Ten years of taxi marshal assistance is set to end in Newcastle-under-Lyme following a review conducted by council committee members.
The weekend marshalling scheme started around 10 years ago following discussions between Newcastle & Kidsgrove Hackney Carriage Association, Staffordshire Police, and the Borough Council.
The Association developed and operated a scheme, privately employing two taxi queue marshals, with funds it raised from its members.
The marshalling scheme enabled the Hassell Street rank to be extended, adding about 25 additional spaces where taxis could wait for passengers. However, following public safety concerns, Staffordshire Police and Staffordshire County Council have sought to close Hassell Street to through traffic and create a new rank in High Street as part of a town centre improvement programme.
Both the Association and Staffordshire Police have sought advice from the Borough Council about the future operation of the marshal scheme. The council’s advice included:
The council does not manage or endorse the scheme
It is unlawful for an association to charge a fee for the use of / prevent licensed drivers from using formally designated highway ranks
Membership of the scheme is voluntary
Enforcement of traffic regulation orders rests with Staffordshire Police
Not all licenced Hackney Drivers are members of the Association and support for the voluntary marshal levy has reduced amongst licensed drivers. The Council also noted a small number of drivers had voiced complaints that the scheme prevents them using highway rank spaces.
Also discussed, and now under review, is the future use of a night time bus station site used by Private Hire operators.
According to the council, for more than 10 years the town centre bus station has been used from midnight on Friday and Saturday nights by private hire vehicles, following a scheme introduced by the Borough Council, as land owner.
At the start of the scheme 10 operators (representing more than half of all private hire vehicles) agreed terms with the Council to use the bus station and provided booking agents to correctly arrange a booking for clients before they started their journey.
The Borough Council arranged for police officers to be present at the bus station to oversee operations, agreeing to meet the force’s costs through a licensing levy.
However, over the years the number of operators wishing to use the bus station has reduced to currently one. The current operator wishes to continue to use the bus station, which can accommodate up to 20 of their fleet.
The council now argue that the use of the bus station by only one Private Hire operator together with legal precedent makes it inappropriate for the council to fund its supervision. It was also noted that the authority should make best economic use of its resources.