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Black cab drivers accuse private hire vehicles of illegally picking up customers

PUBLISHED: 11:34 17 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:07 17 September 2019

Norwich taxi drivers claim private hire firms are illegally touting in the city. Picture: Submitted/Archant

Norwich taxi drivers claim private hire firms are illegally touting in the city. Picture: Submitted/Archant

Submitted/Archant

Black cab drivers have accused private hire vehicles of illegally picking up their customers, while the council admits it has not enforced laws over touting for years.

Taxi driver Bruce Davies said he has seen private hire driver touting in Norwich. Picture: Bruce DaviesTaxi driver Bruce Davies said he has seen private hire driver touting in Norwich. Picture: Bruce Davies

Hackney Carriage drivers called on Norwich City Council today do more to enforce the rules after accusing pre-booked vehicles of taking customers without a booking - something only they are allowed to do.

Norwich City Council said it had not carried out checks "for a considerable number of years" because of lack of resources.

A spokesman said: "We will, on a reactive basis, investigate specific complaints of plying for hire, where a witness can provide the necessary evidence of the offence."

Both pay the council around £120 a year to licence a vehicle and Craig Dimbleby, chairman of Norwich Hackney Trade Association, said some of this money should be ring-fenced for enforcement.

Typically, taxi insurance for black cabs is more expensive but it allows vehicles to be hailed in a street, whereas the law states all journeys in private hire cars must be pre-booked and recorded by an operator.

However, Craig Dimbleby, 54, who has been a cab driver in Norwich for 28 years, said this does not always happen.

Taxi driver Terry Watson said he has witnessed private hire vehicles picking up customers from the side of the streets in Norwich. Picture: Terry WatsonTaxi driver Terry Watson said he has witnessed private hire vehicles picking up customers from the side of the streets in Norwich. Picture: Terry Watson

He claimed he had been offered a journey without a booking 71 times in April after walking up to private hire cars parked on the streets and at taxi ranks.

"All I am asking for is proper and full enforcement of our trade," Mr Dimbleby said. "My biggest worry is if anything happened to a member of the public that journey is not recorded."

But his claims were disputed by ABC Taxis, Norfolk's largest private hire firm based in Paddock Street, Norwich.

Norwich taxi driver Craig Dimbleby is calling on the city council to do more about private hire drivers picking up customers illegally. Picture: ArchantNorwich taxi driver Craig Dimbleby is calling on the city council to do more about private hire drivers picking up customers illegally. Picture: Archant

A spokesman said all of the firm's vehicles were tracked.

He said that while there may be problems with touting by other firms, the solution to this was educating the public.

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"Private hire taxis do not have public liability insurance, so anyone who gets in from the street that journey is not insured," he said.

Mr Dimbley also claimed some private hire cars licensed by Broadland District Council and South Norfolk Council were working out of their areas and creeping into Norwich.

Both councils said enforcement checks are carried out twice a year and encouraged members of the public to report incidents.

Norwich City Council said it had not carried out spot checks for years.
Picture: Neil Perry/ArchantNorwich City Council said it had not carried out spot checks for years. Picture: Neil Perry/Archant

'The industry will die'

Cab driver Bruce Davies, 57, has taken on a second job as a lorry driver to make ends meet.

He said: "The black cab industry will die because there's not enough work going around and private hire companies are just flooding the market.

"They're not supposed to pick people from the side of the street but I see them at the railway station and bus station and opposite Castle Meadow."

His concerns were also echoed by taxi driver Terry Watson, 52, who has been in the industry for 22 years.

He said: "I've had incidents at the bus station, I tell them 'you can't sit there mate'."

Dan Smith, 38, who has left the trade after 12 years to become an engineer, criticised the council for not clamping down on touting.

"I had enough. I was working 70 hours a week and had no family life," he said.

"You can't entirely blame private hire drivers, it's down to the council, they should be enforcing rules."

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