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, based in Horsforth, was on the verge of signing a contract with electric car giant Tesla to bring 30 electric cars to the city, a move it said 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 the city.
However the firm said it has been forced to abandon the plans entirely after council bosses refused to allow electric taxis to drive in bus lanes.
Under current council rules, only so-called Hackney carriages or black and white cabs can use Leeds’s bus lanes, with regular taxis, known as private hires, treated like regular cars.
But Arrow’s request that all taxi firms, not just itself, should be allowed access to these faster lanes if the taxi were an electric car, was rejected by the council.
David Richmond, chairman of Arrow Taxis, told the YEP: “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 of 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’. It’s madness.”
Tesla, run by tech billionaire Elon Musk, manufactures luxury cars powered entirely by powerful electric batteries and which emit zero greenhouse gases.
The cars are among the most sought-after motor cars in the world and increasingly becoming available in the UK.
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.
CITY COUNCIL’S RESPONSE
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.”