A taxi driver has been left devastated after his car was destroyed in a suspected arson attack outside his home in Sunderland.
ChronicleLive reports that Graeme Wallace described how emergency services rushed to his house in Sunderland shortly after 4.50am on Sunday 21 Fenruary after his car was set on fire.
He claims the suspect set a coat on fire and put it under his vehicle before making off from the scene.
The 53-year-old said: "The fire brigade said we were very lucky. The whole street was on fire. The diesel was running down the street on fire and actually damaged two other cars, it melted all the plastic.
"The recovery guy who came said that they were both petrol cars and if they had gone up the whole street would have looked like Chernobyl.
"I've been driving for Station Taxis for 15 years. I had managed to get enough to buy my own car in September and then this happens.
"People think taxis belong to the company but they don't realise they belong to the drivers."
The incident has left Graeme shaken and he will now be out of work for at least a couple of weeks while he finds a replacement.
He said: "I just couldn't understand why, I just felt numb. Why me? I have lived here for 50 years, I've never had any bother, I don't have any enemies.
"It's just awful, it's ruining people's livelihoods."
A statement on Station Taxis Facebook page said: "Unfortunately, one of our driver's vehicles was set on fire at the weekend outside of his home.
"This was a white Station Taxi which this driver used for work every day. Our drivers are self-employed and are working very hard to earn a living throughout the pandemic as it is, without having something horrible like this happen!
"Taxis really are a lifeline for some people right now. Especially those on the frontline who need to get to work, also people who are isolating and may need a taxi for essentials, medical deliveries, doctors or vaccine appointments.
"It is a shame that someone could be so inconsiderate and totally disregard this, without thinking of the consequences this could have for our driver."
The Fire and Rescue Service and Northumbria Police both attended the fire and managed to extinguish the fire shortly after their arrival.
Police confirmed they are currently treating the blaze as a "suspected arson" and appealed for anyone with information to come forward.
A spokesperson for Northumbria Police said: "Anyone with any information, CCTV or dashcam footage of the area is asked to contact police on 101 quoting reference 205 210221 or make contact via Northumbria Police's website."
Residents are being asked to respond to a survey on proposed changes to taxi and private hire licensing rules in South Oxfordshire.
The district council is considering some new ideas designed to improve safety for passengers as well as introduce measures to benefit the environment.
Councillor David Rouane, cabinet member for environment, said: “Even relatively small measures, such as ensuring the suitability of licensed vehicles to help reduce emissions, can make a noticeable difference and help improve air quality around the ranks.
“Whether you are a taxi user, driver or operator, it is important we hear from you.”
To have your say, visit: southoxon.gov.uk/taxipolicyconsultation
A Chesterfield taxi firm has decided to expand its business by turning into a holiday and travel company.
The Derby Telegraph reports that the newly-named A-Line Travel is well known around the town for its taxi service, but will now offer its own trips to popular tourism and seaside destinations.
This change of direction is the result of an expected boom in UK holidays once the pandemic is over.
A-Line has been a family-owned staple of the area since it was founded in 1996, offering journeys around north Derbyshire from its office in Stephenson's Place.
Jo Shephard, sales manager, who has more than 14 years experience in the coach travel industry said: “UK coach holidays are becoming more and more popular each year with families, couples, singles and pensioners as they are such good value for money.
"Who doesn’t want a hassle free, package holiday from your local town at a fraction of the cost of a holiday abroad? We make holiday dreams a reality."
The move has led them to open a new office on Soresbury Street and bring in Nicola Aldersley as managing director.
It is hoped that this transition will "bring some joy and happiness to people in Chesterfield, giving residents something to look forward to again following a difficult 12 months during the global covid-19 pandemic."
An enterprising London black cab driver has launched a pie and mash delivery service after seeing his income plummet during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ITV News on Fridays and Saturdays, 31-year-old Josh Kelly loads the back of his taxi with takeaway meals to take to customers across his Islington neighbourhood in the north of the capital.
Popham Pies – named after the housing estate by his house from where he runs the business – was born in November after Mr Kelly had endured months of absent fares.
“It’s pretty much my main job now because there’s just no work in the taxi at the moment – obviously with the lockdown no-one’s going anywhere,” he said.
“When lockdowns come to an end there is some work, but very little, still quite bad. So this was just something to sort of guarantee me a bit more money per week.”
He added: “It is tough when you go from working six, seven days a week to doing nothing. So I really had to come up with something myself.”
