New rules are being discussed in Manchester which could see standard livery and set of minimum standards introduced for the chauffeur industry across the region.
Transport Group, Transport for Manchester are working with local councils and the Mayor of Manchester, Andy Burnham to bring in a set of minimum standards which would be applicable to all councils that make up Greater Manchester.
TfM which has a budget in excess of £280 million (excluding expenditure) launched a six-week listening exercise last Thursday (19th July 2018) to find out what people across Greater Manchester want from local taxis and private hire services which would include chauffeurs.
There is also a call for government action which officials say comes at a time when the taxi and private hire trade is becoming increasingly difficult to regulate. New technology and business models combined with outdated legislation are causing growing problems on the road.
Whilst Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham is also calling on government to close a loophole in the law that allows ‘out of town’ drivers to run in Greater Manchester – despite being licensed in other areas with lower standards any new rules have to take into account both enforcement and the right to appeal to an independent agency.
Around 120 million trips are made in taxi and private hire vehicles in Greater Manchester every year and Mr Burnham said: “I want every one of those journeys to meet the same, high standard.
“Public safety needs to come first. But for a variety of reasons, the taxi and private hire trade is becoming increasingly problematic – not just locally but across the country.
“I’m calling on Government for an urgent regulatory review so we can tackle the growing problem of ‘out of town’ drivers – with lower driver and vehicle standards and no local knowledge – picking up fares in Greater Manchester.
“At best this means a poor customer experience – and at worst, it can mean real customer safety issues. I’m committed to supporting the local taxi and private hire trade by giving a voice to this growing national problem and calling on government to close this loophole in the law.”
Tameside Council is chairing the district council licensing group that has committed to adopting a set of common licensing standards.
Executive Member for Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Allison Gwynne, said: “By and large we already have good licensing standards across Greater Manchester, but we want to set a common standard for every company and driver licensed by our ten local authorities.”
\The new minimum taxi and private hire licensing standards for Greater Manchester would be reviewed regularly and could, in future, include criteria aimed at lowering emissions, once improved electric charging infrastructure is installed.
There are currently around 2,000 taxis and 11,000 private hire vehicles licensed by the ten Greater Manchester authorities. However, the chauffeur, taxi and private hire industry has come under the spotlight in the last few years for all the wrong reasons. Cheshire based chauffeur company PCS Chauffeurs was prosecuted for clocking cars on an industrial scale as well as being accused by a national newspaper of endangering the public by running a multi-million-pound illegal, uninsured chauffeur company.
Councils were then exposed for allowing convicted criminals to obtain “taxi” licenses or allowing operators to gain operators licenses from addresses that didn’t exist. In one such case a legitimate operator was powerless to act when his address had been used by a rival firm to obtain an operator licence even though they were not based at his address.
The industry is regulated by over 350 councils which all work to separate standards.
Report: Chris Hargreaves