Most taxi drivers find that they gain the most fares from town centres, as people who are shopping or out in the evenings generally rely on taxis to get them home. However, more and more councils are placing restrictions on private hire taxi firms as to when and where they can pick up passengers in town centres, and many private hire taxi drivers are now finding this is leading to a massive drop in the amount of business they have each shift.
For example, the local council for Hanley in Staffordshire has recently announced that private hire taxi drivers are no longer allowed in the newly pedestrianised areas of the town centre, including Stafford Street and Old Hall Street. Furthermore, any private hire taxi caught using a bus lane will be immediately issued a £60 fine, unlike Hackney carriages which are considered public transport vehicles. Discussing the decision, transport manager from Z cars in Longton, David Shaw, said: “I just can’t believe it. It’s total discrimination in favour of Hackney Carriages.”
“The council has just made a decision and that is it now, we’ll never be allowed to drive in the city centre again. We get a lot of older people who go shopping in Hanley and call us to pick them up with all their heavy bags. We used to go and pick them up straight from outside Argos, or the shops, and take them home. Now people will have to walk to a taxi rank and pay out a lot more money to get home. I think it will make people, especially girls on a night out, more vulnerable having to walk through the city centre to find a cab.”
Parv Khan, owner of City Cabs, added: “We take 10,000 calls a week and around 20 per cent of those are for Hanley city centre. I have been campaigning for a long time for private hire vehicles to be allowed to use bus lanes but the council refuse to grant us the permission. They’re going to have a nightmare on Friday and Saturday nights when everyone pours out of the clubs and needs a cab. There will be more fights, and it’s just plain dangerous.”
The loss of business for private hire taxi drivers in the Hanley area could also lead to them struggling to pay for their taxi insurance, licensing fees, and vehicle maintenance. However, Hackney Carriage drivers have welcomed the changes as it prevents private hire drivers picking up passengers illegally and stops them from overcharging them for the journey.