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Lewes District taxi rep shares concern for public safety amid shortage of hackney carriages

Updated: Jan 29

In a plea for action, a Lewes District Hackney Carriage representative has raised significant public safety concerns due to the acute shortage of taxis.

According to James Kiernan, a Unite the Union taxi rep, the scarcity of taxis in the district is seen to pose a substantial risk to lone women who find themselves unable to secure transportation late at night. The situation is further aggravated by private hire vehicles (PHV) allegedly waiting illegally on taxi ranks.

Local taxi companies, struggling under the weight of demand, have admitted to their incapacity to provide satisfactory services, some even facing verbal abuse from exasperated customers.

According to Kiernan, key factors contributing to this decline in service include the recent mandate for CCTV installation in cabs. Though intended to enhance safety and largely supported by the industry, confusion over funding for these systems has added to the drivers' woes, exacerbated by the ongoing cost of living crisis.

Kiernan said: “The shortage of available Hackney Carriages, especially during evenings and late nights, poses a significant public safety concern. This is particularly alarming for lone women unable to secure a taxi due to limited vehicles on taxi ranks, a situation exacerbated by private hire vehicles not being permitted to sit on taxi ranks.

“Numerous reports on local social media platforms highlight the struggles the public faces in obtaining taxis even booking in advance. Conversations with local taxi companies reveal that they are unable to provide a satisfactory service, with some even reporting instances of verbal abuse from frustrated callers.

“Several factors contribute to this service decline, including the recent introduction of mandatory CCTV. While welcomed by much of the trade for safety reasons, the misinformation surrounding funding application for the CCTV has created additional challenges for drivers along with the cost of living crisis that everyone is currently struggling with.

“The issue of vehicle colour policy, requiring all Hackney Carriages to be white in colour, adds to the complexity. Despite raising this concern in a meeting in 2022, there has been no resolution, leading to a decline in the number of Hackney Carriages as drivers opt for private hire or relocate to areas with less stringent rules.

“Licensing's disregard for the challenges faced by the trade and the lack of a collaborative approach have strained our relationship. The misrepresentation of discussions, such as the recent committee meeting on 14 December 2023, further compounds the issue. The white-only policy, adopted in 2019, has not been adequately addressed, leaving drivers without viable solutions.

“We urge the council to consider the public safety implications and work towards resolving the issues faced by the Hackney Carriage trade in the Lewes district. Our desire is to establish a constructive dialogue and find practical solutions to enhance both public safety and the viability of our trade.”


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