Taxi drivers have had their say on plans to ban petrol and diesel cabs in Reading from 2028.
Consultation on Reading Borough Council’s Hackney Carriage and Private Hire Strategy 2023-28 ended recently, with one of the main goals being to “phase out the use of petrol and diesel-only cars and vehicles in an effort to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions”.
As with other towns and cities which recognise the importance taxis play in the community, the council said it is “committed to ensuring that the hackney carriage and private hire sector remains integrated within the town’s sustainable transport network so that it can continue to move passengers to destinations safely, whilst contributing to the town’s economy with minimal environmental impact”.
Sustainability in the taxi industry
By introducing changes over the next five years, Reading is aiming to create a sustainable taxi and private hire service for the future, including access to Reading Train Station – a major transport hub in the South East – which underwent an £897 million upgrade and caters for 20 million passengers a year. This figure is expected to rise to 30 million by 2030.
Another main goal, as reported by Taxi Point, is to use apps to improve the taxi and private hire experience for passengers, as well as increasing safety for passengers and drivers.
The strategy the council is proposing explains: “The adoption of new technology by the sector and most significantly by the public, has resulted in a much-changed sector. The biggest change is the ease with which passengers can engage services using an app on a mobile phone.
“The council is supportive of technological developments which both improve the customer experience and ensure safety measures are adhered to. App-based companies are licensed in the Borough and are subject to the same conditions and requirements as other operators.
“The council will consider new applications which are in line with this strategy and comply with legal requirements.”
Integrating further technology
App-booking systems allow passengers and drivers to share details and ratings about each other which helps reduce the risk of rogue taxis picking up vulnerable passengers, or unruly fares thinking they can simply disappear after causing trouble. Passengers who travel in unlicensed taxis open themselves to all sorts of risks, including expensive bills in the event of a crash because the driver will not have valid taxi insurance.
By giving real-time journey details, they also make it easier for drivers and passengers to select the booking that best suits them.
If the scheme goes ahead as planned, Reading’s 225 taxis, 392 private hire vehicles, and 118 executive private hire vehicles currently in operation will need to be switched to electric or hybrid vehicles within five years.
This timeline will fit in well with taxi drivers and taxi base operators who currently have EVs or hybrids, or those who are looking to upgrade their existing petrol or diesel vehicle.
And, unlike other authorities that look set to only licence full EVs, Reading has taken the view that hybrids – which are economical and already popular with taxi drivers – will help reduce emissions and should be allowed to continue on the town’s roads.
It also gives taxi and private hire drivers more choice as the used hybrid market has more to offer than the second-hand EV market alone.
A report on the responses to the consultation will be made at the council’s licensing committee on November 7.
What do you think of Reading’s plans?
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