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Taxi fares expected to rise in Newcastle following the new Clean Air Zone scheme

Further restrictions are being put in place for drivers in the city centre

The Clean Air Zone (CAZ) scheme came into place in Newcastle on Monday in efforts to improve air quality and reduce the number of high-polluting vehicles on the roads.

The scheme has been designed to reduce soaring levels of air pollution in the city, but has faced criticism from both taxi drivers who don’t want to pay the extra costs and passengers including students, who will likely be forced to pay increased fares.

Private cars, motorbikes and vehicles that meet minimum emissions standards will not be affected by the CAZ scheme, but older taxis, vans, buses and HGVs will be charged when driving in certain parts of the city.

In the midst of a cost of living crisis, many students and locals are likely to find alternative methods of transport as a result (gone are the times when £10 could get you a taxi into town, three trebs and some cheesy chips at end of the night).

A student, who preferred to remain nameless, told The Newcastle Tab: “I understand the need for schemes like this and I do think it’s important, particularly for large, high emissions vehicles but I do worry about how it will affect taxi drivers. I know me and my friends wouldn’t be willing to pay much more than we already do for taxis into town, we would probably just start walking or using the metro instead”.

She continued: “I think it will put a lot of taxi drivers out of business, which is quite scary, I understand why they aren’t happy”.

A Tyneside taxi firm told The Chronicle : “CAZ will push taxi drivers out of trade and push up fares for passengers”.

Neil Atkinson, who has been a taxi driver in Newcastle for three years, forked out £2,000 to replace his old vehicle with an electric alternative following the launch of CAZ on Monday.

He told the BBC: “The car I’ve just had to sell, which is now privately owned, can be driven in the city for free. It makes no sense.”

There are cameras dotted around the city to target those who do not comply with the new CAZ scheme, charging taxis, vans, buses, coaches and HGVs up to £50 a day.  The restrictions were put in place in line with an announcement by the government to reduce illegal levels of air pollution caused by traffic. 

Newcastle City Council hopes the new CAZ scheme will generate an improvement in air quality across the city, despite the scheme facing initial setbacks during its launch due to the pandemic. Although, members of the public fear the measures may deter the number of visitors to the city centre.

Although Nick Kemp, Leader of Newcastle City Council, said in an interview with The BBC: “It’s not about preventing people coming into the city, it’s really about stopping unnecessary journeys through the city centre and ensuring we have better vehicles providing public service.” 

Similar schemes have already proved successful in other major cities such as Bristol, Portsmouth and Bradford, which have generated £1.85m following the measures, a sum planned to fund future projects to lower emissions.