What price clean air?

Taxi on Spital Hill
Taxi on Spital Hill

Story by Graham Jones

In December the council announced proposals for creating a Clean Air Zone within the Sheffield’s Inner Ring Road. The most polluting vehicles would face a daily charge to travel into the city, including lorries, buses and taxis. Private cars will not be affected.

While Burngreave falls outside of this area, many taxi drivers live here. We also have the most active local clean air campaign in the city and some of the worst pollution hot spots in the whole of Sheffield. We asked what do local clean air campaigners and taxi drivers make of these proposals.

Taxi on Spital Hill
Taxi on Spital Hill

Burngreave Clean Air Campaign

“Air pollution in cities is mainly due to traffic, especially older diesel vehicles. It kills 500 Sheffielders each year and causes asthma and failure of brain and lung development in children. Among adults it is responsible for heart and lung disease, cancer, dementia and diabetes.

“Air pollution affects everybody but especially those who are driving and riding in the most polluting  vehicles.  We think that Sheffield deserves a modern taxi service which would benefit taxi drivers, passengers and local residents. We think that, if the government is serious about improving our health and reducing traffic related pollution, it should finance low emission taxis to provide a modern taxi service.”

Ibrar Hussain taxi driver
Ibrar Hussain taxi driver

Taxi driver Ibrar Hussain

“As a black cab driver I welcome the introduction of the clean air strategy, there can be no doubt that our air quality needs to be much improved, and recognise taxi drivers have a role to play in that. But we must be careful about the strategies implementation and implications. As a diesel based industry, the changes required will be massive for us.

“Upgrading to a new electric vehicle will cost in the region of £58,000. There are also issues with the existing electric vehicles, LEVC TX’s, as they can only do 70 miles per charge, while I need to be able to do 150. The infrastructure for recharging just isn’t there at the moment. We would ask the council for a phased in approach.

“Give five years for existing drivers to make the change, or give interest free loans to help the trade. There are 857 black cabs in Sheffield currently, and that number is falling. If the council don’t see what we are saying, this could see the end of  black cabs across the city.”