Hundreds of taxi and private hire drivers in Birmingham could be forced to replace their vehicles as the city has been ordered to clean up air pollution.
The government has said Birmingham must be among six English cities with a Clean Air Zone by 2020. If Birmingham does not implement the Clean Air Zone on time, the council estimates it could face a £60 million fine.
The council is proposing that licenced vehicles must meet EU emissions standards by December 2017 – or the licenses will not be renewed.
There are 4,200 private hire cars and 1,233 hackney carriages in Birmingham, and the council estimates 1,428 private hire cars and 530 hackney carriages would fail the test.
Raja Amin, from the RMT union, said the plans “jeopardised drivers’ livelihoods” and drivers were being made scapegoats as there were no proposals to police emissions from other types of vehicle.
All drivers wanting to renew licences by December 2017 will have to meet the Euro 4 standard for petrol driven cars or Euro 5 for diesel. And from December 2018, the council proposes to strengthen its policy so hackney carriages meet at least Euro 6 standard and private hire drivers use Ultra-Low Emission Vehicles.
The Department for Transport has allocated £500,000 to cover conversion costs for 63 hackney carriages. Drivers can also apply for a grant of up to £7,500 towards a new taxi.
The council said: “The city has a very old fleet of hackney carriages and private hire vehicles so we need to look at how we can solve this issue to the benefit of all. We will do everything we can to shape the market for cleaner vehicles and assist drivers.”
The other cities required to have a clean air zone are London, Leeds, Nottingham, Derby and Southampton.