FURIOUS taxi drivers in Worcester are taking the city council to the High Court in a bitter dispute over buying new vehicles.

The taxi trade say they face "ruins" because of a new rule which means some drivers must fork out nearly £40,000 to stay on the roads.

Under city council rules, hackney carriage drivers typically need to replace their taxi once it reaches the age of around 12, subject to a mechanic's assessment.

Up until last November, a new vehicle aged up to three years old was deemed acceptable, but a new rule then kicked in which the replacement must be brand new.

Worcester Taxi Drivers Association says the change has infuriated the trade, with many saying they cannot possibly afford new vehicles straight off the production line.

Drivers have clubbed together to raise around £35,000 and have instructed a law firm to start High Court proceedings via a judicial review.

Lesley Borthwick, from the association, said: "In this day and age who can afford £30,000 or more for a brand new taxi?

"We haven't got the money, drivers are scratching around trying to make a living as it is.

"People say 'why don't you get another job' but for us, what other work is out there?

"The difference between a new vehicle and one nearly three years old is around ten grand - we're talking one hell of a difference.

"There are great implications to what the council has done."

The driver's case is being handled by Nolan Licensing Consultants & Advocates, a specialist firm which handles taxi disputes around the country.

Councillor Paul Denham, chairman of the council's licensing committee, said: "I'm very disappointed to hear that's the avenue they are going down.

"As far as I am concerned we are willing to listen to what they have to say - they are taking a tremendous risk in taking it to court.

"In November it was a sort of emergency decision, because we hadn't yet got a cap in place and wanted to do something to help limit numbers."

He said a forum between the taxi drivers and council was taking place on Thursday, and he hoped fresh talks could take place over it.

The city council also says it has yet to receive formal notification of the challenge, and that it could be out of date because three months is the standard cut off time for a judicial review on such a decision.

Last month the council voted through a new rule which means no more cabbies will be allowed a licence until numbers fall sharply.

Worcester currently has 263 hackney carriages, and the cap is set at 230, which means at least 34 must quit before any more are dished out.