in time, the driver will receive a penalty charge notice, in addition to the pollution charge.
For taxi fleets and bases, accounts can be set up to allow them to check and pay charges online for multiple vehicles.
While the ultimate goal is reducing emissions, taxi drivers must decide what is affordable for their business.
All information is correct at time of publication. Information provided within this article may have changed over time. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by John Patons Insurance Services or any of its employees.