Glasgow taxi drivers at risk of becoming ‘bankrupt’ in face of new Low Emission Zone deadline

Taxi drivers across Glasgow fear an upcoming LEZ compliance deadline next month, amidst an uncertain future for cab drivers in the city.

Glasgow taxi drivers are calling for a delay to the Low Emission Zone (LEZ) in the city centre amidst fears of becoming ‘bankrupt’ in efforts to comply with the pollution scheme.

The original date for taxi drivers to make sure they have taken steps towards making their vehicle compliant was 31 May 2023, but was since pushed back to 31 October this year.

For most taxi drivers in Glasgow this means finding £1000 to place as a deposit on an interest free loan from the council for a hybrid car.

This news causes major stress for a large portion of Glasgow Taxi drivers, who are only beginning to recover from the loss of business caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Current electric vehicles on the market - that would comply with the demands of the council - cost upwards of £50k, and drivers fear that by the time they pay the loan off they will be forced to find a new car to comply with Glasgow City Council’s aim to be carbon neutral by 2030.

The taxi trade saw the brakes slammed on as the Covid-19 outbreak hit the accelerator. Picture: John Devlin.

Michael Smith has been driving taxis in Glasgow for the last 26 years, winning the runner-up position for taxi driver of the year in 2019, he said: “The problem is that there aren’t enough compliant vehicles that are fit for purpose.

“As LEZs are put in place in cities across the UK, the whole industry in Britain are chasing compliant cars - making them really overpriced.

“By the time I’m able to pay off the car, it will most likely no longer be compliant - meaning I’m essentially just paying for a job.

“If we’re given more time, we’ll be able to wait for a more compliant car that is better fit for purpose - meaning that we’ll be driving cleaner cars in Glasgow a long time before 2030.

“Our only option really is to put down this £1000 deposit before the end of October - if we don’t, that’s us on the way out.

“The charge could push taxi drivers into bankruptcy.”

Most consumer-built hybrid vehicles in the UK have a battery life of around 50 miles, give or take, while taxi drivers in Glasgow often drive over 100 miles a day.

Cities across the UK have been struggling to meet the LEZ deadline following on from the pandemic - with Manchester delaying the implementation of their LEZ until 2026.

Michael Smith continued:”The infrastructure is not to put the LEZ in place in Glasgow so quickly.

“Andrew Burnham, the mayor of Manchester, said that even they couldn’t meet the deadline - and they’re a bigger and more modern city than Glasgow.

“We’re not asking for more money by any means, we’re just asking for more time for some breathing space.

“If we’re forced into compliance, I can see a lot of taxi drivers handing in their plates.

“We’ve already got a shortage of drivers after so many people decided to retire during the pandemic, and even more drivers are still in debt from the pandemic.

“Nobody will want to come into the industry because of the uncertainty, and it’s the people of Glasgow that will suffer because of it.”