Yes, this is another in an occasional series of transport posts at Dick's place, so if it's not your bag feel free to disembark here.
Two years ago, I recounted a discussion with a London black taxi driver over the problems which the Mayor's Air Quality Strategy (amongst other imposed regulations) would present to their trade.
Boris Johnson is apparently soon to implement the policy, mooted by Ken Livingstone before his being kicked out (no surprise that Tory=Labour there), of banning the use of taxis which are over 10 years old.
Now, one reason that the iconic 'jelly-mould' black cab has changed little in sixty-odd years is because they were originally built to last as long as possible. That is, to do the job intended for them, for a long, long time. As a result of cabbies driving the same taxi for decades, which was cost-effective, it wasn't as lucrative for new models to be produced for taxi drivers as it was for the domestic market. Such was a unique London sight created.
Taxis are designed to run for hundreds of thousands of miles, and their reliability and profitability reflected in the £35,000 price tag for a new one. By placing a time limit on their use, a raising of overheads will be created for cabbies, and thousands of vehicles will be rendered obsolete overnight.
In pursuit of a cleaner engine, waste is being encouraged and producers incentivised to skimp on reliability, thereby leading to more manufacturing (err, bad for the environment?) and, no doubt, higher fares to further dissuade leaving one's car at home.At a friendly gathering yesterday, I saw him again and was updated on progress (or, more accurately, erosion) for London hansom cabs in the intervening period.
Just as in my part of the industry, taxi driver associations lobbied hard for a rethink. The result was the black taxi trade being afforded an extra 5 years, meaning that cabs built before 1997 are now not permitted on London streets. A slight improvement, but around 120 taxis are still being ruled out of service every month which - along with the main manufacturer going into administration recently - is now causing real problems with supply of eligible vehicles.
As we have come to expect whenever some remote state employee puts ideological pen to paper, the unintended consequences are coming home to roost. Most London taxi drivers rent their vehicles due to the prohibitive cost of purchase, and this market has been skewed dramatically by government intervention. Demand is out-stripping supply and rental charges have almost doubled in places.
There is still the option to buy, of course, since the Mercedes Benz Vito is in production ... but only if you have nearly £40k in cash or are able to shell out £585 per month on top of a £2k deposit.
It doesn't take a genius to work out that this relentless pressure on overheads must eventually lead to higher fares than they already are in London.
And don't think you can escape the increase in costs if you use a minicab firm, either. They are also subject to the MAQS and are forced to ditch their vehicles after only 10 years, along with many other new restrictions and regulations, all of which have their roots in Brussels. I found this to my cost last month when quotes for an uptown 2.1 mile journey varied from £9-£13 (£4 to £6 for every mile!).
Of course, Boris's insistence on green policies doesn't just end with this. Last month I reported on one of the many who his London Emissions Zones legislation had put out of business, with its resultant addition to the ever-increasing welfare bill.
And it's not as if any of this is going to do diddley squat for the planet, anyway. Our own company's disbarred vehicles, for example, merely get exported to other countries which don't have the same head-in-the-clouds regulations.
The last two exited our premises today ... bound for Ukraine. Two others have been taken to Ireland, with the last of the five now somewhere on its way to Zimbabwe!
It would appear that although the UK has very strict emissions regulations to save the impending environmental catastrophe, they don't seem to be as harsh elsewhere. I'm not too sure how this helps protect the polar bears, myself, unless the countries mentioned are somehow using a different atmosphere to us. Nope, I simply can't work out how re-arranging the planet's vehicular furniture is going to stop global warming.I fully expect now redundant black taxis follow a similar export route.
Now, I'd like to lay the blame squarely at the door of Boris, his enviro-loon advisers and those who nag them, but it's a wider problem.
We now have local legislators (councils), just beneath regional legislators (like, err, Boris), along with state legislators (Westminster), and supra-national legislators (the EU Commission). And if we're paying people with around 50% of GDP to be legislators, what do you think they're going to do? Legislate, of course.
There is never going to be a day where they turn up to 'work' and see no 'problem' to fix, simply because that way leads to the dole and a possible cancellation of the conservatory Mrs Pen-pusher had her heart set on. As such, we're actually paying these people out of our taxes ... to cost us all more money. Probably why an institution as vast, wasteful, and corrupt as the EU declares - with a straight face, apparently - that it cannot identify even a single euro to cut from its budget.
When even a group as fundamentally working class as London taxi drivers are being beaten into submission by ill-conceived, dogmatic governmental interference - for no reason better than public sector smugness and self-enrichment - it's clear that the whole system is desperately messed up and no longer seeks to serve the public as it is supposed to do.
And just to round this all off with some high comedy, you may be interested to know that one politician was particularly annoyed about how London taxi drivers are being forced - by Boris Johnson's air quality strategy - into a position where there might be a shortage of black cabs this Christmas. He was quite livid, so he was.
The name of this determined champion of the black taxi trade? Boris Johnson.