A bright new era for taxi services is dawning in Nottingham, as plans to ‘green’ the fleet and make the service a customer-friendly part of the city’s world-class transport network get underway.

Nottingham City Council’s Taxi Strategy was launched this year to modernise the taxi fleet and improve the customer offer, not just around comfort and safety, but also around the environmental impact of taxi emissions.

As well as environmental improvements, taxi vehicles will be re-branded, drivers will be trained in customer service and provided uniforms. The council is also looking into developing an Uber-style app for hackney cabs.

The council has successfully bid for £702,000 of money from the Government’s Office of Low Emissions Vehicles which will see 32 connection points installed at eight locations around the city from early next year. These won’t be dedicated for taxis from day one but will be once take-up by taxis increases sufficiently. These charging points are on top of 230 points that will be for public as well as taxi use, which the council has received £2m of separate Government funding for.

The council is also trying to remove obstacles for taxi drivers to convert their vehicles to low-emission – and expects to have the newest and most economical fleet of hackneys in the country by 2020. A new policy means that all taxis licenced in Nottingham must be either Euro 6 (low emission diesel) or ultra-low emission vehicles by 2020. A new Government Plug-In Taxi Grant will allow vehicle dealers to claim a grant of between £3,000 and £7,500 – making the vehicles cheaper for drivers.

As an area identified by the Government as needing to introduce a Clean Air Zone, the City Council is in a position to bid to Government for certain funds and has indicated that it intends to bid for money to buy electric taxis – initially ten – which it would then lease to taxi drivers. Over the life of the vehicle it’s estimated to be cheaper to run a ULEV due to lower tax, maintenance and running costs – for example, taxi drivers put on average £20 of diesel in their vehicle per day; a full charge will cost around £1.20.

It’s hoped that private hire operators already using electric vehicles will see this as an opportunity to increase their electric fleet and encourage hackney drivers to look into upgrading to electric vehicles, helped by the new grant. ‘Greening’ the taxi fleet is a key part of the council’s drive to improve air quality, along with measures like the first low-emission vehicle-only lane in the country, one of the largest electric and gas powered bus fleets in the country, investment in cycling facilities and the recent expansion of the tram network.

Portfolio Holder for Community and Customer Services, Cllr Toby Neal, said: “This is the beginning of a new dawn for taxi services in Nottingham. We have a world-class public transport network, with arguably the best bus and tram services in the country, and these improvements will  bring local taxi services up to the same high standard. We are removing any barriers that might prevent taxis from becoming greener, by installing a network of charging points and making arrangements so that getting a new lower-emission vehicle is affordable.

“In the next few years, we will see the fleet of hackney cabs transformed to clean, modern re-branded vehicles and uniformed drivers fully trained in customer service. We also intend to bring out an Uber-style app for hackneys so that it is an appealing, customer-focused service for modern-day passengers.”