Taxi drivers in Rochdale are due to strike for 24 hours from 6am on Monday January 24 and are expected to wreak havoc by ‘slowing down’ in the town centre.
It comes on the same day that First Bus drivers have planned the latest in a series of pay strikes.
Hundreds of Rochdale’s 1,200 taxi drivers will also drive slowly through the town centre, culminating in a 10am meeting at One Riverside – the town’s main civic centre.
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A similar action, in protest at moves to introduce a clean air zone in Greater Manchester as well as a common set of Minimum Licensing Standards (MLS), is said to be planned by taxi drivers in each of the nine other boroughs in the city area.
The main thrust of the taxi drivers’ grievance is that from January 31, a private hire vehicle must be less than five years old and vehicles over 10 years old must be scrapped.
Abrar Hussain, owner of Cars 2000 in Rochdale, told the Manchester Evening News: “The cost of a vehicle less than five years old is around £15,000. The majority of private rental cars in Rochdale are between £3,000 and £3,000. 4,000.
“They are trying to impose MLS in one of the most disadvantaged cities in the country. Already a lot of drivers have left the company because of the Covid.
“They retired or became delivery drivers because they can’t charge the taxi.”
He said the majority of taxi customers in Rochdale are people who cannot afford their own car.
“MLS will drive up fares to the point where people can’t afford to take a taxi anymore,” he said. “We are going to lose a hell of a lot of drivers and the prices will quadruple.”
Referring to the MLS consultation that took place in 2020, Mr Hussain said: “The consultation was of no avail as the council did not listen to our concerns. We continue to email them , but we have received no response.
Councilor Sarah Rowbotham, holder of Rochdale’s climate change and sustainability portfolio, however, defended the introduction of MLS.
She said: “In 2018, Greater Manchester’s 10 local authorities agreed to collectively develop, endorse and implement a common set of Minimum Licensing Standards (MLS) for taxis and private hire services.
“At that time, the primary focus was to ensure public safety and protection, but vehicle age and emission standards in the context of GM’s air quality plan and decarbonization programs are also now major considerations.
“An eight-week Greater Manchester-wide consultation took place between October 8 and December 3, 2020 to seek feedback on the MLS proposals.
“We have met with drivers on several occasions to listen to their concerns and we always listen very carefully to what drivers tell us in the hope that further assistance and reassurance can be provided.
“It is regrettable that the strike is taking place in several districts of Greater Manchester.
“However, we strongly believe that MLS will benefit both drivers and customers, by building public confidence in a well-regulated service of the taxi and private hire industry, to provide safe and high quality services to residents and visitors to Rochdale and Greater Manchester, as well as contributing to better air quality.”
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