FURIOUS taxi drivers have launched a petition to fight plans to tighten age restrictions on their vehicles.
Newcastle Borough Council is looking to stop re-licensing hackney carriage cars when they are eight-years-old.
But 87 cabbies have added their names to a campaign s against the proposals.
Members of the Newcastle and Kidsgrove Taxi Association fear the cost of buying a new vehicle will put many of them out of business.
Chairman Tariq Mahmood, aged 50, of North Road, Cobridge, who has been working as a cabbie taxi driver for eight years, said: “A lot of won’t be able to afford to buy new cars if this restriction is passed. Just because a car is old, it doesn’t mean it is unsafe.
“There are buses still operating which are older than 20 years and we don’t put an age limit on those.
“It just doesn’t make sense why they are targeting taxis.
“At the end of the day, it is our livelihoods at stake and it would be devastating for a lot of drivers if this was passed.
“At the moment, it is a struggle for many of us to keep afloat and if this policy is passed, we will be out of business.”
Saloon cars can currently remain licensed as hackney carriages as long as they pass an annual MOT, while those licensed as private hire vehicles have to be ‘retired’ after eight years.
Officers believe applying the same rule to all saloon taxis will ensure their safety and reliability.
Plans for the rule change come after the council temporarily shut Hassell Street in the town centre as part of a major project to upgrade and relocate the town market.
Cabbies have been complaining the closure is also damaging their trade.
The work – which will see a new night-time taxi rank created – began last month and is expected to be completed by mid-April.
Group secretary Teresa Jones said: “I have no idea who has complained about the state of hackney carriages because we have had a good fleet for the last five years.
“Hackney carriages are part of the national transport system.
“We have got buses running around in Newcastle which are older that don’t get taken off so I can’t see where it is coming from that the vehicles should be taken off the road.
“There are currently more than 157 hackney carriages in Newcastle and these cars are tested by the council and they have MOTS and they are kept in good condition.
“A car which is five-years-old could have done more miles than an eight-year-old car.
“We are talking about a massive increase in fares if every eight-year-old vehicle is taken off the road meaning that taxi drivers will have to buy a new car.
“The drivers have already suffered with the closure of Hassell Street and this is just another blow for them.”
Members of the council’s public protection committee will make a decision on the age rules next month.
Source: The Sentinel.