Hackney carriage drivers say other cabbies are picking up ‘illegal’ fares all over the city, stealing their business and claim little is being done to prevent it.
Representatives from Unite the Union claim that non-hackney carriage drivers are picking up illegal fares in the city and are creating their own ranks around Nottingham.
The union, which represents hackney carriage drivers ar-ound the city, claims more enforcement is needed and revellers are jumping in cabs that shouldn’t be parked in the city, which could put them at risk.
Kaleem Ashraf, branch secretary for the union’s hackney carriage group in Nottingham, has now called for an independent comprehensive review to be led by Nottingham City Council’s Nick McDonald, the portfolio holder for Business, Growth and Transport.
Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said he supported the idea of conducting a review.
Mr Ashraf, who has also been working as a cab driver for the past seven years, has provided the Nottingham Post with a series of photos which he claims show illegal ranks around the city.
He said that although the photos cannot prove the drivers are not pre-booked, he says from experience that many “take a chance” and pick up illegal fares in Nottingham.
“The public approach these minicabs believing they are OK to get in. Unless they are pre-booked, the public should not catch them as their insurance will be void,” he told the Nottingham Post.
“This is putting passenger safety at risk. With them parking in a line, it’s giving the illusion it’s a taxi rank and OK to catch a cab from here.
“Our lack of ranks and positioning of ranks is pathetic, hence why Unite the Union is calling for an independent comprehensive review from Cllr Nick MacDonald. This is being backed by Paddy Tipping, the Police Crime Commissioner.”
Last year illegal taxi drivers picked up almost £8,000 in fines and 87 points on their licences between them in Nottingham following prosecutions by Nottingham City Council.
Mr Ashraf added: “We need Nottingham City Council to hold up their end of the bargain. It’s constantly one issue after another.”
Paddy Tipping said the issue was well recognised around the city and was open to other kinds of abuse.
He added: “I have had a meeting with people who run at-tractions and events around the city. We all perceive a problem where people who are vulnerable, particularly women who had too much to drink, are picked by someone who is not licensed – we know we need to do some work on this to make sure people are getting properly licensed vehicles.”
And cab drivers around the city agreed there were big issues.
Taxi driver Zaheer Ahmed, 34, said: “They’re picking up at night and no one’s stopping them, es-pecially at the weekend. They steal our jobs. Because of them, at night to get a job I’ll have to wait 40 minutes rather than 15 or 20 minutes.”
A City Council spokesman said: “Enforcement of taxi services in Nottingham has become part of the duties of all Community Protection Officers, but we recognise the need to also have some dedicated officers to focus on this.
“We are therefore in the process of re-cruiting four posts which will undertake enforcement of illegal plying for hire, as well as other taxi issues.
“We are also working more closely with Gedling and Rushcliffe borough councils, recognising that some taxis coming into the city are from neighbouring areas.
“We frequently take cases to court where taxis drivers are prosecuted and fined for illegally plying for hire and other offences such as driving without insurance. We will continue to take all necessary action to ensure the travelling public remain safe.”
Cllr Nick McDonald said the council was working on a “wider taxi strategy” in Nottingham, with a focus on the hackney trade.
He added: “Of course we will gladly cooperate with any other reviews that are commissioned, and we welcome all interest in this important issue, but any study that focuses purely on whether the council should increase the already substantial taxi rank provision in the city would rather miss the point.
“We know that some members of some hackney industry representative groups would like taxi ranks further up Station Street, but this is not a new discussion. We have regenerated Station Street to make it more attractive to visitors, and we have plans to regenerate Carrington Street, Canal Street and Collin Street as part of a wider development of the area around the Broadmarsh Centre.”
Mmmm... Same old, same old... but as it’s been pointed out, the problem won’t go away just by looking at a couple more rank spaces. Has anybody organised a site visit in the city centre, on a weekend night, so that Councillors/Committee members can see first hand what’s going on? Hardly a novel idea, but they’ve got to be willing to give up a few hours of their free time to do this. Also, it’s best to bombard the council with as much evidence – photographic, recorded voice, anything – to substantiate the claims of all this illegal plying and queuing. Hopefully it won’t take a serious incident to provide a wakeup call... Ed.