A TAXI company was forced to scrap an investment worth £3m after Leeds City Council blocked its bid to bring a fleet of emission-free electric cars to the city.
Arrow Taxis, which operates nationwide and headquartered in Horsforth, was on the verge of signing a contract with car giant Tesla to purchase 30 electric cars.
Tesla, run by tech billionaire Elon Musk, manufactures cars powered entirely by powerful electric batteries and which emit zero greenhouse gases.
Arrow said that the move would have kick-started an “electric taxi revolution” in Leeds and marked a massive step toward reducing the air quality problems currently being faced in Leeds.
However the firm said it has been forced to abandon the plans owing to council bosses refusal to allow the firm to drive in bus lanes.
Under current council rules, only so-called private hire taxis or black and white cabs, can use Leeds’s bus lanes.
Arrow’s request that all taxi firms, not just itself, should be allowed access to these faster lanes if the taxi in question was an electric car, has been rejected by the council.
David Richmond, chairman of Arrow Taxis, told The Yorkshire Post: “It has been our plan to purchase an extensive fleet of Tesla vehicles. This would have been fantastic news for Leeds, it could have kick started an electric taxi revolution in the city, dramatically helping the air quality problems we are facing .
“Sadly we have now abandoned this idea 100 per cent due to the intransigence of Leeds City Council.
“You cannot expect us to invest that money only to have these cars stuck in traffic on Kirkstall Road while a 10-year-old diesel taxi goes chugging by in the bus lane.
“To justify this level investment utilisation is imperative, sadly we were pushing against a closed door.
“To the average consumer they just see a taxi as a taxi. No-one says ‘I am going to get a private hire vehicle to the restaurant’.
Mr Richmond said he and his firm had been to Amsterdam to negotiate the deal with Tesla, with each car costing £75,000 plus VAT and had the deal virtually all sewn up before having the rug pulled by the council.
The taxi boss said the move would have siemsic in terms of reducing air pollution in the city and start to alleviate the planned clean air zones the council wishes to impose, which could see buses, taxis and lorries handed £100 fines in certain parts of Leeds.
The new proposals would create a CAZ that covers all roads within the Leeds outer ring road, with motorways acting as the southern boundary.
The plans, set out after Leeds was named as one of the 30 most polluted cities in the country, would see taxis that do not meet the relevant standards that enter the CAZ incur a charge of £12.50 per day while the cost for buses and HGVs would be £100. Certain classes of vehicle will be exempt, such as wheelchair-accessible taxis.
However Mr Richmond said the plans were “a sticking plaster”.
“Our solution was far more wide-ranging.
“If Leeds council want clean air , want wheelchair accessible vehicles they must support the companies who are prepared to go that extra mile
“If Leeds really does want to become a world class city , the transport infrastructure the disability and clean air policy must become fully thought through
Councillor James Lewis said: “We have had some positive dialogue with Mr Richmond, however as he is aware private hire vehicles and Hackney carriages are subject to different sets of regulation so we have to treat them separately in terms of policy.
“Many of the issues raised here will be covered by the upcoming clean air zone consultation which starts on January 2, part of this will be talking to a range of fleet operators about how we can support them to transition to ultra-low emissions vehicles, including fully electric.”