Lawrence Webb, UKIP’s candidate for Mayor of London, says the policies of rivals Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson show they “don’t care” about London’s iconic black cab trade.
Ask anyone what is iconic about London and they will tell you that the black cab is part of everyday life in the capital.
If you visit any one of the numerous tourist shops in London you will find souvenirs and knick-knacks to remind people of their trip.
Along with red post boxes and telephone boxes there are also miniature black cabs. The black cab is as synonymous with London as is Tower Bridge. However this industry, like so many others, is under threat.
Since November last year all new LTI taxis must be fitted with a Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF).
Instead of an all new engine, this filter is simply being retro-fitted to the existing model. Whist we all want to breathe cleaner air, these filters are not the answer especially as they add extra three thousand pounds or so to cost of a new taxi.
In many ways this is nothing more than a tax, levied at a sector that can ill afford it at a time when fuels costs are also going through the roof.
Increasingly drivers of the traditional black cab are playing on an un-level playing field with the odds decidedly stacked against them.
On top of the fifteen year lifetime of a taxi, as imposed upon them by TfL, drivers of new vehicles will have to work longer to cover the initial purchase price leaving less time to put aside money for the next cab.
But it is not just the additional cost that these filters bring; they simply do not work in an urban environment and can often result in costly repairs; not only in having the filters ‘re-generated’, but also to the engine itself if the filters are allowed to clog which causes back-pressure.
If that were not enough, there is new evidence that point to DPF filters being responsible for a number of vehicle fires.
If the Low Emission Zone were purely about lowering emissions, then there are other simpler ways of achieving that goal, not least reducing the duty on cleaner diesel which would not only benefit the environment but the motorist as well.
One of the greatest threat to the survival of the black cab trade comes from certain politicians. Ken despises all that is British and, particularly those things that are uniquely so.
And so desperate is he to see the British identity homogenised into a common European one that he actively encouraged the proliferation of ‘Euro-architecture’ – those awful red tile clad structures that seem to spring up everywhere and at the same time rid the streets of those things that remind us of who we are.
Ask yourself why it is that Ken massively increased the number of private-hire vehicles in London and Boris has presided over ever greater encroachment of these operators into the areas that were once (and legally still should be) the preserve of the black cab.
Traditional taxi ranks are being removed while ‘satellite offices’ are springing up everywhere. ‘Clipboard Johnnies’ working alongside a rank of minicabs illegally ‘plying for hire’, seem to be more concerned with expansion of criminal enterprise that they do with providing a safe public service.
Whilst Ken and Boris argue about whose train set will run faster than the others and try and distract us with their various vanity projects, there is one group of people who know exactly what is going on and that is the London cabbie.
They see and hear everything and do not hesitate to voice their displeasure at what they see going on around them. Listen to any talk-radio station in the capital and you will undoubtedly hear cabbies calling in from across London telling people what is really going on and how the ordinary hard working folk of London truly feel about it.
Perhaps that is why Ken and Boris are not concerned with the possible demise of the traditional London taxi?
I believe that the service provided by the black cab is unique and is the envy of cities around the world and something that is worth fighting to preserve.
Lawrence Webb is the UKIP candidate for Mayor of London. Find out more about his campaign at www.ukipmayor.com or follow him on Twitter: @UKIPWebb4London