Rochdale operators and drivers stage 24-hour strike in protest at proposed clean air rules

pd website news rochdale strike

Greater Manchester taxi drivers have staged another protest against proposed new Clean Air Zone rules across the region.

Hundreds of drivers in Rochdale staged a 24-hour strike on Monday and took to the streets in protest, gathering outside the town’s civic centre. The striking Rochdale firms represent around 1,200 drivers in the town. The move follows a similar action in Bolton last week.

Under proposed new regulations, hackney carriages and private hire vehicles will only be registered if they are less than five years old, and vehicles older than ten years must be replaced. Drivers feel that the timing of such changes will put many of them out of business.

The 24-hour strike action began at 6am on Monday, January 24. Mohammed Nabeel, co-owner of Streamline Taxis Rochdale, said he hoped the strike action would highlight a need for the proposals to be looked at again.

He said: “The council needs to realise we’re not asleep – we are aware of what’s going on and what they’re trying to implement on us. It’s not right.” Nabeel said he feared the Clean Air minimum standards would force drivers out of the industry. “It’s going to scare people away from the industry, for sure. I think it could get to the point where drivers will have no choice but to walk away from the trade.”

He continued: “A car less than five years old now is anything between £15-20,000 – that’s a lot of money.” He said the rules would lead to fare rises in Rochdale. “The prices in Rochdale are probably one of the lowest in all of the UK but there’s no way it will stay affordable for people with these changes.”

Meanwhile ride-hailing apps operating in the area applied “surge pricing” in the face of the shortage of taxis, with one operator reporting that the cost of a two-mile trip that would originally cost around £3.50 had risen to £16.

A statement from the Rochdale Association for Private Hire Drivers said that all licensed private hire drivers and their customers would be affected by the proposed changes.

The association said: “If the proposals go ahead, many drivers will be forced out of the trade and those that do continue will be hit with huge costs. As a result of this, the prices paid for taxis by customers will be significantly increased at a time where the global pandemic has already caused severe hardship.”

The association blamed “poor consultation and ongoing unwillingness to engage in consultation talks” between the firms and Rochdale Council (RMBC).

In a statement jointly issued with the striking operators the association said: “After many years of talks and meetings with RMBC, no mutual resolution has been met. To avoid strike action, we have made three further attempts to meet with RMBC representatives, but unfortunately, they refused to meet with us.

“After over three years of mostly remote consultations, RMBC has not taken any of our concerns on board and the proposals we put forward have been given zero consideration.”

The joint statement said while the operators and drivers were not against clean air, they say the changes will burden drivers with “crippling finance costs”.

The statement continued: “These changes come at a time when the whole community is already under severe financial strain. “We are not against Clean Air. However, daily charges will not improve air quality.”

The statement concluded: “Public safety may be compromised as a result of no longer being able to afford to travel. Ensuring vulnerable people get home safely may no longer be an option. Ringing an ambulance instead of taking a taxi. These are scenarios we want to avoid.”