TAXI drivers staged a ‘go-slow’ protest in Bolton town centre in opposition to the Clean Air Zone proposals as town hall chiefs met to discuss whether cabbies would need to drive vehicles no older than five years to avoid the controversial charges.

More than 50 vehicles brought Le Mans Crescent to a standstill this afternoon, while other drivers staged a protest outside the town hall.

The hundreds of drivers, from Bolton and across Greater Manchester, said they wanted to bring attention to what the proposals would mean for them but also the implications the Clean Air Zone would have for the public.

Taxi drivers say they are worried about the cost facing them and other commercial organisations over proposals they would have to buy a vehicle no older than five years in order to avoid the Clean Air Zone charge.

Nick Astley, owner of Metro Cars, said: “These drivers are being forced into spending £25,000 or £30,000 to buy a new vehicle. I’ve spoken to my drivers and a lot of these lads won’t be able to afford to do it.

“There’s a shortage of drivers in Bolton, there’s a shortage of drivers across Greater Manchester, and this is going to force more and more people out of business.”

Chairman of Bolton Private Hire Association, Yasir Amir, said: “It’s unfair on taxi drivers to impose that burden on us. It will put us all in debt. We want the council to rethink these proposals, especially at this moment in time because of the ongoing Covid situation. There’s lot of uncertainty.”

They say the proposal, if implemented will lead to fares “almost certainly” rising to cover costs incurred.

The Bolton News: Taxi drivers out in force to protest against Clean Air Zone proposals which could cost them dearTaxi drivers out in force to protest against Clean Air Zone proposals which could cost them dear

Siraj Patel, who has been driving taxis in Bolton for 25 years, said: “You’re not just targeting traders, you’re targeting the public. If we need to update our vehicle it’s costing us money, so we’re going to put that cost to the public. This is not right.”

This afternoon, council leaders deferred the issue of the minimum licensing standards for taxi and private hire.

The Bolton News: Go slow protest in Le Mans CrescentGo slow protest in Le Mans Crescent

Leader of Bolton Council, Cllr Martyn Cox, announced a deferral of the matter until the next meeting on February 7.

He said:“This will be to do some more engagement work with the taxi trade as the time allowed hasn’t been sufficient.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham last week announced a review of the policy was taking place and yesterday a crunch meeting to discuss the controversial Clean Air Zone proposals with all 10 Greater Manchester boroughs will take place.