Fears over taxi change bid

A long tradition of black cab building will come to an end with the closure of the company which makes them.'The taxi rank on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool.  PIC BY ROB LOCK'24-10-2012

A long tradition of black cab building will come to an end with the closure of the company which makes them.'The taxi rank on Bank Hey Street in Blackpool. PIC BY ROB LOCK'24-10-2012

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A Blackpool MP is being backed by taxi drivers in his fight against proposed changes to the way cabs are licensed.

The Government has dropped controversial measures within its Deregulation Bill, which would have allowed anyone to drive an off-duty minicab even if they did not have a licence, but proposals to allow firms to sub-contract bookings to operators from other local authorities remain.

Meanwhile instead of annual taxi checks, it is proposed in future checks would be once every three years.

But Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden, who is also shadow transport minister, said: “From taking people to the station or bringing people safely home late at night, taxis and mini-cabs provide a vital service across Blackpool.

“This is particularly the case for elderly and disabled people who don’t have easy access to a car or public transport, or for women who may be vulnerable users of late-night taxis.

“That’s why I and my Labour colleagues fought the Coalition’s plans to slacken standards in the taxi industry.

“I was delighted we were successful in securing a Government U-turn, when they cancelled plans to allow unlicensed drivers to use the taxi vehicle out of business hours, which could have allowed rogue taxi drivers on to the road.”

Bill Lewtas, secretary of the Blackpool Licensed Taxi Operators Association, said: “This is a badly thought-out piece of legislation that, if enacted, will have adverse implications for Blackpool and other parts of the country.

“Blackpool has extremely high standards for taxis and private hire vehicles, which are subject to rigorous enforcement and testing.

“How can it be to Blackpool’s advantage to allow sub-contracted vehicles, which may not meet Blackpool’s high standards, to operate here and which are not subject to local, or perhaps any, enforcement?”

It had originally been proposed to allow taxi drivers to lend their vehicles to family members when they are off duty, to ‘lift the burden’ of having to run a second car.

But organisations including the Suzy Lamplugh Trust raised concerns the move would open the door to rogue drivers.