Taxi drivers in Reading have asked for extra time to dispose of older and higher-emission vehicles due to Covid-19.

In October 2019, the council passed a new policy which means all licensed black cabs will have to be electric or Ultra Low Emission Vehicles (ULEV) by 2028.

Reading Taxi Association (RTA), which represents around 90 per cent of licensed drivers in Reading, has requested a delay in the implementation of the policy.

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Reading Borough Council’s (RBC) will decide what changes to make, if any, to the policy next Wednesday, December 9.

The RTA states Reading drivers are currently running at a loss of 70 -75 per cent of their work in the daytime and up to 95 per cent after 10pm, with only 50 per cent of the fleet currently working.

In a letter to Councillor Tony Page, lead member for Transport and Environment, RTA chairman Asif Rashid said: “The situation looks very bleak and it is almost certain that there will be further lockdowns possibly lasting until summer next year.

“Since these new rules came into effect it has become almost impossible to earn a living. It is highly likely that some of us will not survive.

“We are working up to 15 hours a day, seven days a week but still struggling to pay the bills and support our families. Under such pressures, how are we meant to buy new vehicles?”

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The policy, agreed in 2019, sets out when drivers need to upgrade their older vehicles, with a gradual move away from high-emission vehicles.

Fourteen vehicles have since upgraded to meet the guidelines, with a further five upgrading ahead of schedule.

Taxi drivers have asked for a three-year pause in the policy, while officers are recommending allowing drivers up to an extra two years to take old vehicles off the fleet, from now until 2022.

This would mean 139 vehicles need to come off the fleet by 2022 in one go rather than incrementally over the next two years.

But all vehicles would still need to be ULEV by 2028.

Officers have also recommended that any ULEV or 100 per cent electric vehicle that has never been on the fleet before receives a free licence for its first year on the fleet, to encourage greater use.

They say there has been an absence of financial help from the government and RBC and they cannot afford to upgrade their vehicles.

Taxi drivers have been entitled to the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and in the first tranche received 80 per cent of their average trading profit over the past three tax years and 70 per cent in the second tranche.

But, under the new scheme they will only be entitled to 40 per cent for the period of November 2020-January 2021, with another grant to be announced for the following three months.