Mr Kelly, who has been a taxi driver for six years, said inspiration came from a fellow cabbie who opened his own food stall in Billericay, Essex.
He said he saw a “gap in the market” and was attracted to the idea of combining two long-standing parts of London culture.
“It’s traditional London and pie and mash in a traditional taxi, so I just thought it would catch people’s attention,” he said.
Mr Kelly sources the minced beef pies and mash from M Manze in Bermondsey, south London – one of the oldest pie shops in the capital.
Customers can order their Popham Pies packaged meals over Instagram, Facebook or Whatsapp, with a single pie and mash serving costing £5.
Mr Kelly said he is up to 1,600 followers across Instagram and Facebook and estimates he has so far delivered close to 1,000 pies.
He said customers have enjoyed the food and appreciated the service, especially since there are no other pie and mash options locally.
“A lot of people in Islington will know a taxi driver, or their friends or family are taxi drivers, and they know that we’re struggling, so I think when they see the two together they think ‘Well, I can order off him… we’re helping out’,” Mr Kelly said.
Normally used to interacting with his passengers, he said it is nice to meet customers who are both young and old.
He said one customer recently contacted him and mentioned her grandparents in their 80s.
“She was saying how they barely get out they house, obviously because of Covid, they’ve been shielding. And she said that she didn’t have any money at all, she’s getting paid next week. But I said it’s fine I’ll deliver this week and you pay me when you’ve got it.”
Mr Kelly said the impact of successive lockdowns over the past year has been “awful” for taxi drivers, who used to be able to work 24 hours a day if they wanted to.
“I don’t even go out in the taxi any more, to be honest, because it’s just not worth it," he said. "Last time I went out I did four hours and I got one job which was £16 and that covered the diesel.”
He added: “Once the pandemic is over there probably will be a lot less cab drivers out there.”
Mr Kelly said he hopes to be able to continue the pie and mash delivery service, possibly recruiting other cab drivers to expand into other areas of London.
He also wants to capitalise on his following by launching Popham Taxis, a telephone black cab service, in April.
The Bath Echo reports that in 2016 the unnamed driver, who also covered Midsomer Norton, used a customer’s contact details to find her on social media and started calling persistently when she stopped responding.
He was advised to do everything in his power to avoid another complaint, but in 2019 another woman complained he was “inappropriate, just a bit creepy” when he tracked her down to her workplace to return a lost phone and insisted on handing it over personally.
Bath and North East Somerset Council’s licensing subcommittee meeting in December heard that the driver also made racist comments on three occasions in less than a year, the minutes show.
In one incident he allegedly told a woman of colour the Black Lives Matter protests were irrelevant and would not change anything, and that “those who were subject to racism in the UK deserved it”.
The subcommittee heard that he used a racist term “comfortably”, and described his comments as “abhorrent”.
In March last year the driver allegedly blamed Chinese people for the coronavirus pandemic “because they eat bats”, upsetting his Chinese passengers. In the third he commented about “English drivers”.
He denied making racist and inappropriate comments but the subcommittee considered the witnesses more credible.
It voted to revoke his private hire operator's licence, having previously resolved in October to strip him of his combined hackney carriage/private hire driver's licence.
But Councillor Steve Hedges voiced concerns about the process at the licensing committee’s meeting on 18th February. He said: “When these people have their licences revoked, if they choose to appeal, which I know one has, it’s quite possible they can carry on driving for a full year or more.
“That really concerns me, especially if it’s someone putting people in danger or a sex pest or a child sex offender. If it’s a serious case, like at least one of the ones we dealt with in the last few months, when you revoke a licence they shouldn’t be allowed to drive, even if they are appealing, until the appeal – otherwise how many more people are going to be put in danger?”
Deputy legal adviser Carrie-Ann Evans said if the committee decides a driver is “no longer fit and proper” it can immediately revoke the licence, but that is reserved for the most serious cases.
She said: “It might be an incident of child sexual exploitation or where someone has a medical condition which immediately renders them unfit to be driving. Alternatively you have the option of revocation with notice. If the driver submits an appeal to the magistrates court within the prescribed period they are permitted to continue driving while their appeal is determined.”
She said in two recent cases drivers withdrew their appeals so the council did not face a year-long wait for their licences to be revoked.
Cllr Manda Rigby said the council’s first priority is public protection and the system works well. She asked for assurance that if a revocation is appealed it gets dealt with quickly so there is not a long delay when people can carry on driving, and said if a licence is revoked that information needs to be shared with other authorities.
The council is joining a national database to allow that to happen.