Edinburgh cabbies in crisis talks over threat from “pirates”

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CONCERNED cabbies have met for crisis talks as they claim the trade is under threat in the Capital.

Hundreds of drivers met with union officials on Tuesday night to discuss issues ranging from council emissions targets to so-called ‘pirate’ operators.

So-called "pirate" operators pick-up street fares illegally

So-called "pirate" operators pick-up street fares illegally

Trade insiders fear drivers will be forced from the road in trying to meet new emissions guidelines while city council officials defended environmental targets.

Mark Lyon, regional industrial officer for meeting organisers Unite, said: “There is a crisis facing the taxi trade in Edinburgh.

“The meeting involving Unite Scotland was very positive and attended by hundreds across the different sectors in the trade.

“A number of key issues were discussed such as illegal plying for hire, no dedicated inspectors to deter pirating, and the massive costs associated with the city council’s emissions policy.

“As such, the drivers present resolved to work together by creating a new Unite branch, to initiate an organising campaign to put pressure on the relevant authorities and to drive up standards.”

The Evening News reported last July how half of Edinburgh’s taxis are to be forced from the road in a massive emissions cull.

All black cabs older than ten years will need to be replaced by 2020 under a new Edinburgh City Council policy, accounting for 616 vehicles of a fleet of 1316.

Drivers slammed the council plans to meet EU guidelines as rushed and poorly researched, with many likely to have to quit the trade as it faces a £28.3 million upgrade bill.

Mr Lyon said Unite had been made aware of increasing cases of ‘pirate’ or non-licensed operators.

Les McVay, of City Cabs, welcomed the union’s involvement and pointed to the proliferation of app-based multinationals, such as Uber, as a major concern.

“We’re in favour of coming together under the banner of Unite,” said Mr McVay.

“Those coming into our trade through Uber are coming through the gig economy and don’t contribute to the social fabric of the city because no taxes are raised.”

Licensing Sub-Committee Convener, Councillor Catherine Fullerton, said the pollution-busting age limit and emission standards for all taxis and private hire cars was agreed last year.

“Air pollution is a real concern in Edinburgh and in cities around the country, and this is something the council is working to address through a range of measures, including plans to introduce a Low Emission Zone,” she added.

Cllr Fullerton said representatives of taxi businesses raised a number of concerns during talks on the plans.

“These were reflected in changes made by the Licensing Sub-Committee and include setting out a 10 year instead of five year age limit originally proposed as well as extending the life of taxis which are converted to less polluting engines,” she added.