Minicab driver slams green taxi proposal in St Albans

Dave McCormack with his minicab

Dave McCormack with his minicab - Credit: Archant

An angry minicab driver has slammed council bosses for “jumping the gun” with its proposed green taxi scheme.

St Albans district council (SADC) is currently consulting taxi and minicab drivers on a licencing change which will make fully electric taxis compulsory in the district.

New cabbies would not be accepted if their cars are not electric and existing drivers would have five years from January 1 2018 to convert to a suitable model.

SADC trialled the idea from March 2015 to October 2016 with 17 voluntary participants - it found carbon emissions dropped by 29 tonnes and drivers saved £17,100 in fuel.

Seventy-five per cent of drivers in the trial said they would use an electric car but all those who participated wanted more charging points - there is only one on Adelaide Street which is dedicated to taxis.

But cabby Dave McCormack, 60, from Sandridge, says although he agrees climate change is an important issue, it is premature to make fully electric cars compulsory.

He has been living and working in St Albans for his whole life, and his business, Airport Taxis of St Albans, thrives on long journeys to and from all London airports - he even had a regular who was taken down to Worchester and back each week.

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Dave said the technology does not yet have the stamina to survive long car journeys and he would be unable to continue under the new licencing rules.

Each of Dave’s cabs travel about 50,000 miles a year, and he said he would lose custom if he had to wait for them to charge.

One example of an electric car, the Nissan Leaf, can only travel about 150 miles before it needs recharging.

He said receiving a letter about the potential changes was stressful: “We need to take the emotions out of the argument and think about practicalities.

“I am not happy, because effectively at the moment, it’s very new technology, and not enough is known about it.

“You can’t stand around waiting for the battery to charge up, it’s not practical - we agree with the principle of green issues but the technology isn’t there yet, St Albans district council is jumping the gun.”

But district councillor Simon Grover disagrees: “This is an excellent proposal that could make a real difference to pollution levels in the city centre. It will also help St Albans residents reduce their impact on the climate, with no effort on their part.”

He said it would make it easier for passengers to lower their carbon footprint without changing their habits, and urged people to comment positively.

SADC’s Climate Change Action Plan has pledged to reduce carbon emission in the district by three per cent per year to try and tackle air pollution in Hertfordshire - which they say is second worst only to London.

On top of this, SADC is encouraging staff to go green - ?bicycles can be hired for work, loans are offered to buy a rail season ticket, and lease cars have a maximum emission of 125gm of carbon dioxide.

Head of regulatory services at SADC, Michael Lovelady, said they welcome all feedback on the proposal: “This is intended to help achieve our overall aim of reducing harmful emissions and improve air quality across the district.

“The proposals have gone out for consultation and I would urge anyone who wants to make a contribution to do so.”

He said the licensing and regulatory committee will look at all comments before making a final decision on the proposal.

Chair of that committee, Cllr Richard Curthoys, said: “We believe that the district should move towards an all-electric taxi fleet because of the improvement this will make to the environment.

“Technology is pushing ahead all the time with the latest all-electric vehicles due on the market soon having a range of up to 250 miles-plus and there are plans to install new charging points in the area.”

The consultation will be open until June 15, and SADC will make a decision on June 18 - to comment email