MORE highly polluting taxi cabs could be forced off the roads under mooted borough council plans.

Taxi drivers have called on Swindon Borough Council to bear in mind the high cost of new vehicles, urging officers to ensure the trade remains financially viable.

As part of plans to tackle illegal air pollution levels at the top of Kingshill Road, the borough has suggested tightening up licensing rules to reduce emissions.

Currently, nitrogen dioxide levels on the road need to be cut by a third to bring them below legal limits.The totem measure of an air quality management plan rubber stamped by Swindon Borough Council’s cabinet last week is a proposal to ban heavy goods vehicles from the road.

However, also mentioned in the plan is a potential change to taxi licensing regulations.

There are 1,000 private hire cars vehicles and 104 hackney carriages in the town, they said. “It is not known what proportion of the traffic on this road is a taxi or hackney carriage, but it is clear that the road is an important route into and out of Old Town, and so private hire and hackney cab vehicles will make up a meaningful part.”

By 2024, the deadline given to Swindon council to fix pollution problems, the majority of taxi cabs would be compliant with stringent emission regulations - known as Euro 6. Under the regulations, introduced in 2014, diesel cabs should produce no more than 80 microgrammes of nitrogen dioxide per kilometre travelled.

The council plan said: “We will put forward proposals to the Licensing Committee to improve the emissions of the taxi and hackney carriage fleet through licence conditions; beyond that already mandated.” In a table of potential measures, the council lists as a potential success measure whether all hackney carriages are run on electricity or alternative fuels by 2024.

Andy Lucas of the Swindon Taxi Association stressed the importance of Swindon Borough Council speaking to drivers about the plans: “We need to be fully included in any consultation on pollution reduction measures and understand that this will be discussed at our next regular forum meeting with the Council. Many taxis are required to be wheelchair accessible and all new taxis are Euro 6 compliant.”

New cabs can cost £30,000 to £50,000: “The council must pay regard to the high cost of these vehicles and take a balanced view when making recommendations, so our trade remains viable.”

Responding, a Swindon Borough Council spokesman confirmed officers would be consulting cab drivers. “We believe that the Air Quality Action Plan shows what needs to be done to improve air quality along Kingshill Road. This follows engagement with local residents, businesses and councillors.

“We have already started to progress the actions to improve air quality and have implemented a relatively small, but significant, change by altering the time we collect waste along Kingshill Road so it coincides with a much quieter time of the day.

“We will also engage with a number of partners and clearly taxi and Hackney Carriage drivers are an important stakeholder group who we will be speaking to in the near future as we continue our push to improve air quality in Swindon.”