TAXI bosses in Southampton are being asked to upgrade their fleet in a bid to improve air quality – but concerns have been raised over the financial impact the move will have.

All taxis and private hire vehicles in the city which were manufactured before September 2015 and are classed as euro 5 vehicles will have to be swapped for more modern and less polluting vehicles by January 2023.

The decision made by the Licensing Committee on Wednesday is part of  Southampton City Council’s strategy to fight air pollution.

At the meeting traders told civic chiefs that while they want to help  improving air quality across the city, they wanted more reassurance on the financial support they will receive and asked for the decision to be deferred. 

Civic chiefs did not defer the decision but said the city council will receive more than £160,000 from central government to support the move.

Perry McMillan, from Unite the Union, said: “Drivers are going to spend a lot of money on changing their vehicles and because of that we think this decision is to be deferred. We are talking about drivers having to spend a lot of money in very difficult economic times.”

He said to upgrade a euro 5 car costs between £12,000 and £15,000 while an electric car costs about £33,000.

He also said about 50 vehicles in Southampton will be affected by this move.

According to the council, euro 5 emission standard diesel vehicles

will be phased out during 2022 and from 2020 no new or replacement

vehicle that is euro 5 diesel emission standard will be issued a licence.

Taxi bosses also stressed the importance of having rapid chargers for electric vehicles to be installed across the city as soon as possible.

The authority said they will be installed in summer 2019.

Cllr Sue Blatchford, chairman of the Licensing Committee, said taxi companies can apply for grants  and added: “I’m sure the council will assist the drivers as much as they can with the budget available.”

After the meeting, councillor Steve Leggett, cabinet member for green city and environment, added: “The need to take urgent, strong action against air pollution is essential. The new licensing conditions are part of a larger, ongoing plan linked to our Green City Charter. We know people living, working and visiting Southampton share our commitment to improving air quality and reducing pollution across the city.”