Usually there are extremely strict rules around what fares private hire taxis can take, and generally the rule is that their taxi licence only allows them to take fares from those that have called up and booked with the company privately. Hackney carriages on the other hand are allowed to take street hails, and rely on the fact that there are rules in place that prevent private hire taxis from doing so and therefore stealing their business.
However, it has now been announced that as of September private hire taxis in Northern Ireland will be allowed to take street hails so that customers can have a bigger choice when it comes to what taxi they travel in. Furthermore, the scheme will make taxi licensing easier in Northern Ireland which could lead to taxi insurance quotes and other cost decreasing for many drivers. Discussing the scheme, Environment Minister Alex Attwood said: “I remain fully committed to providing a safe, fair and fit-for-purpose taxi industry in Northern Ireland. Single-tier licensing is a significant step which will help achieve this goal.”
“Having the ability to obtain any taxi without pre-booking will help to provide the public with more choice. It will also give those in the taxi industry more opportunities for business in these difficult economic times. This will establish a level and fair playing field as Belfast public hire taxis will be able to charge competitive rates to consumers and will not have to adhere to taxi fares set by law. I am also looking at a package of measures to enable public hire to develop and enhance their business opportunities, consistent with the taxis legislation.”
“I believe this will help to create a competitive market and will bring about benefits for operators, drivers and passengers alike.” Mr Attwood hopes that changing the rules around private taxis will also promote more people to travel to Belfast for both work and pleasure, which will eventually boost trade and the economy. All taxi drivers will now be required to install a meter into their vehicle as of September, and the government is also planning on introducing a maximum fare structure for all taxis as of November 2014.
So far there has been few reports concerning taxi drivers’ reaction to the new taxi licensing rules, however we’re sure there will be mixed opinions. We will keep our readers updated on the scheme and whether it proves beneficial for the Northern Irish taxi industry in the months ahead.